What’s that blue-and-silver glass village just south of Tysons Corner? From a distance—say, from eight lanes of traffic on I-495—the Capital One Center skyscrapers resemble the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz. Among the gleaming towers: Capital One Hall, a new state-of-the-art performance center that’s attracting Broadway shows to our corner of Virginia.
This whole development has been in the works for more than 20 years. In the late 1990s, Capital One purchased 25 acres for a traditional suburban office park in Northern Virginia. Around then, McLean got pinpointed for a new Metro station. “All the stars aligned,” says Jonathan Griffith, director of Capital One Center, “and we reimagined what our future plans would look like.” Company leaders wanted an auditorium for corporate events, a luxury hotel with dining, and amenities like a Wegmans. Construction launched in 2015.
The addition of Capital One Hall was serendipitous. Fairfax County officials had already identified a need for an arts-and-entertainment complex. From a business perspective, Capital One needed one very large venue. It was an “aha moment,” says Griffith.
The design channels Radio City Music Hall. The Hall is inspired by the architectural elements of the 1920s and ’30s—think classic American stages like DC’s National Theatre. Above the box office is a vertical blue-and-white Capital One Hall sign that draws your eye up 11 stories to the rooftop. As you ride the gleaming brass escalator or ascend the grand marble staircase, the lobby opens up, and undulating windows offer glimpses of the outside.
Get ready for a soaring atrium. From there, guests enter the Main Theater, with sharply sloped seating for 1,600. This multipurpose stage is versatile and ready to accommodate an array of performances, from The Nutcracker to stand-up comedy to the National Philharmonic. A smaller, black box–style theater called The Vault is for more intimate events. The Hall has a diverse lineup of shows, but the biggest so far are three Broadway musicals: Waitress, which played in October, and Fiddler on the Roof and An Officer and a Gentleman, slated for spring.
Little local theaters can now dream big. To meet the county’s development requirements, Capital One partnered with ArtsFairfax, a conduit that will help small arts organizations use the Hall at reduced rates. Griffith explains: “Each group gets the support mechanism of a world-class theater and production assistance, with operational and marketing assistance to produce their own programs.”
Even if you’re scared of heights, the rooftop sky park feels pretty doable. It’s on the 11th floor, but don’t panic. For one thing, there are much taller buildings nearby. In fact, the Capital One Main Tower is 470 feet at its peak, the tallest occupied building in the DMV except for the Washington Monument. On a clear day, you can see from Tysons to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Perch is an official NoVA park like no other. Native plantings rustle gently in the wind like a meadow. Revelers gather at Starr Hill Biergarten and the amphitheater to sample beverages from 24 tap lines and hear local musicians. Pitch a few bocce balls, sling a beanbag into a cornhole board, or come for the kids’ cartoons, World Cup soccer, or Zumba on the big screen. Next spring, the 1.2-acre sky park will debut an 18-hole miniature golf course, along with food trucks housed in a VW bus, Airstream camper, and double-decker bus. It’s the perfect place to pregame or grab dinner before seeing a show. For now, it’s open to the public from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.
In fact, it’s an urban artscape. Along with the Hall’s campus of murals, The Perch’s landscaped garden will feature an installation called 32 Corners. “It defies gravity in a way,” explains Griffith, who’s an engineer by training. “Four large cubes stack on top of each other. When anyone comes up and spins the lower cube, the sculpture does gymnastics.”
You can stay overnight if you want. Capital One needed comfortable digs for its traveling associates, so it hired local management company B.F. Saul Hospitality Group of the Hay-Adams Hotel to operate its 300-suite Watermark Hotel. The Watermark’s swanky restaurant is called Wren. It’s a Japanese fusion gastro-lounge run by executive chef Jo Matsuzaki, with mixologist Luis Mantilla overseeing the craft cocktails. Time to book your next staycation.
Photo courtesy of HGA © Alan Karchmer