The evolution of northern Virginia

by on January 26, 2015 at 7:42 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Food and Drink, Political Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

When I visited Santa Monica in January it struck me how much it reminded me of…Arlington.  Arlington is now essentially a part of Northwest, at least Arlington above Route 50 or so.  Arlington and Santa Monica have never been more alike, or less distinctive.

Parts of east Falls Church will meld into Arlington, and south Arlington will become more like north Arlington.  Real estate prices east/north of a particular line are rising and west of that line are falling.  Fairfax is definitely west of that line.

The Tysons Corner remake will fail, Vienna is not the new Clarendon, and the Silver Line and the monstrously wide Rt.7 will form a new dividing line between parts of Virginia which resemble Santa Monica and parts which do not.

Incumbents aside, no one lives in Fairfax any more to commute into D.C.  Why would you?  The alternatives are getting better and Metro parking became too difficult some time ago.  Fairfax is not being transformed, although some parts are morphing into “the new Shirlington.”  Most of it will stay dumpy on the retail side.  Annandale will stay with Fairfax, whether it likes it or not.

For ten years now I have been predicting various Fairfax restaurants will close — casualties of too-high rents — and mostly I have been wrong.  The good Annandale restaurants are running strong too.  Annandale won’t look much better anytime soon, thank goodness for that.

“Northern Virginia” is becoming two different places, albeit slowly.

1 rayward January 26, 2015 at 8:30 am

Shifting fortunes is a fascinating subject. I vividly recall the predictions soon after Reagan was elected President of shifting fortunes to the South and Southwest, and for the most part the predictions came true. Today, it’s all about shifting fortunes to the Northeast and West Cost. Of course, what’s changed is the shift from an economy dominated by real estate and construction to an economy dominated by information and finance. What’s left behind in the shift is a mostly low educated and low skilled workforce, inadequate public facilities and infrastructure, and low taxes. What’s ahead in the shift is a mostly highly educated and skilled workforce, far better public facilities and infrastructure (especially public transportation), and (relatively) high taxes. When I graduated from law school in the late 1970s, opportunity was in the South and Southwest. Today, it’s in the Northeast and on the West Coast. I’ve had more than one parent tell me that he/she located in a Sunbelt New City to build a career and raise a family because they believed their children would return home after completing their educations. Now, the best and brightest aren’t coming home, to the great disappointment of their parents. I’ve had more than one parent tell me that if only they had known about shifting fortunes.

2 John Thacker January 26, 2015 at 11:29 am

The Northeast and California are still shrinking. You’re correct that they’re pretty good places for the highly educated, and that they succeed in forcing the poor to move away. Good places for the top 1-2%, certainly, but much more difficult to live for the middle class than places like Texas or North Carolina (as the migration stats demonstrate.)

Perhaps one day the Northeast and California will change their public policy to be more friendly to those who aren’t in the top 1-5%, but it looks like they’ll continue with their current policies for a while longer.

3 gab January 26, 2015 at 10:22 pm

California is not shrinking. It basically adds a Bakersfield every year.

4 Careless January 26, 2015 at 10:32 pm

California has been shedding Americans since the 90s.

5 Agra Brum January 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Meaningless. Older (citizens) sell their pricey homes in coastal areas and decamp to cheaper Arizona or parts further, while the homes are bought by noveau rich immigrants, who have large families of American children. Plenty in Silicon Valley are not citizens.
More importantly, I’d love to see a statistic that showed California having less Americans now than in the 1990s. It’s obviously bunk. It may have a higher net migration, but births in California will more than make up for that.
In California’s case, shedding is merely a symptom of growth…

6 dead serious January 26, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Many 6-figure financial services IT jobs in the Northeast are becoming high 5-figure IT jobs in places like TX, NC, and FL.

(American) Finance will remain NYC-centric in the foreseeable future, and cutting edge IT will continue to live in Silicon Valley, but more and more the non-core but still high-paying support jobs are being pushed outside of those very high-cost areas.

(Smart) firms have finally figured out that offshoring results in a net loss.

7 Patrick January 26, 2015 at 8:34 am

I think Tysons will eventually turn into a major-ish hub but it will take far longer than its initial backers would like. More like 20-25 years than 10-15. I think Potomac Yard will be the next major success in the area, mostly because it’s so close to downtown DC.

8 George January 26, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Having lived on Capitol Hill for over 30 years — going back to pre-gentrification MB days, when people thought we were crazy to stay in the city — I have always regarded Potomac Yards AS downtown DC. It’s easier to get to, you can park, and it has more casual and big-box retail. I can’t imagine going downtown to shop.

9 Tim January 26, 2015 at 8:40 am

“The Tysons Corner remake will fail” -can you elaborate on this? How are you defining failure? I’m not sure what you thought the goal of the project would be past making developers a ton of money. I don’t think it could ever be a walkable corridor like Clarendon, but I’m not sure that was anyone’s goal going into it or else they would have buried metro underground at least. Are you predicting empty shops and lower rents or some more benign failure?

10 John Thacker January 26, 2015 at 11:25 am

I’ve taken enough trips to Japan and elsewhere to be amused when people thing that burying metro is necessary to make things walkable. In fact, I suspect that even if they did bury the Metro they still wouldn’t be able to make it walkable with those enormous streets and setbacks.

For that matter, downtown Silver Spring is considerably more walkable with aerial Metro. There are many, many things that can be done to make something walkable before expensive tunneling.

11 Chuck January 29, 2015 at 11:42 am

I would predict a sort of benign failure. There’s too much development to do anything about the northwest quadrant of Tysons; you’d need to tear everything down and reconfigure the loop roads into a grid format. So, that part of walkability will fail.
The redevelopment of the southwest quadrant of Tysons is problematic too, because it will cause displacent of a large number of people, a sort of challenging topography (there’s a pretty big declivity along the loop path between 123 and Rte 7 along Gosnell), and some reasonably valid environmental concerns. So, will Tysons ever be liveable and walkable? Probably not, but some people will get rich off promising it to be true.

12 Ray Lopez January 26, 2015 at 8:48 am

I’ve lived in both places and don’t see any resemblance, except that money exists in both places, more middle class in N. VA and more concentrated in fewer hands in the Republic of Santa Monica. And the weather is nicer in the latter.

13 charlie January 26, 2015 at 8:49 am

Tysons will be a failure in the sense it isn’t going to attract young, white, educated, and highly compensated people to live there. Rather like what White Flint is turning into.

There is a lot of housing going up, and it will attract a lot of immigrants. I suspect Tysons may be a mecca of immigrant open borders food in 20 years.

I’m also somewhat dubious of the South Arlington claim. If you draw a line of course, North Arlington was mostly part of NW, so I am not sure that is evolution or reverson to the mean.

14 Moreno Klaus January 26, 2015 at 9:37 am

Maybe that’s true about White Flint, but i would hate to live in such a horrible (soulless) place. Though, I admit they have some good restaurants (of course if you are willing to pay the price…)

15 Moreno Klaus January 26, 2015 at 9:39 am

BTW, I think Bethesda is horrible too. (but i am not american so maybe i am biased…)

16 Jan January 26, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Bethesda seems to be for people interested in paying 20-25% more for housing and bad restaurants because they need to live in a safe neighborhood. Read “safe” how you will.

17 Careless January 26, 2015 at 10:34 pm

You forgot “good schools”

18 Jan January 27, 2015 at 9:32 am

Lots of good schools in other places in Montgomery County and NOVA that do not have this premium.

19 charlie January 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Perhaps I was not clear. White Flint also attracts a lot of immigrant types. It is perfectly pleasant soulness place, but not where yuppies and hipsters want to end up.

20 Hazel Meade January 26, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Agreed. Who wants to live in a parking lot?
Tysons is UGLY. Only people who come from bigger shitholes than Tysons will want to live there. It probably looks fabulous if you’re accustomed to Bangladesh.

21 Charles January 26, 2015 at 8:54 am

I also did not understand “The Tysons Corner remake will fail”. When you make a prediction, please also state how you will measure success & failure, otherwise you can make your own measure after the fact and say you were right.

Tyson’s is ugly, poorly designed, and silo’d, but a huge amount of traffic does flow through that area. It may succeed just on location, and infrastructure that provides ease of access.

22 Matt B January 26, 2015 at 8:57 am

You sound like Yogi Berra here. “No one lives in Fairfax and commutes to DC anymore, the roads are too crowded from people living in Fairfax and commuting to DC”.

23 The Anti-Gnostic January 26, 2015 at 9:04 am

For ten years now I have been predicting various Fairfax restaurants will close — casualties of too-high rents — and mostly I have been wrong.

High property values keep out the riff-raff, which makes the place desirable for people with lots of disposable income. Are you just now finding this out?

24 JereinVA January 26, 2015 at 9:20 am

The decline of the suburbs has been predicted for 50 years. This includes Fairfax. The best predictor of the future health of western Fairfax is the decline in housing prices. See
http://joelkotkin.com/content/001033-dont-boost-cities-bashing-burbs

25 Sam Haysom January 26, 2015 at 12:16 pm

Exactly and twenty years from now the progeny of the back to the city cultists will be bitterly lamenting having grown up without yards and room and vowing that they will never make the mistake their selfish parents did of trying to raise kids in the city.

26 George January 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm

I grew up mowing the grass ranch that my parents called a “yard.” A smaller home in the city with a big-enough-for-little-kids yard is all I want. My kids, of course, will probably grow up envious a suburban spaciousness. And so the pendulum swings.

27 Hazel Meade January 27, 2015 at 8:46 am

The biggest pitfall of living in the city isn’t the lack of a yard. It is the lack of open space for kids to run around and play in.
When I was little, we always had some local woods we would go off to cavort in.
If the only place to go was a paved basketball court or the mall, the kids are never going to find a spot away from adult supervision. They will be constantly followed by mall cops and security guards looking to stop them from whatever mischeif (i.e. fun) they are trying to have.

28 Navid Roshan-Afshar January 26, 2015 at 9:31 am

I couldn’t help but notice you have no idea what you are talking about when discussing Tysons.

First of all, the median income in Tysons is higher than that of the rest of Fairfax. This is likely due to the school district, something you don’t even discuss in your one sentence non-declaration that Tysons will fail. I’d point out, in the mountain of evidence against you, that Tysons is growing faster than any submarket in the region, having added 3 million square feet in the past 24 months. Some of that growth was rezonings approved prior to the comprehensive plan which did not have the walkable mixed use components that the future Tysons is looking to develop, but much of it did. As the older projects finish up, they are being replaced by projects like Arbor Row (currently under construction), Scotts Run South (currently under construction) and nearly 35 million square feet that is also already in the pipeline. These projects include new street grids and sidewalks, bike lanes, parks, all the things that make a place habitable.

To declare Tysons a failure, after only 5 years, is sophomoric. The plan was always a 35 year master comprehensive plan. 1/7th of the way through that process (typically the initial phase is also the hardest to activate) I’d say Tysons has done pretty well, and will continue to do well.

I’m not sure house value is the best measure for this, but I’d point out that in Tysons and the surrounding residential neighborhoods the average home price has risen over 25% since 2006, faster than most of Fairfax. And while vacancy rates are high in Tysons, they are arbitrarily so, largely in Class B and old office buildings, whereas new office buildings like Tysons Tower have found tenants faster than other comparably sized structure in Arlington.

29 Rob42 January 26, 2015 at 10:07 am

I want to agree with you. Any thoughts as to why Pimmit Hills hasn’t been gentrified yet? I would have expected it to have become at least another Del Ray by now if the future of Tysons was as bright as we think it is.

30 Navid Roshan-Afshar January 26, 2015 at 11:08 am

There was just an announcement about 24 homes having been purchased to do just this. Same thing in Falls Church has happened along the Tysons/FC line, a recently approved plan for high end townhomes over 1M.

I think there needs to be a better understanding that nothing changes over night. Arlington became Arlington today over the course of 40 years. Look back at before/afters to see how much changed and how similar that landscape was to Tysons today with large open lots, too much asphalt, an over balance of offices versus residential.

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthread.php?t=186302

Tysons isn’t going to be Paris, NYC, or even DC. It’s going to be a small mid-sized city possibly on par with Arlington after the next 35 years. That doesn’t happen immediately just because the SV showed up. The comprehensive plan is the real catalyst for the change and it was only approved in 2010. Over the course of a few years it is already changing what Tysons looks like in pockets. Each of those pockets, the rezonings being proposed and now starting to be built, is the equivalent size of Reston Town Center. So imagine isolated Reston Town Centers that grow over the course of 20-35 years. After about 10-20 years of that, the isolated nature of them starts to fade as they fill out their properties and begin forming a mesh with the adjacent equivalent Reston Town Centers that were happening on other projects in Tysons. Each of these buildings is a $150million+ investment, so of course it won’t be over night. There is years of work that occurs before a tower is complete.

Either way, his assertion of failure is whole sale disproven by the fact that Tysons is the fastest growing part of Fairfax, it is out growing Rosslyn, it is outgrowing Clarendon, it is outgrowing Ballston on an annual basis. I would invite him to look around http://thetysonscorner.com to see how many different projects have occurred and will continue to occur over the next several years.

31 Susie January 28, 2015 at 10:30 pm

I read “failure” as a relative term. Speaking as someone who is a native of NOVA, Tysons heyday has come and gone. I agree that it’s going to be a failure in the sense they will never get to the current envisioned ideal for that area and that growth will either slow or stall. Personally, I see one of the biggest fails with the Tysons metro was the decision to forgo providing parking and lots of it.

32 Navid Roshan-Afshar January 29, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Because what makes Arlington great is tons of parking.

33 Fairfaxian January 29, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Actually, Navid, Fairfax County has grown less in population, jobs, and occupied commercial space (especially true in Tysons) than any of the other Metro DC counties. It actually shed jobs for at least a quarter last year.

It really doesn’t matter how many buildings developers build if no one fills them up.

34 Navid Roshan-Afshar January 29, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Fairfax grew 40,000 residents since 2010, that is a fact. That is only second to one county, Loudoun, which attracts many of its residents because of housing costs that are half of that found in Fairfax on a psf.

Secondly, while Fairfax as a whole shed jobs, Tysons actually gained more, including Intelsat which moved from DC. So actually, it’s not “especially true in Tysons”. Tysons also grew 20% in population over the past 5 years, making it one of the fastest growing residential submarkets in the area.

Notice how I actually provide numbers, and those that love to hate the easy whipping child of Fairfax state generalities without any evidence. Like it or not, Tysons is doing good, and with the changes happening will be doing even better in 5 years.

35 Careless January 26, 2015 at 10:38 pm

The guy whose job appears to be boosting Tysons Corner seems like a fair and unbiased source.

36 Navid Roshan-Afshar January 27, 2015 at 12:17 pm

As opposed to a single sentence without any evidence of what’s actually happening in Tysons. I don’t need to boost anything, the market is speaking with 10 high rise towers being constructed, thousands of new residents. Clearly this isn’t a case where the county said “we want something to happen” and the market shrugged. The market is submitted millions of square feet of proposals meeting the better standards and building it without any major problems in the feasibility.

How that is a failure I am confused about. Has it all of a sudden become Arlington? No. It’s 5 years after those decisions were made, large areas can’t redevelop at a snap of a finger. Is it on the right track currently? Yea, in terms of its trajectory it appears that the 35 year concept was solid and will probably pan out.

Failure how?

37 Jonathan January 26, 2015 at 9:38 am

I have to say I found Mosaic (aka the new Shirlington) impressive when I was last down there in December. Certainly it was attracting the crowds (and residential consumers) that it was designed for. And it makes for a fairly easy commute, no?

38 Steve January 26, 2015 at 9:44 am

Much of this is not an accident. Arlington County has a very aggressive urbanist planning approach, whereas Falls Church and Fairfax are much more laissez-faire with strip malls, street furniture, building locations, undergrounding of wires, etc… The parts of Falls Church that seem dense and walkable are more often than not actually technically part of Arlington County. The border line between the jurisdictions is increasingly visible just by looking at the street landscape.

39 Moving to NoVa January 26, 2015 at 9:51 am

If I may take this opportunity to see if anyone has opinions on a good area to buy a home in Northern Virginia for a federal employee in the GS-12 level, with the following considerations, in order of importance: (1) excellent public schools K-12; (2) ease of access to metro; and (3) relatively diverse in terms of access to dining/ food shopping.

Thanks for any thoughts.

40 Rob42 January 26, 2015 at 10:08 am

Pimmit Hills!

41 Tim January 26, 2015 at 10:10 am

1. most schools in Fairfax are excellent relative to the rest of the country. Within Fairfax, the best schools are probably the districts that get George Mason HS (you pay extra taxes for being in Falls Church City) or Marshall, but even the districts that are considered lacking are pretty much better than any public school I grew up with on Long Island and the lower rated schools also tend to be the more diverse ones, which I would hope most see as a plus of those schools rather than a negative.

2. I don’t know where you are trying to get to, but I will assume something like foggy bottom and DoS in west DC in which case look at the orange line. If you’re looking at metro center commute or l’enfant then you could also look at blue line around alexandria. If you want walking distance to metro in a good school district then you are probably looking at Vienna, Dunn Loring, West/East Falls Church stops. If you’re on a single GS-12 salary then I’m not entirely sure what you can afford along that corridor. There are some smaller condos and townhouses and also apartments around Dunn Loring metro that have been there a bit longer so they’re a bit cheaper, but anything within a mile or 2 of orange line is going to be at a premium.

3. Fairfax in general has more diverse eating than most places I’ve seen. I live just inside beltway and there is afghan, kabob, lebanese, italian, vietnamese, chinese, korean, indian, delis, etc. all within a 10 minute drive (30 minutes if you’re trying this at rush hour). I think you can probably plop down just about anywhere near the orange line and find a lot of options. The further west you get away from metro and the fewer the options there are, but if you’re somewhere near the Arlington border or in Fairfax City or east of there then you can pretty much get any kind of food you can think of.

42 Rob42 January 26, 2015 at 10:33 am

No love for McLean and Langley HSs?

43 Tim January 26, 2015 at 11:24 am

Was just trying to think of ones closer to metro access. Alexandria has solid schools as well, but I’m honestly not as familiar with them past TJ, which is also top in the country from what I’ve read, but it’s a magnet school and I have no idea how difficult it is to get into so I would think it’s not an option for everyone. McLean I should have mentioned though. it’s not too far from WFC at all. I don’t know where kids actually go to when you live right around that metro. It’s probably McLean or George Mason or Marshall.

44 joblo January 28, 2015 at 5:41 pm

McLean or Langley on a GS-12 salary? Good luck with that. And remember that Falls Church City has the highest real estate prices in the metro area.

45 Veritas January 26, 2015 at 11:21 am

South Arlington (seriously), you get the full value of Arlington County public schools (school choice for younger kids) (Wakefield is not that bad and getting better and if you really wanted to its not hard to evade going there). The neighborhood off of the ridge road is very nice and walking distance to the metro, also your value increases dramatically as you go south of 50.

46 Patrick January 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm

If you and your spouse are both GS-12’s then you can pull off items (1) and (3) in Arlington and parts of Fairfax but you’ll be hard-pressed to get (2). Alexandria doesn’t have the best reputation for schools but that’s in comparison to Arlington and Fairfax which both have excellent reputations.

47 bob January 26, 2015 at 10:24 pm

All the high schools along the orange line are excellent. My sons went to Marshall which we liked. The further out you go the cheaper housing is but Oakton, Farfax, Woodson and Madison are all excellent and within walking distance of the Fairfax Metro.

And I believe Tyler to be wrong about living in Fairfax and commutting to D.C. I lived in Fairfax because it the all I could afford. Even South Arlington is much more expensive.

48 Jeff January 28, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Let’s get real here. GS-12 means he’s making $75K – $95K. The old rule of thumb is that you buy a house costing 3 times your annual income. In Fairfax County there is nothing near the Orange line that costs less than $300K.

49 Barry W. Ickes January 26, 2015 at 11:18 am

I know nothing about Arlington, except that there is no ocean. Talking about Santa Monica without mentioning the Pacific is insane. I also don’t think Arlington has rent control, which is the cause of many of Santa Monica’s current problems.

50 Agra Brum January 27, 2015 at 7:13 pm

Actually very little of SaMo has below market units, only about 10% of the properties under rent control. Landlords can raise rates to market when people move out. What are SaMo’s ‘current problems’ anyway?

51 athEIst January 26, 2015 at 11:34 am

There was a commenter on Crim Law that always referred to N. Virginia as “occupied Virginia.” I think he saw what you see. Virginia twice blue after 13(except 1964) reds.

52 Hadur January 26, 2015 at 12:16 pm

I currently rent in Arlington and it is becoming very obvious to me that I cannot afford to buy property anywhere in Northern Virginia that is near a metro stop on my meager house hold income of $140-150k. Even in parts of Washington DC that are considered “gentrifying”, average house values are north of $500,000. This is absurd and plenty can be said about the land use laws that led to somebody making 3x national average HHI not being able to afford a house.

I suppose it is off to Anacostia with me – green shoots are said to be sprouting there.

53 Jan January 26, 2015 at 12:22 pm

If you consider coming over the Maryland side, there are plenty of places in Montgomery County near metro stations that you could probably afford.

54 Hadur January 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Fiancee is an ex-Marylander who tells me this all the time, but I’m skeptical. Feel free to post names of neighborhoods and metro stops I should be looking at, though.

55 Jan January 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm

Depends what you’re looking for, but right around the Rockville Metro is decent if you’re looking for NOVA-like diversity, restaurants, etc. The area near downtown Silver Spring is also not bad. The neighborhoods between the SS metro stop and Sligo Creek are nice, but the homes may a bit expensive. Moving northwest up Georgia Avenue, there are are fairly affordable places between the SS and Forest Glen metros. Going much further north of there, however, it gets more suburban sprawlish. Some people like “North Bethesda” as a more affordable version of Bethesda–it is nice, but I think overpriced and boring for what it is.

56 Navid Roshan-Afshar January 26, 2015 at 12:25 pm

I am a bit confused as to why 140-150k wouldn’t allow you to live in Fairfax or Arlington. The average household median income in Tysons is less than 150k. If you are looking to rent, that would give you a general budget using the 30% rule of $2400 which is enough to rent anywhere between a 2br and townhome in most of Fairfax, if not a house in some parts. If you instead were looking for a mortgage, you’d be looking at a purchase power of around 400k in mortgage. Depends on what you are looking for, I guess if you want a large 5 br home sure, you won’t find it, but there are plenty of 3br homes in Fairfax, and nice large townhomes that fit into that, let alone 2br condos that are available in FC, Tysons, etc that also fit that price range.

57 Hadur January 26, 2015 at 12:26 pm

and that have a metro stop within walking distance?

58 Navid Roshan-Afshar January 26, 2015 at 12:48 pm

A house within walking distance of metro? No, not unless you split rent, but that is a bit of an unrealistic scenario. There are not that many places where there can be single family homes within walking distance to a metro for first time home buyers or renters to rent by themselves. WFC and Merrifield would be the closest to that, but rents for houses are usually around 3200-3400. There are some within a 5 minute drive to metro, see Springfield, Huntington areas.

Depends what you are looking for. Some people like townhomes and 2br apartments. If thats what you are looking for, then yea, there are lots within your budget within 1mi walk of metro, again WFC/Merrifield/Tysons. 2400 goes pretty far in those neighborhoods.

59 bob January 28, 2015 at 7:37 am

There are 30-35 year old townhouses with over 2,000 square feet of space within sight of the Vienna Metro parking garage going for 450k or so. Call up the Vienna Metro on Zillow.

60 Alex Godofsky January 26, 2015 at 12:35 pm

I just purchased a 2br/2br across the street from Ballston on roughly that household income. So I look at your complaint and go “what?”

61 prior_approval January 26, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Having also lived about two blocks away from Ballston back in the late 1990s, either you moved into one of the really poorly constructed wood frames houses in the area (meaning my Navy officer quasi-slumlord was smarter than you), or you are neglecting to mention when you bought said property.

62 Alex Godofsky January 26, 2015 at 2:35 pm

It’s a nice condo, and I purchased it in July of last year.

63 Hazel Meade January 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

The silver line is supposed to extend out ot Leesburg eventually. If you buy a house there now, in 10 years you might be within walking distance of a metro stop.

64 Hazel Meade January 26, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I live in Leesburg, which I’m sure is part of the “other” Northern Virginia, but I quite like it. Nice walkable historic downtown, with a few trendy shops and cafes. Bike path. Close to the Blue Ridge. Charming old houses, beautiful countryside , and lots of local culture in the form of horse farms and wineries.
Would have to agree that food options are limited, and we don’t get into DC much, though. It is slowly being eaten by the colonies of townhomes spreading outward from the DC metro area, but there is still some buffer space they havn’t filled up yet.

65 prior_approval January 26, 2015 at 1:36 pm

I’ve lived in Leesburg, Haymarket(ish, about a half decade), Upperville, Arlington (within 5 walking minutes of the GMU Arlington Campus), Fairfax City (Jermantown Road), Fairfax (off Braddock Rd, 10 minutes from GMU- for one and a half decades), Vienna (a half decade) – Prof. Cowen’s view of Northern Virginia is about as informed as mine is for NJ around NYC.

66 John January 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

I’m surpised that Vienna is called out when I see Merryfield (near the Dunloring metro) as a much more urban type setting and it’s got a lot of interesting new businesses and “districs” all in a square mile or so.

67 John January 26, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Really need an edit function here — mist read the bit on Vienna.

68 bjk January 26, 2015 at 2:18 pm

The East Falls church metro really needs some development. There was a plan to turn the parking lot into retail/commercial and build a walkway from the platform over 66, but the whole area is ripe for development. It used to be a commercial strip but it all got dozed over when the metro/66 was put in. Time for some development. Mosaic by comparison is in a bit of a wasteland.

69 Yancey Ward January 26, 2015 at 3:19 pm

How is the surfing in Arlington?

70 HH January 26, 2015 at 3:21 pm

When your only tool is Average Is Over, everything looks like it’s diverging in two directions.

71 msgkings January 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Ouch! But clever.

72 skeptic January 26, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Why is Virginia Square such a black hole for retail? Walked along Fairfax Dr. lately? Gross . . .

73 Mike D. January 28, 2015 at 11:11 pm

What on earth is gross about Virginia Square? They just got a new high-rise (the Dittmar building), there’s a hole in the ground for another one (possibly the Penrose site?), a Starbucks right at the station, a Tropical Smoothie cafe a block away, two separate parks within 2 blocks, GMU Arlington, the FDIC, and a row of needed convenience/lifestyle shops (barber, dry cleaner, small deli) in the 1st floor of another high rise building.
Ballston and Clarendon are walkable for VSq and are the long-term commercial and eating districts, the former when Ballston Mall completes its conversion to a miniature RTC-style space. Virginia Square as a result has the best of both worlds – quick access to needed retail and the quieter atmosphere of a good residential zone.

74 Mesa January 27, 2015 at 8:39 am

Part of growing up is learning to cook for yourself, and how you know you have grown up is you no longer want to live near lots of people who can’t cook for themselves.

75 bjk January 27, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Does Tyler really think that Rt 7 will be the dividing line? There’s nothing on the McLean side of Rt 7 except big expensive houses, nothing like Ballston, so I don’t really get the division . . . Maybe he means that Rt 50 is the dividing line. That makes more sense.

76 James L Jones January 28, 2015 at 5:20 pm

It’s curious that you assume that temporary influences will result in permanent outcomes. The history of Northern Virginia is full of such temporary influences yet it has continued to grow and succeed. What’s so different now?

77 joblo January 28, 2015 at 5:53 pm

I am quite happy with my neighborhood. One block from the junction of the Falls Church, Annandale and Fairfax zip code areas, 1/2 mile to Fairfax Hospital, 1.5 miles to Mosaic District and Dunn Loring Metro with direct Fairfax Connector bus at the end of the block, good schools (though my child is grown and gone), very easy access to the Beltway and 66 and best of all, houses are reasonably priced. We’ve lived here for over 21 years and have no intention of leaving.

78 ClevelandParkRascal January 28, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Good God, what that guy Cowen wrote was unintelligible. What the hell was he talking about? It sounded like it was going to be interesting, but he kept going around in circles. Dude, can you explain WHY all of this is like SM? Like in specific terms? Get this guy a writing mentor.

79 OldSchoolFC January 28, 2015 at 7:17 pm

The “Mosaic District” will always be Merrifield. There is no polishing a turd. Will it transform over time? Yes, into another soulless expand of retail and overpriced housing (see Halstead Square), but it will still be Merrifield.

80 Susie January 28, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Agreed – “Mosaic District” will always be Merrifield. But it’s not going to transform over time. Sadly, as much as I think it’s a cute little area and they did a nice job on the design and getting in some more unique retail, long term, it won’t last. I give it another year or two before seeing more and more vacancies.

81 Mike D. January 28, 2015 at 11:02 pm

Anyone betting against Tysons, an already-established employment and commerce epicenter EVEN BEFORE ACQUIRING FOUR TRANSIT STATIONS, is a complete idiot who knows nothing about transit-oriented development.

New York soccer fans have a derogatory chant for DC United supporters: “You’re just a suburb of Tysons.” As DC continues to balk on critical zoning changes (building heights, et al), it continues to lose the race against time. Tyson’s is exploding – it is a prime and glowing example of the success of TOD. And you know what, It would be a lot easier to build heavy rail lines from the west and south to feed tysons than it would be DC … single jurisdiction, less dense ROW (particularly in PW and southern Loudoun counties). As Tysons acquires more and more Fortune 1000s compared to the supposed core city of the region, I would not be surprised to see people consider that option for new transit expansions.

And its immediate suburbs – Merrifield/Mosaic, Reston/RTC, Herndon/Arrowbrook (which will become a financial certainty in a few years’ time), Fairfax/FFX Corner – have the modern model right. Spacious but affordable housing over 1st floor shopping, dining, and transit, with SFHs in nearby but increasing circumferences to the “town cores.” It is a step close to the efficient model that Europe has become and that younger people continue to want for its creature comforts and, most importantly, shorter commutes which allow them more time with their family. If you’re desperate for a yard and a minivan, you’ll always find a way to acquire them, but not everyone is.

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