The first real estate developer to build in Tysons Corner, Gerald Thomas Halpin, passed away on August 14 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at the age of 94.
Over the course of more than 50 years, Halpin developed over 100 major real estate projects, many of which are located in Northern Virginia. Throughout his career, he also developed over 13 million square feet of mixed-use development.
"Jerry was one of the true ‘founding fathers’ of the real estate development community in Northern Virginia,” said Ray Ritchey, senior executive vice president with Boston Properties, Inc., in an interview with the Washington Business Journal.
On February 15, 1923, Halpin was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. As he grew up, his keen business sense flourished, first beginning as a boy when he sold cherries, apples, and currants to when he was a young man, working as a plastics manufacturer and glass blower in order to pay for classes at the University of Scranton.
In WWII, Halpin served in the Navy until 1946 when he enrolled at Syracuse University. After graduating in 1950, he moved to Northern Virginia and enrolled at Georgetown University Law School. Later, after winning a poker game with Atlantic Research Co.’s (ARC) president, he was offered to oversee ARC’s business operations, according to The Washington Post.
It wasn’t until 1960 that he founded West*Group’s predecessor, Commonwealth Capital, a company that later developed Alexandria, Virginia’s Landmark Center shopping mall. Approximately 10 years later, West*Group owned and managed 560 acres of office campuses and had an assessed value at $16.6 million, making it the third most valuable commercial parcel in the country.
By the 1990s, Halpin’s vision for Tysons Corner began. At the time, he hoped to create a “mini-Manhattan” with mixed-use properties. He also rallied for the extension of the Metrorail to Tysons.
Fairfax County Economic Development Authority CEO Jerry Gordon told Forbes, "He was the first to understand the value of Tysons Corner and to realize that it could become a place for people to work and to live. Even before others could grasp his vision, Mr. Halpin was moving to make things happen."
In a Washington Post interview in 2009, Bill Lecos, former president of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, said, “Jerry Halpin is Tysons Corner. He and few others are the creators of Tysons. He’s defined it for the last 40 years”
Halpin is survived by his wife, three children, a sister, and seven grandchildren.
• Gerald T. Halpin, real estate magnate who foresaw promise of Tysons Corner, dies at 94 [The Washington Post]
• Gerald Halpin's vision for Tysons transformed with the times [Washington Business Journal]