When Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced that Metro – D.C.’s rail service – was finally expanding the Silver Line into western Fairfax County, the buzz began. New office and retail were projected, of course, along with infrastructure improvements and a reshaped landscape through Tysons Corner and onward west via the Dulles Toll Road.
Would rail finally transform what some consider suburban sprawl into a more walkable, livable community? After all, Tysons Corner – situated midway between D.C. and Dulles International Airport – has long been known as where people shop and work, but don’t live. Resident population in 2010 was just 19,627 – compared to the more than 100,000 employees who work in one of the 4,000+ businesses in the 4.26 square mile area.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth confirmed the expectation: “That transformation will be most prominent in Tysons, where a traffic-choked suburban office park with two large malls is planned to become a walkable, urban center with 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director.
The Silver Line just celebrated its first anniversary, and the news is good. CBRE reports that in the second quarter of this year, Northern Virginia had a net office absorption rate of 631,275 square feet – the first positive number since Q4 2013. The Northern Virginia office market is back!
An interview with CBRE director of research in Washington-Baltimore Revathi Greenwood says that notes that the biggest winners are 1) Class A office space, accounting for 88 percent of all leases signed in Q2; and 2) Tysons Corner. Nearly 60 percent of the leasing activity in Tysons this year happened within a quarter-mile of one of the four Metro stations – that’s compared with just 18 percent in 2014. Virginia Business reports that another nine projects are under construction or will soon break ground.
Retail is experiencing its own boom, with the development of “The Boro” at the intersection of two major roads and within walking distance of Metro. The 18-acre site is being redeveloped as an urban, mixed-use environment. Phase One of the project is planned to be completed in 2018, with 945,000 square feet of multifamily units, 154,000 square feet of retail – including a flagship Whole Foods Market and 84,000 square feet of storefront retail, and 400,000 square feet of office space, plus a cinema and a 1-acre public park.
Beyond office and retail, new apartment buildings on the line are filling fast. Elevation DC says more than a dozen projects and 10,000 residential units are up-and-coming around Metro stations.
Next stop on the line? Herndon, Virginia. Home to NAIOP’s corporate headquarters and once defined by its dairy farms and a vintage rail line that carried milk to the District, says the Washington Business Journal, the town will be again transformed by rail as the Silver Line extends to Dulles International Airport and, perhaps, beyond into Loudoun County.
Kathryn Hamilton is Vice President for Marketing and Communications at NAIOP Corporate.