Q&A With Gary Block Of The Meridian Group
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When people hear "Tysons," they are usually thinking of malls, office buildings, or traffic. A walkable city where people actually want to live? Not so much. But that looks like it is about to change in a big way.
Gary Block is managing director of the Meridian Group, which acquired the four-building SAIC campus in Tysons in 2013, and is now beginning to transform it into a fully-fledged urban center, dubbed "The Boro." We spoke with him about the company's grand ambitions for the neighborhood.
Bisnow: The Boro is obviously a massive project, so can you explain to readers what exactly is coming to Tysons?
Gary: The Boro is going to be its own ecosystem. The Boro is what the Tysons Partnership really envisioned when the Fairfax County Master Plan was put in place to transform Tysons from an urban office park in an attempt to be an urban core.
Phase I is going to comparable to the urban core of the Reston Town Center. Close to 750 residential units, both rental and for sale. 70k SF Whole Foods, 80k SF Showplace Icon theater, then another 75k SF of retail, going to have a 400k SF office building. That’s all Phase I. That’s it’s own ecosystem.
Phase 2 is going to include additional residential, office and possibly hotel.
Bisnow: Do you think Tysons is ready to become a residential area? In other words, to people living in the area want this?
Gary: Have you ever heard of the phrase pent-up demand? There is pent-up demand for this. They are ready. Do you know wrestling at all? It's like the 145-pound high-school wrestler who cut to 115 pounds for state. Was he ready to eat after he won the state tournament? That’s how the people in Tysons, McLean, Great Falls and Vienna feel. Right now, their neighborhood shopping center is Tysons Corner Mall. They are so ready for an urban core. They are so ready to have a place where they can work, play eat, shop, have dessert, have drinks, commute--they’re ready for it.
Bisnow: How has Tysons changed since the new Metro line opened there?
Gary: I don’t think the neighborhood’s changed yet, but I think it will change. What’s changed is the perception of Tysons. Leasing activity has changed. Office tenants that wouldn’t ordinarily look to locate to Tysons--but still want to take advantage of DC's young, educated workforce--are coming here. That’s evidenced by Whole Foods coming here; it’s evidenced by having the Showplace Icon in two locations.
Bisnow: Why is the perception changed?
Gary: Well, $5B of federal, state and local funding have gone into Tysons, and now it’s a lot easier to drive there because of the HOT lanes (on I-495). We’re literally in the first or second inning of the perception change.