By Chris Furlong, Model For Success Contributor
Last week I attended the Coalition for Smarter Growths first annual Young Planner Showcase. Hosted by the National Capital Planning Commission, the event offered young planners from the metro DC area an opportunity to present their ideas and plans for their local jurisdictions. One of the speakers, Matt Ladd of the Fairfax County Department of Planning & Zoning, discussed the Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Corner, the twelfth largest business district in the United States. Winner of the American Planning Associations Daniel Burnham Award, the Tysons plan envisions a more livable community to supplement the current shopping mecca that is Virginias largest employment center. The talk focused on the transformation of Tysons from a retail destination accessible almost exclusively by car into a series of walkable urban districts surrounding the future Metro stops.
Currently home to 17,000 residents and 100,000 jobs, Tysons is projected to house 100,000 residents and 200,000 jobs by 2050 according to the plan. Closing the gap between the number of jobs and residents is one of the main focuses of the plan, in addition to ensuring sufficient affordable housing and reducing congestion. Congestion, while potentially worse during the construction phase of the project, will likely be alleviated with the Dulles Metrorail extension and the four Metro stops that will fall in Tysons Corner.
Affordable housing will be the true challenge for the area. The housing shortage in Tysons has led to higher rents and home prices than other regions surrounding DC, according to a recent Washington Post article. While the Tysons Plan will require 20 percent of units to cater to affordable housing, matching housing demands with the projected increase in employment will be a challenge for the region. Convincing the young area residents most inclined towards new urban developments to move from surrounding suburbs will be another hurdle, particularly if housing is not affordable for this demographic. The goal will be a housing mix that allows higher wage earners, young professionals, and retail workers to live in the same neighborhoods near their jobs. Successful implementation of Fairfaxs progressive plan will require continued community engagement, partnerships with area developers to build appropriately priced housing, and a commitment to building a sustainable community with effective transportation to employment centers.