One commentator argues that Tysons Corner, the prototypical edge city located west of Washington D.C., is changing into a “real city”:
The expansion of Metro through Tysons Corner to Dulles airport on a new Silver Line will be key to making Tysons much more accessible to DC residents. Currently there is no real downtown and few pedestrians. In a cover story for the Washington Post Sunday business section, staff writer Jonathan O’Connell detailed how Tysons is changing…
Almost under the public radar, Tysons has quietly become a major destination for corporate offices and has 26.7 million square feet of office space, which is why tens of thousands of people drive into Tysons every morning for work. Five Fortune 500 companies have headquarters there.
One major question facing developers and urban planners is how to properly create walkable streets out of what currently exists in Tysons…
Visiting Tysons this spring was for me an odd experience as I felt the place didn’t have much character and seemed rather sterile. As I headed from one mall to the next, I was one of the few people walking along the highway as a never-ending stream of cars whizzed by. If all goes well, hopefully in a few years, Tysons will be more inviting to visitors looking to wander around a new downtown.
So sidewalks will transform this into a real city? I wonder if there is a lot more that would be needed included more housing spread out between the shopping centers and corporate offices. Sidewalks may help in the creation of a downtown but without many mixed-use developments, people will still have to drive from home to these places.
Additionally, simply adding places for pedestrians to walk doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be pedestrian-friendly – the commentator suggests the sidewalks now are sterile and located along highways. As the post suggests, there needs to be a shift toward a “walkable community,” a New Urbanist principle where shops, restaurants, and housing would line these streets and sidewalks so that there becomes a streetscape rather than simply a sidewalk. Plus, “authenticity” doesn’t simply come from a pleasant streetscape – you can find these at “lifestyle centers.” It requires a dedicated population of people, a shared history, and a municipal character that can pull these pieces of infrastructure into a cohesive community.
How much demand is there for such changes in Tysons Corner? On one hand, I could see envision that if things are going well (business is thriving, people are moving in, etc.), most people would say why both messing with the formula. On the other hand, if the shiny facade of the community is showing some cracks, changes might be desirable.
This highlights one issue I have with suburban types like edge cities: the suburbs themselves don’t necessarily stay within one category. Does Garreau’s criteria allow for a walkable edge city or would a transformed Tysons Corner have to be slotted into a different category?