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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tysons Corner redevelopment plan incorporates environmental elements

The McLean Metro station on Chain Bridge Road, one of four stations under construction in Tyson's Corner.

Most of the attention on the Tysons Corner redevelopment plan focuses on the Metro Silver line, expected to open in 2014, and the many mixed-use projects that have been proposed, but the plan also would incorporate several environmentally friendly elements.

Some of those concepts were discussed during a walking tour of Tysons Corner areas inside the beltway Sept. 29 hosted by the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

The Tysons Corner amendment to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan, approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2010, calls for the area to be transformed into a walkable urban center. By 2050, the number of housing units would be increased from the current 15,000 to 100,000, and the number of jobs would be doubled, for a total of 200,000.

The Capitol One building (above) will be part of a 4.4 million square foot mixed-use development planned by Capitol One. That project, approved by the Board of Supervisors Sept. 25, includes office space, hotels, parks, and up to 1,230 housing units.

The Tysons Corner plan calls for Scott’s Run to be restored with a trail alongside it to make it easier for people to walk and bike to the McLean Metro station. Metro is not paying for large parking structures around the stations, so the trail is a priority, said Jenifer Joy Madden, of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling. There will be a large bike parking area inside the station.

Scott's Run flows under Colshire Meadow Drive.
Most of Tysons Corner was built before the county stormwater management requirements were in place, so all the impervious surfaces have led to an excessive volume of water in Scott’s Run, causing erosion and leading to overly steep banks along much of the stream, said Stella Koch, of the Audubon Naturalist Society“Sediment is a big enemy of stream life,” she said. 

The county’s comprehensive plan calls for the Scott’s Run streambed to be raised as part of the restoration effort effort aimed at reducing the volume of water and improving water quality, said Michael Rolband, of Wetlands Studies and Solutions.

There have been proposals about creating an “active recreation area” along the stream, with lights and urban plazas, rather than just a trail, to make it easier for people to walk to and from Metro at night, Rolband said, but there was a concern that it couldn’t be done because the stream is in a “resource protection area.” Suzanne Lin, of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, however, said that proposal is still under discussion. 
1749 Old Meadow Road
The transformed Tysons Corner would be easier and more pleasant to walk around in because stand-alone office buildings surrounded by parking lots, like the one above, would be replaced with a more urban streetscape, with buildings closer to the street and retail on the ground floor. A new grid of streets is expected to reduce congestion on major roads.

The way things are now, “there’s too much parking, too spread out, so people have to walk farther, and office parking lots are empty on the weekends,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  

The Tysons Corner plan calls for a more walkable cityscape with buildings closer to the street and retail on the ground level. “The advantage of mixed used development is that parking is used all the time,” Schwartz said. Some of the defense contractors require closed campuses for security purposes, however, so improving walkability at those locations will be more challenging.

The Lincoln Building, at 1700 Old Meadow Road, owned by Cityline Partners, is slated to be torn down at some point and replaced by a multi-building complex to be developed by Cityline.
The future site of the kiss-and-ride and bus transfer area of the McLean Metro Station.

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