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The State of Affordable Housing in Tysons

Affordable housing in Tysons is different than the rest of Fairfax County.

Affordable housing across the rest of Fairfax County, and much of the region, is grouped into apartment complexes with units set aside to cater to those at the lowest income levels. But in Tysons, affordable housing is filling the new high-rises.

Abdi Hamud from Fairfax County’s Affordable and Workforce Dwelling Units Program met with the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce earlier today (Friday) to explain the state of affordable housing in Tysons.

Starting in 2010, the Board of Supervisors adopted a policy that would create workforce dwelling units (WDU) in the mid- and high-rise buildings except from other local affordable housing programs.

In total, there are nearly 500 total WDU in Tysons, according to Hamud.

On the rental side, the WDU program covers area median incomes (AMI) at a broader level than other affordable housing programs. The cost of living in Tysons often exceeds the AMI. While Fairfax’s primary affordable dwelling unit (ADU) program serves those at 50 or 70 percent of the AMI, in Tysons the WDU covers incomes from 60 percent through 120 percent.

At least 20 percent of the rental units inside the new mid and high-rise apartments in Tysons must be WDU, with specific percents broken up by income brackets.

  • Two percent of all units must be accessible to those at 60 percent of AMI
  • Three percent of all units must be accessible o those at 70 percent of AMI
  • The remaining 15 percent of  WDU units must be broken equally into 80 percent, 100 percent and 120 percent of AMI

A policy is also in place for WDU in units that are for sale, but Hamud said there haven’t been any yet and none are planned for the near future.

Hamud said one of the largest problems facing Fairfax is the demand for affordable housing far exceeding the supply. According to Hamud, other affordable housing waitlists in Fairfax and across the state are so full they are being closed. But in Tysons, with new projects constantly in development, Hamud said the waiting lists are substantially shorter and easier to access.

Even with this affordable housing program, Larry Rockwell from The Arc of Northern Virginia noted that “affordable housing” can still be too expensive for many living in the area.

The Arc helps support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, many of whom Rockwell said struggle to find affordable housing because the stigma of disabilities leaves higher paying work inaccessible to them. With the expenses many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities face, or for students getting started in the workforce with loan payments, even the affordable housing in Tysons can exceed the advised 30 percent of a salary that should go to housing.

Still, in a region with rents of $2,000 or $3,000 per month, Hamud said it’s important to have tools available to try and help the new workforce of Tysons find a place to live. The county is currently looking at what has been working with the WDU program and what hasn’t, he said.

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Recent Tysons Arrival Republik Coffee Bar Looks to Expand

Republik Coffee Bar was founded out of frustration.

Elan Irving, the company’s director of operations, said when the founders of the coffee bar were looking for premium coffee options in the area, they were underwhelmed. Recently, the coffee shop that started one year ago in Arlington has branched out into Tysons.

The Republik Coffee Bar in Tysons is located on the ground floor of the mixed-use Highgate (7915 Jones Branch Drive) just east of Tysons Galleria. It opened in June.

“We were looking for a place to enjoy premium coffee served in an inviting environment staffed by friendly baristas with a pleasant ambiance,” said Irving. “Surprisingly, there are very few places that embody all of these qualities, so we decided to provide such space for like minded coffee lovers.”

Irving said the largest issue that faced the burgeoning company initially was finding a price balance.

“One of the challenges is to keep prices low without sacrificing on the quality of the product as well as keeping a staff of highly qualified baristas,” said Irving. “We were always in pursuit of better coffee, better brewing methods, and very competitive prices. We don’t believe in charging $5 for a six-ounce cappuccino.”

Republik Coffee Bar is in the midst of an aggressive expansion campaign. In six months, Republik plans to open two more locations inside D.C. and eventually another in Fairfax County.

“If you are afraid of taking calculated risks, you shouldn’t be in business of investing in new businesses,” said Irving. “This is also true in our business. We are very confident in our concept and very happy to see the response we received in Ballston. This has encouraged us to expand into other locations.”

For now, Republik Coffee Bar is local, but the company has much larger ambitions if the continued regional launches go well.

“Our short term goals are establish our brand into a very respectable local brand in the D.C. metro area,” Irving said. “If we are successful in achieving this, we will continue to expand regionally and then one day, nationally.”

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Korean Cultural Festival Coming to Tysons

A large-scale Korean cultural festival is being held in Tysons this weekend.

The 2018 KORUS festival is taking place Saturday, Oct. 6 and Sunday, Oct. 7 in the parking lot outside Bloomingdales at Tysons Corner Center.

The event will feature food, music, cultural performances, vendors and more. It’s billed as “a celebration of the Korean American way of life, Korean heritage and culture, and the beauty of America’s diversity.”

“With close to 30,000 visitors and participation from over 50 vendors, retailers, and community groups; 20 performance artists; and more than 100 volunteers, the festival truly represents the Korean American community nationwide,” says the KORUS website.

More from event web page:

The 2018 KORUS Festival will be held at Tysons Corner Center and will be the perfect showcase for this fantastic journey!

The annual festival will be located in the Bloomingdale’s Parking Lot (by LL Bean, Bloomingdales and Le Pain Quotidien) and invites people of all ages and ethnicities will come together to celebrate the Korean American way of life, Korean heritage and view stunning cultural performances, demonstrations, contests, food offerings, arts & crafts, and so much more.

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Tysons Startup Putting Payment and Membership At Your Fingertip

No wallet? No problem.

With Yombu, everything from financial transactions to gym access is at your fingertip. Now, this Tysons company is starting to branch out across the country.

Yombu is a tech startup based out of MakeOffices in Tysons. The company lets customers of a business confirm their identity for something like purchasing an item or signing into a membership with only a fingerprint scan.

“We want to be the way people pay and the way people engage so you don’t need anything other than you,” said Joe Falit, one of the two co-founders of Yombu.

Yombu started in Northern Virginia, but has since expanded into D.C. and Maryland. Falit said the company is focused on gradually building into more cities and building locally-centered networks.

Yombu’s new deal with gym software company Motionsoft means that the company is about to receive a major boost in users as it spreads to 26 gyms across the country.

Yombu started one year ago with zero users. Today, they are at 15,000, which is 5,000 more than their initial goal for 2018.

The company expands its user-base through two types of markets.

The first is through merchants or “quick-serve” transactions, like coffee shops or dry cleaners. In a location like this, a customer can authenticate their fingerprint once as they pay with a card, and the card will be linked with that print. Things like rewards traditionally tracked through punch cards can also be tracked through Yombu.

Getting merchants on board can be difficult. Falit said many they talk to initially say that credits cards work fast enough. But once shown how much faster lines can move and how much more consistent the rewards programs can be with a fingerprint scan, they usually sign up.

The second type of market is membership. Yombu is used to sign in or out of a membership area, like a gym, and while Falit said the company started with mostly quick-serve transactions, they’re finding membership to be the much more lucrative use of the technology.

“If you’re a gym and you now use Yombu to have membership through finger, you’re basically making everyone sign up,” said Falit. “We see these memberships as hubs. At coffee shops, we might get 20 percent of people there to sign up. But at the gym, we get 100 percent of people to sign up.”

As Yombu prepares to launch in Philadelphia soon and in gyms across the country, back at home in Tysons the program is starting to become more and more commonplace.

Yombu is currently being used in 56 locations throughout the D.C. area — 30 merchant locations and 26 gyms. On one rainy day along a few weeks ago, Falit watched as 325 new users signed up for the program as they flocked into coffee shops throughout the region, all of them paying for their coffee with a single touch.

Photo via Yombu

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Competition and Challenges Ahead for Tysons

It’s no secret that Tysons is growing.

The skyline is filled with construction cranes and seemingly every week there’s an announcement of a new restaurant or business moving into the area. But as Tysons grows, it also faces infrastructure challenges and threats from neighbors.

Professor Stephen Fuller, Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University, said that Tysons is finally starting to recover from the 2013 budget sequestration. Fuller said the sequester had a more damaging impact on the region than the 2008 recession, as the type of contracting that fills Tysons office space was cut by 15 percent.

Today, Tysons is still left with 15 percent office vacancy, which Fuller said puts the market on about even footing with Arlington. Rosslyn and Crystal City were both particularly hard hit by contracting cuts that left sweeping vacancies along the Metro corridor.

But Fuller noted that both Tysons and Arlington have comparative strengths and weaknesses that make them very different marketplaces.

“Arlington has old office spaces with bad floor plans,” said Fuller. “That’s sending people out to Tysons, which has newer office space.”

Gerald Gordon, who will soon be retiring as President and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said that the county essentially gave a blank check to developers for density near Metro stations, which has helped incentivize new construction.

“The county allowed for unlimited density in a quarter mile radius of each station,” said Gordon. “We have these really tall buildings and we’re going to see a lot of new office space. Some of the older buildings are coming down, being replaced by more floors to be a lot of office spaces.”

But older office space is also one of Arlington’s greatest strengths, as Fuller said the outdated office spaces in Arlington are also often less expensive than the new office suites in Tysons where speculation has sent land prices skyrocketing.

Another of Arlington’s strengths, according to Fuller, is the culture and vibrancy that Tysons mostly lacks.

“When Amazon was looking at Northern Virginia, they were looking at Crystal City, not Tysons,” said Fuller. “Tysons just doesn’t offer lifestyle that they’re looking for.”

Fuller said the new apartment buildings and lifestyle-supporting commercial retail coming into Tysons is a good sign that Tysons is working towards that vitality, but Fuller said bringing that kind of culture is going to take two key ingredients: walkability and time.

“It’s about the distance between buildings, it isn’t walkable,” said Fuller. “Some internal circulation system will be required. It’s been long discussed, but I haven’t seen any yet. The Capital One complex, with the headquarters expansion, is going to make that a node that people are going to want to get to.”

Gordon similarly said transportation is one of Tysons greatest challenges over the next few years, but that stepping up public transportation in Tysons can help alleviate some of the areas traffic woes.

Most importantly, Fuller said it’s going to take time to organically build vibrancy and economic stability in Tysons.

“There’s work to be done, but they have to be patient,” said Fuller. “They’re delivering spaces faster than the economy is growing. The economy has picked up, 2017 was a much better year for the kinds of businesses that look at Tysons, but you can’t just snap your fingers and make it all happen.”

While Tysons and Arlington compete for office tenants and vibrancy, Professor Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, said it’s important not to ignore Washington, D.C.’s increasing appeal for developers.

“Northern Virginia has traditionally, as part of the Washington metro region, been tied to the nation’s capitol,” said Shafroth. “Significantly reduced violent crime in D.C. has made the District far more attractive to millennials, decreasing the pressure for young families to want to move to the suburbs and deal with vicious commutes.”

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Police: Glass Door Smashed and SUV Stolen from Tysons Rental Car Lot

The Enterprise Rent-a-Car location near the Spring Hill Metro station was the scene of a commercial burglary over the weekend.

Police say someone broke into the business, at 1572 Spring Hill Road, on either Saturday and Sunday by smashing a glass front door. An SUV was then stolen off the lot.

Employees discovered the burglary when they arrived to open the business, according to Fairfax County Police. No suspect description was released.

Photo via Google Maps

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Malls Are Not Going Away and Other Local Predictions from Today’s Bisnow Event in Tysons

Given the continued rise of Amazon and e-commerce, will Tysons Corner Center still be a retail-oriented shopping mall 5 years from now?

That was a question posed by Lynn Strobel of the law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh this morning at a Bisnow event discussing the “Future of Fairfax County” in Tysons.

The consensus from the six-person panel: yes, almost certainly.

One panelist said he recently went to Tysons Corner Center at night to go to a movie and it took 20 minutes to find a parking space; it’s hard to see how that kind of demand goes away in such short order, he said.

E-commerce might actually come to malls, said another panelist. Bailey Edelson of JBG Smith said online retailers have increasingly been opening bricks-and-mortar locations. Those currently at Tysons Corner Center include Amazon, Untuckit and Warby Parker.

While suburban shopping malls have been struggling elsewhere, the malls in Tysons are benefiting from being in an increasingly dense, urban environment, according to Andrew McIntyre of Combined Properties.

“Tysons is in a good position long term since the urban environment came to it,” McIntyre said.

The upscale Tysons Galleria, meanwhile, has been facing some challenges, including the sudden closure of the huge Isabella Eatery on the fourth floor. Change may be on the horizon, said one panelist. Expect Tysons Galleria to be “repositioned” in the market and for redevelopment to happen around it as a way to revitalize the mall, he said.

Other predictions and takeaways from the panel:

  • Offices and office buildings are not going away, not everybody is going to work from home.
  • Amazon HQ2 and a large Apple office would, unsurprisingly, be very, very good for the local economy — and it’s on the mind of just about everyone in commercial real estate.
  • The trajectory of residential development in uncertain, given increasing interest rates and years of building. Some think the D.C. area is overbuilt, some think there is a housing shortage.
  • A lot of additional investment is needed to get Tysons infrastructure to where it needs to be to be a great city.
  • Fairfax County is “fighting a constant battle” in competing with other local D.C. area jurisdictions for employers. But there should also be more cooperation among governments to make the D.C. area as a whole better and more competitive.
  • Expect more coworking spaces to pop-up. Coworking spaces not only open the commercial real estate market to smaller companies and startups, but it’s also seen as an amenity by many larger tenants, including government contractors, who want the flexibility to rapidly add new employees beyond their existing office footprint.
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Agora Opening in Tysons Pushed Back to Winter

Agora, a Mediterranean restaurant in D.C., won’t be opening its new Tysons location until December or possibly January.

The restaurant, which specializes in cuisine from Turkey, Lebanon and Greece, will be moving into the ground floor of Nouvelle, a 26-story apartment complex at 7911 Westpark Dr. near Tysons II.

“Finding space for Agora that supports and drives their business strategy was most important during the site selection process,” said Oyku Hanna, vice president of brokerage agency Veritage Commercial, which represented Agora, in a press release. “Nouvelle in Tysons is a great fit for Agora and I look forward to seeing their continued success at this location.”

According to a restaurant employee, the new location will most likely be opening at some point this winter. The employee said the restaurant owners were hoping to open it sooner but are still in the process of licensing and permitting.

When the permits are approved, the 3,500 square-foot restaurant will bring to Tysons largely the same Mediterranean small plates and cocktails from its trendy Dupont Circle location.

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A Look Inside The Boro, the Massive New Development in Tysons

(Updated at 4:30) — The Boro, a mixed-use complex being built near the Greensboro Metro station, has topped out.

Caroline Flax, senior analyst for site developer The Meridian Group, said the complex is as tall as it’s going to get, so it’s time for a review of the project and where it stands.

The project is broken into five lettered sections filling the block southeast of the Leesburg Pike and Westpark Drive intersection. The area is just west of the Tysons Galleria mall.

Furthest along is Block C, a grouping of two major buildings and a much smaller kiosk. A third building has been approved for the block but has not begun construction. The largest occupants of Block C are the Showplace ICON movie theater and a 437,000 square-foot office building. The kiosk in the one acre park will be where Bluestone Lane, an Australian-inspired coffee chain, will be opening their first Virginia location.

Flax said this side of the project is expected to be completed by the end of this year. In the first two quarters of 2019, Tysons Reporter was told, the office tenants will begin to move into Block C.

Meanwhile, to the northwest of Block C, the skeleton of Block A has been completed. Block A is the primarily residential area of the complex. In August, Flax said the tall towers of Block A, the 27-story apartment “Rise” tower and the 25-story luxury condominium “Verse” tower, had all of their floors poured into place. Work is now beginning on the facades and the interior of the buildings.

A 69,000 square-foot Whole Foods will occupy the base of the northern point of Block A, at the corner of Greensboro Drive and Westpark Drive.

Block B of the project, southwest of Block A, is The Loft. At five-stories tall, The Loft dwarfed by its northern residential neighbors. But the 77,000 square-foot building will stretch along the length of the new street Boro Place and hold two floors of retail and three stories of offices above that.

“Boro Place is the retail spine of The Boro,” said Flax.

Several restaurants are already signed to move into Blocks A and B, including:

  • Fish Taco, a DC based taco chain
  • Tasty Kabob, the first brick-and-mortar location for a popular local food truck
  • Flower Child, a cast-casual restaurant specializing in healthy food
  • North Italia, an Italian restaurant specializing in handmade pizzas and pasta
  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe, a national smoothie chain

Taylor Gourmet had been signed to move into the area as well, but the chain filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy at the end of September and closed all locations. Flax said no decision on a new occupant has been finalized but that there are several prospects for the location under consideration.

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Olympic Pentathlete to Speak at Tysons Gym

Olympian Eli Bremer, a bronze medalist pentathlete, is coming to Tysons Sport and Health (8250 Greensboro Drive) for a talk.

Tomorrow (Saturday), Bremer will host a discussion on health and athletic performance. Bremer, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will look at incorporating diet, exercise and nutrition into a healthy routine.

Tickets are $25 apiece and seating is limited. Tickets are available online and will not be sold at the door.

The event runs from 6-8 p.m.

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