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Gramercy District Team Shares Smart City Vision With Loudoun Colleagues

Loudoun County is already known as a global data center hub, but with his Gramercy District project in Ashburn, 22 City Link managing partner Minh Le wants to make it an innovation center for the development of smart cities. 

22 City Link managing partner Minh Le, speaking at Bisnow's Loudoun County event with Avaya's Mitch Robinson and CIT's David Ihrie, partners in the Gramercy District project

On its face, Gramercy District is a 2.5M SF development on a 24-acre site next to the future Ashburn Metro Silver Line station and just five minutes from Dulles Airport. But with transit-oriented developments popping up all along the Silver Line route, Le hopes to stand out by creating a "smart city" that uses cutting-edge technology to make daily life more efficient and brings together innovators from around the world to test new ideas. 

"What we think a smart city is is a city that adapts to [its inhabitants]," Le said at Bisnow's Future of Loudoun County event Tuesday afternoon. "That means it has to be intelligent, it has to be efficient, and inherent with that model is that we have to deal with a lot of data. So that means we have artificial intelligence built in with machine learning." 

Le said the Internet of Things and smart city space is a $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion market, and now is the ideal time to enter it. With Gramercy District, he is creating a "smart city in a box" platform that he hopes to replicate across the country. 

A rendering of the Gramercy District "smart city" in Ashburn

The Gramercy District development recently expanded to include a neighboring, eight-acre parcel, which will allow it to open in 2018, a year earlier than planned. Part of that 2018 opening will be the launch of Concept Foundry, a co-working business accelerator run in partnership with Center for Innovative Technology.

CIT chief technical officer David Ihrie said he has created four similar business accelerators, each with a specific theme. This one will focus on bringing in companies that advance technology around real estate development, giving them an opportunity to test out their ideas on the smart city they inhabit. 

Avaya senior business development manager Mitch Robinson with 22 City Link managing partner Minh Le

The $500M development landed its first technology company as a tenant in January when JKH Holdings signed on for between 15K and 25K SF. The Gramercy District partner that is creating the network infrastructure, Avaya, will move into Concept Foundry when it opens in 2018. Avaya senior business development manager Mitch Robinson said by combining artificial intelligence with facial recognition and a secure network that remembers residents' payment information, they are creating a seamless system to make everyday tasks more efficient.   

"My goal is to be able to walk into Gramercy District, walk back to a cabinet or cooler, open it up, grab a beer and walk out the door," Robinson said. "I don’t want to stop at the counter I just want to get what I want. Whether it's a restaurant or wherever, that’s really my goal."

Next spring, 22 City Link will break ground on Gramercy District's two mixed-use buildings that will deliver in 2020, right when Phase 2 of the Silver Line is expected to begin operations. In addition to the recent technological advancements that allow the smart city to become a reality, Le said the Silver Line opening is a big factor in making this project happen.

"If we were to try to launch this five years ago, it couldn’t work," Le said.

Comstock Partners CEO Chris Clemente at Bisnow's 2017 Loudoun County event

22 City Link is not the only developer taking advantage of the upcoming Silver Line extension. At the same future Metro stop, Comstock is working on the next phase of its Loudoun Station development, where Tuesday's event was held. 

The development currently has 50K SF of office, the 358-unit BLVD apartments and a four-block retail plaza featuring an AMC Theatres, Blackfinn Ameripub, which catered the event, and several quick-service retail options.

At full build-out, the project is entitled for roughly 500K SF of office, 900 residential units and 200K SF of retail. The next phase, delivering in 2019, will add 268 apartments and 26K SF of retail. In 2019, Comstock hopes to break ground on another 311 apartments will deliver with 5K SF of retail. The following phase, with no set delivery date yet, will have a 350K SF office building, 330 apartments, an 85K SF hotel and a seven-level parking garage.

Comstock CEO Chris Clemente said demand for the project is outpacing the supply they are bringing on, and if every letter of intent Comstock has so far were to turn into a lease, they would need to plan more buildings. 

"Part of why we’ve seen demand for apartments we’ve developed here and demand for the office space, and obviously AMC Starplex to have their theater here along with the retail and everything downstairs [is] because everyone sees the value of being located in a mixed-use development, and the added benefit of rail connectivity today and actual rail service in a few years," Clemente said.