With approval of the $6 billion Dulles Rail project, Fairfax County has embarked upon an ambitious plan to transform sprawling Tysons Corner into a "downtown" comparable to those found in the nation's largest cities.
It took New York and Chicago a century or more to develop their iconic skylines. Fairfax wants to speed up this organic process, artificially transforming its oversized suburban office park into a dense urban enclave in a fraction of the time. And that, as documents released by the county's Planning Commission indicate, is going to be very expensive.
For starters, just the transportation improvements needed to support already-approved development in Tysons will cost $5.4 billion over the next four decades. That does not include the cost of financing, nor of a necessary expanded sewer and storm water system, new schools, police and fire stations, parks, and all the other public infrastructure that a newly urbanized Tysons Corner would require.
The Planning Commission's Tysons Corner Committee recommends that 60 percent of the $1.2 billion in transportation upgrades needed by 2030 come from federal, state and local taxpayers. The remaining 40 percent would come from a special tax district, in addition to the one now helping to fund the Silver Line. However, condo owners in Tysons and some of the large commercial landowners whose rezonings have already been approved are balking at the idea. What does it say when the people who stand to benefit the most from Tysons redevelopment don't want to pay for less than half of the necessary upgrades?
This is not to say that Tysons Corner should forever be frozen in amber. But it does suggest that the old-fashioned way of creating downtowns -- by gradually adding buildings and infrastructure as market conditions warrant -- is still the best.