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December 30, 2008

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Rail through Tysons is all wrapped with a bow—but it seems stuck in the chimney a few more days. Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration signed off on the $900M federal share of the $3 billion cost for Phase 1 (East Falls Church to Wiehle Ave, first passenger 2013), but OMB and DoT must still approve. Since DoT has never stopped an FTA plan and DoT Secretary Mary Peters helped negotiate it, approval's expected—but for some reason (end of the year logjam?) it hasn't happened yet. By our calendar, the Bush crew has only 21 more shopping days to give Tysons this gift.


Don't worry, Fairfax Chamber president Bill Lecos points out that Tysons rail also dovetails with Obama's priorities: the President-elect has talked about the need for both mass transit and big infrastructure projects, and this one's ready to go. Much of the money's been collected from local commercial real estate taxes, and Dulles Transit Partners (Bechtel and Washington International Group) have full plans and are already re-locating utilities and side roads (if you haven't noticed the piles of dirt along Route 7).


Bill's showing us a stretch he learned at Tysons Sport & Health. Naw, he's pointing out all the changes that rail will trigger if the Fairfax Board of Supervisors accepts the "Task Force Plan" to convert the area from a parking lot (seriously, 40 million SF of parking with 167,000 spaces—but you still can't find a good one) to a "true urban center." He says rail construction will be the driver of Tysons activity over the next five years, and community re-development the driver over the following 25. He says a Lerner property at Route 123 near the Galleria, and a Macerich plan to transform the area where Circuit City used to be into a hotel and grand plaza should be among the first changes.   


We also visited former McLean Chamber prez Scott Monett, who's still pushing for a tunnel. He started his campaign in '06, after Gov. Kaine announced plans for above-ground rail despite a state-commissioned American Society of Civil Engineers' study recommending a tunnel. Some think Scott's tilting at windmills, but he urged us: "Try and imagine what Ballston would look like with an aerial rail." (We tried, but when we daydream about Ballston, all we can think of is IHOP.)


"Urban in suburbia" seems to be a theme not just in Tysons. That's what Perseus Realty EVP Woody Bolton calls Redland Corporate Center's nearly complete Phase II, 9-story tower with steel superstructure in Rockville. He means it has easy access for tenants, just off 270, and there's a shuttle from metro. When we met Woody, he'd just finished a leasing meeting with CBRE, and he said the space is ideal for homegrown Montgomery County businesses that want DC's proximity to amenities without downtown rent or traffic. Perseus and Prudential Real Estate Investors broke ground a year ago and Phases II and III (6 stories) are due June 1, '09. HHS occupies Phase I, finished three years ago.


We asked Woody to round up some of the Clark crew, and it appears he chose based on length of surname: Tom Deconcini, Jim Martinoski, John Neuenschwander, Giovanni Blanco, Louis Mutumba, Dean Gill, and Brian Lamb. (He showed mercy with those last two.) Coupled with the 1200-space parking garage and an option to deliver 9-foot furnished ceilings, Woody believes it's suited to a wide variety of tenants. And as a reminder that this is urban in suburbia, there's a 12-acre wooded preserve behind the building. Show us a downtown developer who's making that claim, and we'll show you somebody who accidentally built on Roosevelt Island.

Beveridge & Diamond
1050 K Street
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