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A display from Tysons Partnership outside the Tysons Corner Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County plans to direct $3.5 million in unspent funds to Tysons for two projects expected to play an integral role in the area’s future.

The still-undefined and unnamed “Tysons Anchor Organization” could receive $2.5 million this fall if the fiscal year 2022 budget carryover package presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday (Aug. 2) is approved.

Envisioned as a long-term, more sustainable replacement for the Tysons Partnership, the organization will support economic and community development as a nonprofit “designed to serve as a catalyst for the transformation of Tysons into an inclusive, vibrant, and globally attractive urban center,” according to the carryover package.

The county already allocated $125,000 in June for legal, planning and marketing work to establish the anchor organization. Those funds came from a $1 million Economic Opportunity Reserve grant that the board nominated Tysons Partnership for in 2020.

The anchor organization is currently on track to be in place this October.

“The carryover funding, if approved by the Board, would be available beginning in mid-October for the partial first year operating budget of the organization,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s office said.

The proposed carryover package also contains $1 million for the Tysons Community Center that will be included in the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s planned affordable housing at Dominion Square West (1592 Spring Hill Road).

If approved, the money will cover engineering consultant work, county staff time for project management, and a mechanical, electrical and plumbing peer review, though the overall design and construction is expected to be financed by Fairfax County Economic Development Authority bonds.

The county held community forums last month to gather the public’s input on what services and facilities should be available in the upcoming center.

Carryover refers to county funds that went unspent in one fiscal year and can be moved over to the next. The county has $199.61 million available from FY 2022, which ended June 30, thanks to higher-than-anticipated revenue, “continuing close management of agency spending and prolonged vacancy levels,” according to an Aug. 4 news release.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing and vote on the carryover package on Oct. 11.

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Tysons water tower (file photo)

The Tysons Partnership isn’t sure what form it will take next, but Fairfax County has some cash on hand to help the nonprofit organization figure that out.

The Board of Supervisors will decide on June 28 whether to allocate $125,000 to establish an “anchor” organization that will assume the partnership’s work advocating for Tysons and overseeing the implementation of Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan.

The funds will come from a $1 million Economic Opportunity Reserve (EOR) grant that the board nominated the Tysons Partnership for in December 2020.

“This is still a work in progress, but we’re trying to make sure we’re able to keep moving forward,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said during the board’s meeting on Tuesday (June 7).

Approved by the board 8-0 with two members absent at the time, Palchik’s proposal directs staff to schedule a formal vote later this month and outlines how the funds will be used to create a new nonprofit corporation representing Tysons.

As shared at an economic initiatives committee meeting on May 17, Tysons Partnership has been searching for a more sustainable governance and funding model to support local events, placemaking, transportation advocacy efforts, marketing, and economic development research.

Partnership leaders and county staff suggested the new organization could be similar to a business improvement district, which taxes businesses to support projects in the district, but it will focus more on the overall community, not just commercial property owners.

Under the proposed work plan, the allocated EOR funds will be used to lay the groundwork for Tysons Partnership’s successor:

  • $50,000 to establish the new corporation
  • $25,000 for administrative, financial, and personnel needs, including executive leader recruitment efforts
  • $25,000 to develop an initial strategic plan and identify the organization’s priorities
  • $25,000 to develop a communications plan and enhance the group’s social media presence

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, one of several co-sponsors on Palchik’s board matter, said he appreciated the breakdown of how the requested funds will be spent.

“We’re getting into some unprecedented things, things we haven’t done before, and my comfort level…is much higher knowing this level of detail,” Foust said.

According to the board matter, Fairfax County has officially given Tysons Partnership $250,000 in EOR funds. That means $750,000 out of the $1 million grant is still available.

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Construction continues on Heming, a 410-unit apartment building in Scotts Run that will include 82 affordable dwelling units (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The conundrum of how to provide affordable housing in Tysons won’t be solved in a day, but the Tysons Partnership hopes to at least start a conversation about how it might be tackled.

About 100 developers, community advocates, property owners, policymakers and employers are expected to convene tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday) at the Boro Station Conference Center (1765 Greensboro Station Place) for a workshop on how to “solve” the area’s affordable housing issues, according to a media advisory.

During the interactive workshop, participants will be given different affordable housing proposals and tasked with coming up with ways to make them a reality using existing resources and Fairfax County policies.

The idea for the event came from the partnership’s housing subcommittee, which meets every month and was looking for an alternative to its typical seminar presentations, according to Tysons Partnership Land Use Council co-chair and board member John McGranahan.

“We hope participants will gain a better understanding of the complexities and challenges of providing affordable housing, but also the opportunities for real success,” McGranahan said. “We intend to follow-up this event with quarterly meetings to continue the dialogue we will begin with this workshop.”

Affordable housing is a key element of the county’s comprehensive plan to transform Tysons from a largely commercial center into a more livable community.

The plan calls for 20% of new residential units to be designated as affordable or workforce housing, a higher bar than what’s required elsewhere in the county. It also recommends that nonresidential developers contribute $3 per square foot to a Tysons Housing Trust Fund.

The county is dipping into that $8.7 million fund for the first time to help build the Dominion Square West all-affordable housing project that’s also being financed by Amazon, federal COVID-19 relief funds, and local tax revenue.

Fairfax County sees the planned Dominion Square West buildings as an example of how creative partnerships between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can boost its affordable housing stock, but one project can only make so much of a dent when overall real estate prices continue to rise.

According to the real estate firm Redfin, the median sale price for housing in Tysons was $500,000, as of April, a 7% increase over 2021. The current average rent is $2,444 — well above the national average of $1,628 — even though the average apartment is only 926 square feet in size, according to RentCafe.

In addition to raising equity concerns, the limited availability of affordable housing poses an obstacle to employers and the county’s efforts to make Tysons more walkable and transit-oriented.

“There is a tremendous employment base in Tysons, and providing the broad range of employees who work in Tysons with opportunities to live in Tysons is important,” McGranahan, who also works as a land-use attorney, said. “Tysons employers want affordable housing for their employees. It is both an economic development and a quality of life issue.”

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The Boro in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County has big plans for Tysons, and to realize them, it may end up laying the groundwork for a new approach to economic development.

Now in its second decade of life, the nonprofit Tysons Partnership tasked with fulfilling the county’s vision for Tysons has been spent the past couple of years — and part of a $1 million grant — reinventing itself, with a revamped website here, a change in leadership there.

Ultimately, the group intends to transition into a new “anchor” organization that it says will be more sustainable and better equipped to support Tysons long term, potentially handling everything from business recruitment to streetlight outages.

Details of this organization, including what it will be called and how it will be funded, are still being worked out, but with Tysons aiming to evolve from an office hub into a full-fledged community, officials confirmed this week that, contrary to recent speculation, it won’t be a business improvement district (BID).

“In Tysons, since we were focusing on the need to facilitate the sense of a livable, walkable community or communities, community development seemed as important, if not more important than economic development,” acting Tysons Partnership Executive Director Rich Bradley told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (May 17).

In a presentation to the board’s economic development committee, members of a Tysons Vision Work Group that formed last year said they looked at existing BIDs in the D.C. area and elsewhere in the U.S. as models, citing examples from Rosslyn and Georgetown to Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado.

However, as suggested by their name, BIDs are typically driven by businesses and other commercial properties, which pay a special tax to fund economic and community initiatives.

The work group of 30-plus stakeholders unanimously favored a more inclusive approach that also engages residents, nonprofits, and the public sector, according to Bradley, who said the Tysons anchor organization will follow more of a “community improvement or community investment district” framework. Read More

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