National Geographic : 2002 Dec
TYSONS CORNER, VIRGINIA "It's a fad Inever thought would last," says Charles "C. D" Walsh of the heavy cigar smoke in the mahogany-paneled steak house where he tends bar in Northern Virginia. "But it hasn't dropped off in the least. I guess black lung just goes with the territory." The territory is the upscale Palm restaurant, where despite the crash and-burn of many once hot local dot-coms, business remains strong. So it is in the rest of Tysons Corner, an intense agglomeration of stores, office buildings, and hotels 12 miles west of Washington, D.C. Once Tysons was nothing more than a general store at the junction of a couple of farm-to-market roads. Today it is a megamall, as well as the capital of a bruised but not bowed high-tech corridor that runs from there 14 miles west to Dulles Airport. Tysons increased its resilience in the nineties by buttressing its retail core with corporate offices. Soon after, big information-technology and defense firms attracted services, managerial support, and swarms of developers, financiers, and lawyers. By the end of the decade tech businesses had created tens of thousands of jobs. Even with recent layoffs, Tysons continues to thrive because diversification and boom times for the defense industry have absorbed some of the economic shocks suffered elsewhere. "The Washington area used to be the quintessential govern ment town," says Bobbie Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. "But our entrepreneurial spirit was emboldened by the economic boom, and the bust hasn't taken that away." Part of the area's armor is the northern tier of zip code 22102: In contrast to Tysons, this graceful swath of real estate is residential, even rural, bordering the wild gorges of the Potomac River. Here you find a national park, horse farms, old-money mansions, and the 376-acre cam pus of the exclusive Madeira School for girls. It was this proximity of wealth that gave bullish retailers the con fidence to venture into an undistinguished tract of farmland in the early sixties. That's when a D.C. native named Ted Lerner saw the future as Dulles Airport opened on virgin land 14 miles west and work on the nearby Capital Beltway neared completion. Lerner imagined a shopping POPULATION: 18,600 SHOPPERS IN TYSONS CORNER CENTER AND TYSONS GALLERIA DURING HOLIDAY PEAK: More than 115,000 a day PARKING SPOTS, BOTH MALLS: 15,500 plus YEARLY SALES VOLUME, BOTH MALLS: More than $730,000,000 UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: Around 3 percent PUBLIC PARKS INTHE ZIP CODE: 13 Sleepy Tysons Corner has been overwhelmed by Washington, D.C., suburban sprawl, creat ing fertile ground for realtors Sue and Jerry Huckaby, who do brisk business despite a slug gish national economy. S. . P EA RSON.PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE.FAIRFAXCOUNTYPUB IC LIBRARY(ABOVE) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, DECEMBER 2002 - 1 :i" p~ s: I Tysons Corner.