NoVa's Bold Vision of Farms Amid High-rises
The way people work, live and shop in Northern Virginia is evolving—from communities with farms that produce food for residents to cultural centers with dance and art studios. Some of the brains behind these projects will speak at Bisnow’s Fourth Annual Northern Virginia State of the Market on Oct. 29, at the Hilton McLean Tysons, starting at 7:30am.
Keane principal Brian Cullen, with marketing VP Laura Cole, says Willowsford in Ashburn has done well because of its positioning as a farm-to-table community on 4,000 acres. The community is made up of 2,200 residential units clustered around 2,000 acres of open space, including a working farm and market with 12 full-time staff in season. Over 225 residents belong to the Willowsford CSA that provides 28 weeks worth of whatever the farm is producing for $600. Non-members can also buy the farm's vegetables, eggs and chicken at an on-site market. The development, which opened in 2011, also includes 45 miles of off-road trails, and the company is developing other unique amenities like sledding hills and two camp sites on a remote piece of the property. Residents can already fish and kayak in Willow Lake.
Brian says the company wanted to avoid a cookie cutter community and Willowsford is now getting national attention. The community also includes on-site chef (previously of the Inn at Little Washington) Boonie Moore (above) and demonstration kitchen, where cooking classes and pop-up dinners are organized. The strategy has worked—620 homes have sold and 500 people have moved in. Brian says the company is now looking at other creative housing products, including “move down” and multi-generational housing for grandparents and families. Builders are starting to design single-floor master bedrooms in single-family homes, where grandparents can move in with their children and grandchildren, instead of heading to Florida.
Combined Properties VP Randy Kenna, who will also speak at our event, says his company is transforming a Shoppers Food Warehouse with a large parking lot on Route 1 in Alexandria and bringing in a specialty grocer, a neighborhood restaurant and 400 apartments. It’s part of a trend in NoVa to make better use of wide-open parking lots since Millennials are driving less. South Alexandria is now turning into a new urban hub in the suburbs. A similar strategy was successful at Mosaic District and Pike & Rose in Bethesda.
Combined also hopes to break ground next spring on 400 apartments, retail and restaurants in Fairfax, further urbanizing the submarket. Randy says this transformation of suburbs from low density communities to somewhat urban places like Mosaic District (above) is attracting Millennials, who had been flocking to the urban core of DC. The challenge of these urban-style projects in traditional suburban locations is how much more important placemaking becomes. Without a larger urban fabric to work within, getting the right spaces and social amenities is more important than in established city locations.
Cultural amenities are also becoming more important in suburban projects. TRITEC, a family-run, NY-based developer, will include a large cultural arts center at its Kincora project, says principal Dan Coughlan (above, on the far right). Among the 4M SF of office, 1,400 residential units, 480k SF of retail and a 572-key hotel will be a 53k SF children’s science museum, a 500-seat community theater anchored by a 10k SF dance studio, a 10k SF music school and a 2k SF visual arts school. Dan says there’s a huge demand by the office tenants to have a more interactive environment for employees. Office space that can provide direct access to housing, retail and community activities is leasing quicker than traditional office parks, he adds.
Luxury living is also in demand. Salamander Hotels & Resorts has six resort projects in the works in Florida and New Orleans. But it’s also building 49 luxury homes at its Middleburg resort. Salamander president Prem Devadas, also among our speakers, tells us many of them will be second and third homes for owners, who can then rent them out to resort guests who may want a bigger place to stay while visiting the resort. Wanna learn more? Please join us for Bisnow’s Fourth Annual Northern Virginia State of the Market on Oct. 29, at the Hilton McLean Tysons, starting at 7:30am. Sign up here!