- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Fairfax County Planning Commission last night proposed that only half of the planned expansion of Tysons Corner Center go forward.

The commission passed the measure unanimously to cut the massive project in half, but postponed a vote on the rezoning until January. The commission’s recommendation would then go to the Board of Supervisors for a vote.

Macerich, the Santa Monica, Calif., company that owns Tysons, had asked for a zoning change on the entire project.

The company wanted to more than double the size of the shopping center over the next 10 to 12 years. The original plan called for a four-phase project, which includes office and residential buildings, a hotel, additional retail and multiple plazas. It is tied to the expansion of Metrorail to the site.

The move cuts the expansion project in half — for now. Macerich would have to go back through the rezoning process in order to build the second half of the project.

The cut addresses concerns that the expansion would increase traffic too much and would be too massive to approve all at once.

Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence applauded Macerich for being flexible and willing to compromise.

“The applicant is showing good corporate citizenship and responsibility,” he said.

The measure passed on an 8-0 vote last night, with three members of the planning commission absent and one abstaining.

The company viewed the approval as positive.

“We’re very pleased and looking forward to January,” said Melanie Heywood, senior vice president of development at Macerich.

If approved, the construction on the first phase is scheduled to start when the planned Metrorail stop receives funding — possibly by the end of next year.

In October, the commission heard from 43 county residents during a hearing that lasted well after midnight.

Macerich packed the meeting with supporters, including mall employees, tenants and neighbors. They said the addition of residential space near office buildings would reduce sprawl and revitalize the area.

“If there was ever an opportunity to create a 24-7 community, this is it,” said Justin Sparrow, of the Urban Land Institute’s young leaders group, pointing out that under the proposed plan, residents and office workers would be able to walk more than they can now.

Residents made comparisons between the proposed Tysons expansion and the active developments near the Metro stops in Ballston and Pentagon City in Arlington.

Associations with ties to the expansion of Metro, including the Dulles Corridor Rail Association, also spoke in favor.

“It would bring the life into Tysons Corner,” said Patricia Nicoson, president of the association. “Once we get Metro, we can make this mix of uses work.” But some, including Commissioner Walter Alcorn, pointed out that the remaining 92 percent of the housing could be too expensive for many people, especially those who work in the mall.

“Anybody who works at Nordstrom isn’t going to be able to afford a half-million-dollar condo,” said resident Michael Hudson, who requested a scaled-down version of the plan.

Other residents expressed concern that even with the traffic-calming initiatives Macerich has proposed, such as adding bus stops throughout the property, the project would increase traffic in the already congested area.

“We are aware Tysons Corner is the economic center of Fairfax County,” said Edward E. Alexander of McLean. “But this is not the time to let one developer from far away push Fairfax into an urgent, illogical development in an extremely limited area.”

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