Howell: What will Tysons Look Like in the Future?

Jason Howell |

Discussing the challenges facing Tysons Corner and its quest to become America's Next Great City*

The evolution of Tysons Corner, from suburban office park to urban office park to mixed-use mecca, remains in full swing with 25 million square feet of office space and 50 million square feet of mixed-use space in the development pipeline.  Last week, the George Mason Business Roundtable came to Tysons Corner to hear from a panel of experts to ponder whether the expression "Tysons, America's Next Great City" should be viewed as a question or statement of fact. Moderator Jason Howell posed the question to a distinguished panel, including former Congressman Tom Davis, Donna Shafer, developer and founding member of Cityline Partners, Terry Clower, director at GMU's Center for Regional Analysis, and Dr. Jerry Gordon, president and CEO of the FCEDA. During the discussion, one thing remained clear. Tysons Corner, no matter its future landscape, remains a vital economic driver."Fairfax County is responsible for 25 percent of all the income tax collected in Virginia ... and Tysons Corner plays the same role in Fairfax County as the county does in the state of Virginia," Gordon said. "And it's still a great place to start a business and invest," Davis added.  Shafer observed one significant change in terms of investment. "Equity is coming in from outside the region," she said. "There's no longer that regional network of people that you know and see."

The addition of the above-ground Silver Line Metro has altered growth, increasing density along the Route 7 corridor. Buildings are growing taller and amenities, such as additional supermarkets, restaurants and entertainment venues are on the way.  Perhaps it is time, as Shafer noted, to "think about Tysons Corner differently and what it can be."

"We don't know what the future holds," Clower said. "How many people will occupy a building (and at) how many square feet per person? When does that building become obsolete? Can you convert it to another use or do you tear it down and start over? How we respond to new market dynamics may dictate that Tysons will look different in the future."  Panel members suggested that the advent of autonomous vehicles could play a major role -- and not just in terms of relieving traffic congestion. If and when autonomous vehicles become common, new questions will arise about what to do with parking lots and parking garages.  One thing bound to continue driving Tysons Corner is the people. "The good news is that we have a great talent base here," Davis said. And all agreed that retention is important.  While the cost of living is not low in and around Tysons Corner, it's favorable to other locations with which Fairfax County competes for jobs and talent such as New York, Boston and California. "The costs of living are not the same as Northern California," Gordon pointed out. "They're quite a bit lower."

(Left to Right:  Dr. Gerald Gordon, Dr. Terry Clower, Dr. Donna Shafer, Former Congressman Tom Davis and Jason Howell)  (Photo Credits: Tom Moore

*As first reported by the Fairfax Economic Development Authority "E-Bird Extra."