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D.C. Suburb Undertakes Monumental 'Do-Over'

In the Virginia suburbs outside of D.C., the radical plan to reshape auto-oriented Tysons Corner into vibrant, walkable Tysons is going ahead, despite skepticism that the monumental task can be accomplished, reports Corinne Reilly.
January 4, 2013, 7am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Two years into Fairfax County's four-decade plan to redevelop "a soulless, sidewalkless sea of superblocks, office buildings, highways and car dealerships" into "an urban, vibrant, walkable, downtown built around residents and rail" is beginning to move forward, block by block, writes Reilly, "[a]nd there is no turning back."

"'No one in the history of mankind has ever tried to do this' in a place that is already so developed — and developed entirely around cars and commuters, said Christopher Leinberger, with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. 'There is nowhere to look for a model for this kind of transformation.'”

"What is wrong with Tysons Corner, at least in the eyes of county officials, is what’s missing," says Reilly. "There are very few sidewalks, parks, neighborhood hangouts and places to live — none of the things that make a city a city. Instead, the 1,700-acre swath of Fairfax is home to nine times as many parking spaces as people."

"But now that the county has embarked on the redevelopment effort [seventeen redevelopment proposals are in the pipeline], some remain skeptical that such an ambitious, expensive urban retrofitting will ever come to fruition. Will anyone want to live in place long known for shopping malls and some of the region’s most horrific traffic? Will a shaky market emerging from recession support such development?"

"What is happening in Tysons is garnering interest far beyond the Washington region. If the transformation is a success, some believe it will serve as a model for rebuilding edge cities across the nation and beyond."

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Published on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 in The Washington Post
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