14 Sep 2014
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State of the County: Fairfax's Future Is Development

In annual address, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova warns sequestration could impact revenues, is making business owners delay decisions.

State of the County: Fairfax's Future Is Development

Revitalization and development will drive Fairfax County's economy in 2013 and beyond, Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said in her annual state of the county address Wednesday.

Talking to members of the media Wednesday morning, Bulova said massive development projects in Tysons, Merrifield and Springfield will create "bright days and years ahead" — but the threat of sequestration was also making business owners hesitant to commit to a relocation or expansion in the county. 

“Fairfax County’s future is in development,” Bulova said in her statement. “Aging commercial centers near mass transit, like Tysons, present especially valuable opportunities for attractive, transit-oriented mixed-use revitalization.”

The county is hoping some of that revitalization and business growth occurs outside the federal government or defense-contracting arenas, which will be the hardest hit if sequestration becomes a reality. 

Federal contracts accounted for $24 billion of the county’s FY2010 income;

About 86,000 of them are in Fairfax County, the Washington Post has reported.

“We’ve been trying to increase our commercial base in areas that are not necessarily federal or defense-related,” she said, adding the move of Hilton Hotel's global headquarters to Fairfax County was a huge step toward that goal.


The Board of Supervisors has approved three large-scale development proposals since September 2012, all in Tysons Corner.

Last week, the Board approved The Georgelas Group’s 3.8-million-square-foot Spring Hill project, a complex of seven high rises that is expected to house up to 2,000 units. 

Capital One Financial’s 4.4 million square-foot headquarters expansion, and CityLinePartners’ Arbor Row, about 2.6 million square feet of mixed use development, were also both approved towards the end of 2012.

But there is still much work to be done, including improving the transportation infrastructure in the area.

“The roads are not ready,” Bulova said after her speech, adding the finished project was still 30 to 40 years away.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Pat Herrity criticized the Board’s decisions on where to use proffer money in Tysons in his own state of the county address. Herrity said the county’s priority for proffer dollars should be transportation and education.

“This is where I think the county has really gone wrong,” he said. “Instead of using the $500m of developer contributions for priorities like transportation, the Board opted to create a Tysons tax district to collect $250 million of the $2 billion needed in transportation improvements from the residents and businesses in Tysons Corner.”

Bulova called the transformation of Tysons an "evolution."

“You’re not going to see all of Tysons develop in one year – it’s going to happen over a period of time – and just as the development happens over a period of time so will the transportation to support it," she said.

Bulova noted two other new commercial centers are closer to completion.

The Mosaic District in Merrifield opened in fall 2012, bringing restaurants, retail and hotel space and a movie theater in a complex at the intersection of Lee Highway and Gallows Road. When complete, the district is expected to include 500,000 square feet of retail space and 1,000 residential units.

The newly redeveloped Springfield Mall is also expected to be complete by the end of 2014, bringing a vibrant new commercial center to a site that in recent years housed an eyesore.

“When I first moved into Fairfax County, Springfield Mall was an absolute state-of-the-art attraction for both shopping and entertainment,” Bulova said in her statement. “Sadly, in recent years, this once-landmark began to experience some deterioration and criminal activity.”

Demolition started in November 2012, and the new development will have more than 700,000 square feet of mixed businesses such as retail, restaurants, a fitness center and a movie theater. 

“Located next to Franconia-Springfield Metro and VRE Stations, the Springfield Mall is an excellent example of smart redevelopment,” Bulova said.

Sequestration's Impact on Budget, Business

Bulova warned the looming shadow of sequestration is creating uncertainty for business owners looking to relocate to these centers.

“Already we’re seeing the effect of sequestration, with business people making decisions not to make expansions right now or not to fill vacant space,” she said. “That equates directly to our tax revenue.”

It also makes it difficult for government leaders trying to plan for budget years based on uncertain tax revenues.

Bulova said county officials have done their best to account for sequestration in the county’s FY2014 budget, but much remains uncertain.

The county relies on $290 million in federal dollars, including $135 million for schools, County Executive Ed Long said in December.

Real estate taxes likely wouldn’t be affected until 2015, Long said, but the impact to sales taxes and transit occupancy taxes could hit as early as the second half of FY2013.

Long presents his FY 2014 budget to supervisors next week.

See also:

  • Fairfax Board OKs Massive Spring Hill Development
  • McDonnell: Sequester Could Force Virginia Into Recession
  • Fairfax Board Mulls Rates for Tysons Tax District
  • Defense Contractors at Kaine Roundtable: 'We've Been Sequestered Already'
  • Fairfax Board Approves Tysons Tax District

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