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Affordable housing developer jumpstarts initiative to clean up Tysons’ green spaces

With the help of local developers and property owners, the Tysons Community Alliance is on a mission to beautify the green spaces found where many of the area’s major roads intersect.

The first site targeted is the southwest quadrant of the Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) interchange, where the Vienna-based company Tyson’s Tree Service began clearing overgrowth, invasive plants and dead trees on Jan. 2.

Led by the affordable housing firm SCG Development, which is headquartered nearby at 8245 Boone Blvd, the clean-up effort will set the stage for the approximately 2 acres of land to be replanted with native species and new landscaping — a process that Tysons officials hope to repeat at other locations.

“I would almost call this a pilot,” TCA spokesperson Karyn Le Blanc said. “…We would want to take a look at this, analyze it and then, see where we can replicate it in other areas or take the best parts of what’s worked on this and use this in other areas as well.”

The idea for the Tysons beautification project came from SCG Development President Steve Wilson. After 35 years of traveling the local roadways as a Northern Virginia resident, Wilson noticed the accompanying open spaces and landscaping had gotten unkempt, and in December 2022, he “just decided something needed to be done about it,” he told FFXnow.

Tysons has about 140 acres of green space that go unmaintained, mostly around its six major interchanges where routes 7 and 123, the Dulles Toll Road and the Capital Beltway (I-495) meet. That amounts to 5% of the 2,743-acre area designated as Fairfax County’s urban center, per SCG.

Tysons has about 140 acres of unmaintained green space (courtesy SCG Development)

Arguing that cleaning up these areas would reduce safety concerns, encourage more pedestrian traffic and improve property values, the developer soon met with Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik, who represents most of Tysons, and offered to test its concept by sponsoring the Leesburg Pike and Chain Bridge Road interchange.

Once studied as a possible park, the site is “highly visible” and “perhaps the worst in terms of being overgrown,” Wilson says. He also highlighted its proximity to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, whose headquarters overlooks the interchange.

“I thought it would be good for them to see the neighborhood getting cleaned up,” Wilson said. “…You don’t really want to have this overgrown situation right at the same location as your economic development authority that’s promoting how wonderful and beautiful Fairfax is.”

The pitch won over Palchik, who then brought county staff and the Virginia Department of Transportation into the conversation.

“Everybody agreed it was a good thing to do,” Wilson said.

SCG is funding the clean-up with the help of a $10,000 contribution from fellow developer Comstock Companies and engineering and design services from VIKA Engineering. The company also worked with an arborist who identified trees that can be preserved, though most were dead or dying.

However, the actual plantings and landscape enhancements will be undertaken by the Tysons Community Alliance, whose mission as a community improvement organization includes creating attractive public spaces.

The TCA is currently developing a design and working to assemble funding for that second phase of the project, which isn’t expected to start until this fall or possibly even spring 2025. After clearing the existing vegetation, a process prolonged by the recent snow, SCG plans to monitor the site in case further treatment is needed when plants pop back up this spring.

“It’s going to take a while to continue to treat and eradicate the invasive species that are in that area. So, it’s not like the planting is going to happen tomorrow,” Le Blanc said, noting that some temporary “coming soon” signage will be placed at the site in about a month.

If the pilot is a success, the TCA hopes to use it to encourage businesses and community members to beautify other locations.

While no commitments have been made yet, Wilson is confident that other property owners will participate “once they see that it can work.” Capital One, for example, has expressed interest in cleaning up spots near its headquarters, and he hopes that Tysons Corner Center developer Macerich will get on board.

SCG is already planning to fix up a triangle of green space in the southeast quadrant of the Route 7 and I-495 interchange, near the office building at 1750 Old Meadow Road that it’s redeveloping as workforce housing.

“We’re excited by, so far, everybody’s working together and have a clear vision of what they want it to be at the end,” Le Blanc said. “I think that speaks very highly to, again, that collaboration and people coming to the table with a like-minded vision.”

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