- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

You thought Tysons Corner Center was big? It’s going to get bigger.

A public hearing is scheduled for next Thursday on a zoning change for a Tysons project that would more than double the shopping center’s size.

Macerich Co., the Santa Monica, Calif., company that owns Tysons, plans to add retail space and introduce office towers, residential buildings and a hotel to the remaining free space around the shopping center in the next 10 to 15 years.

The construction would take Tysons from the area’s largest shopping center, at 2.2 million square feet, to an enormous mixed-use area of 5.7 million square feet.

The plan will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing. If it’s approved, the rezoning request would go to the county’s Board of Supervisors for a vote.

Each of the four phases of the project includes an office and residential building — from 26,000 to 557,000 square feet — and 9,000 to 82,000 square feet of additional retail. The retail space is slated to be filled with service shops, such as restaurants, grocery stores and dry cleaners.

Phase I is set to be placed at the north end of the shopping center, northeast of the Lord & Taylor store and would include a 300-room hotel, an ice rink and an outdoor plaza. Construction is scheduled to start when the planned Metrorail stop receives funding — possibly by the end of next year.

Construction on Phase II, on the opposite side of the Lord & Taylor store, will begin when construction starts on the Metro stop. Construction on Phase III, at the other end of the shopping center, would start when the Metro stop opens.

Construction on Phase IV, the final phase, would begin once the Metro stop has been open for two years. Phase IV calls for a restaurant with a top-floor bar and recreation space.

In an attempt to not increase traffic in the already congested area, all of the new development will be connected by pedestrian walkways above the road and the developer is emphasizing the Metro stop that is scheduled for Chain Bridge Road, between Tysons Corner and Tysons Galleria.

Macerich, the eighth-largest shopping center developer in the country with 73 centers, says it is expanding in response to Fairfax County’s growth.

“We saw there was a lot of potential here because of the property and the growth of the region here,” said President John W. Anderson, while at Tysons last week.

Macerich’s idea is to instill “smart-growth” techniques to limit sprawl — “not just a bunch of high-rises,” he said.

The office buildings would be a mix of short, four-story buildings and up to 32-story towers, designed to attract a mix of corporate headquarters and small companies.

Some parking spaces will be displaced by the new buildings but will be replaced and then some by parking garages under almost every new building.

Macerich and Fairfax County have added programs to encourage public transit at the site. Office tenants will have a controlled number of parking spots and will be fined if they exceed it; shuttle buses will be arranged with large employers; and additional Metro bus stops will be added to the site, Mr. Anderson said.

With the Metro rail stop across the street, Macerich and county officials say they are cutting down on the increased traffic the site would bring.

According to a Fairfax County Planning Commission staff report, Macerich expects its traffic initiatives to reduce the number of vehicle trips at the expanded Tysons from an expected 2,790 during the peak weekday morning hour to 1,910 and from 2,820 during the peak weekday evening hour to 1,670.

“What they’re proposing is absolutely consistent with the best principles of transit-oriented development,” said Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer William D. Lecos. “Down the road, you’re going to create less increase in traffic, less increase in congestion and a more manageable transportation system than you would if you developed it the old-fashioned way.”

The county has been pushing developers to construct around its Metro stops.

“It is, in effect, built around the existing mall — that makes this thing unique,” said Ken Lawrence, Fairfax County planning commissioner for the district that includes most of Tysons. “We have other places where there are transit stations — like Vienna, Dunn Loring. But there is no other place with a super regional mall like that.”

Mr. Anderson would not put a price tag on the expansion, saying construction costs of the future are hard to predict.

When it’s done, Tysons Corner would be a massive mixed-use property, a new craze among real estate developers to put retail, residential, office space and open green space in the same complex.

“What used to constitute a mall, is no longer just a mall,” said Patrice Duker, a spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers, a New York trade group. “You do create a sense of place — a combination of formats in one location.”

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