TOD Poised to Push Past the Recession

Posted on September 14, 2009 by Nicole Schlosser, Associate Editor - Also by this author

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Transforming Tysons Corner

Traffic congestion in Tysons Corner, Va. is such a significant and well-known problem that it has drawn the attention of media outlets as large as the New York Times and National Public Radio (NPR). Currently it's not a walkable area, given that crossing Route 7 or Leesburg Pike, a big road that goes through Tysons, is very difficult. "People understand that Tysons is broken. Everybody would agree that it needs to move in a different direction," says GB Arrington, principal practice leader, VP, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Tysons Corner project.

Tysons Corner's size is attributed to the approximately 120,000 jobs it holds. It provides more employment than downtown Boston, Atlanta or Phoenix, and houses the headquarters for USA Today. "It's the economic engine of Northern Virginia. Every day, 100,000 people come to Tysons to work, and every evening, [they] leave," Arrington says.

There are currently two very large malls in the area, but there's only one grocery store. "It's not a place that works really well for people right now," he adds.

Parsons worked for two-and-a-half years on the Tysons Task Force, a group of 37 people and the board of directors, representing businesses, citizens, elected officials and environmental activists. The plan has been accepted by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who is developing the zoning and changes to the comprehensive plan to implement it. The U.S. DOT has issued a full-funding grid agreement. "It was very important to elect a board of supervisors that understands...that Tysons is going to grow in a different way, the impact of Tysons [utilizing] the mix of uses, demand management, phasing development, the provision of services and creating governance structures that can make that stuff work," Arrington notes.

Transit is the organizing principle for how growth will occur in Tysons Corner. Ninety-five percent of all growth will be focused within a three-minute walk of four Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) bus stops and three planned circulators, either a bus or a streetcar. "The closer you are to a station, the bigger a building you get, the more your land is worth. By putting uses close to transit, looking at practices from around the U.S. and the world, that's the easiest way to accommodate more [development] with [less] impact," Arrington says.

The project will be a complete redevelopment. "This isn't adding land into Tysons, it redeveloping what's there today," says Arrington. One-hundred-sixty acres of new parks will be added, along with a civic center. There's also a requirement for 20 percent affordable housing and any buildings constructed after 2013 need to be LEED silver-certified.

"It's about making Tysons better, not bigger...the net result is that if the plan is implemented, Tysons will go from a very auto-oriented single-use place to the largest TOD in the U.S.," he adds. The redevelopment is expected to generate tax revenues of $1 billion annually, an increase from the $300 million generated today. 

With the implementation of the plan, there will be 84,000 potential new units, making it a place for activities most of the day and evening, instead of just during work hours.


ARRA funds future TOD

Seven Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) TOD projects have been completed, and nine are in negotiations, at a total cost of $2.58 billion.

Last year, BART's MacArthur station TOD project received $35 million in California Proposition 1C funds (affordable housing and TOD funding.)  The San Leandro station TOD project received $25 million, and the South Hayward station received $47 million. "Given the abysmal real estate market, it will be a while before you can start building housing, but in these projects, given their nature and physical expanse, because [they involve] more than just BART land, [they encompass] the concept of building TOD. The infrastructure necessary to support TOD (roadways utilities, parking, etc.) needs to go in first. It's a built-in safety valve at this point. With public money, we've got the next two years covered [for development]," says Jeff Ordway, manager of property development, BART.


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