Developers Preparing To Start 9M SF Project On One Of NoVa's Proposed HQ2 Sites
Construction is expected to begin next year on the first phase of a 103-acre megaproject on the border of Loudoun County and Fairfax County that is ultimately slated to deliver over 9M SF of mixed-use development.
The project, branded as Rivana at Innovation Station, is planned for one of the sites that was included in Northern Virginia's Amazon HQ2 proposal, but it ultimately lost out to Arlington County. While the developers don't yet have an Amazon-like anchor to the project, they say the experience of competing for HQ2 has greatly benefited their efforts.
"What really brought us together was when we had the opportunity to pursue HQ2," Open Realty Advisors Managing Member Mark Masinter said at Bisnow's Future of Loudoun County digital summit last month. "That was an amazing experience where we were in the huddle together pitching the opportunity, co-creating a vision that we collectively presented to HQ2. And we got very close."
Open Realty Advisors is part of a development team that includes Hanover Co., Origami Capital Partners, Timberline Real Estate Partners and Rebees. The team compiled two adjacent sites, the 26-acre former Center for Innovative Technology campus and the 80-acre site previously planned as a development called The Hub.
The team unveiled its new vision for the site in March, and Masinter said it expects to break ground by Q2 2022. The project's first phase is planned to have 1,592 residential units, 250K SF of office and just under 200K SF of retail.
At full build-out, the site is planned for over 9M SF of development including 1.8M SF of office space, nearly 2,000 residential units, a 265-room hotel, two public parks and a performing arts venue.
The property sits at the interchange of Route 28 and the Dulles Toll Road, near Dulles International Airport and near the Innovation Center Metro station, planned to open next year as part of the Silver Line's second phase.
Masinter said on the digital summit that the HQ2 process helped it think through the transportation connectivity aspects of the site.
"That process, what it did was allowed us to figure out a lot of the challenges of the site from transportation to infrastructure to doing something different and how do we connect this beautiful site to the Metro," Masinter said. "This is how we came together. And then once the HQ2 opportunity went away, we really dug in and said, 'Let's reimagine some of these things that we presented to HQ2.'"
The majority of the property is in Loudoun County, but it also includes a piece of land in Fairfax County, forcing the development team to work with two distinct jurisdictions to move the project forward. The counties teamed up in 2017 to pitch the site to Amazon as part of its HQ2 competition, and Masinter said that spirit of collaboration has continued in the years since.
"Even though there are challenges in dealing with two different government entities, the partnership is still fantastic," Masinter said. "That’s what HQ2 did to us, it brought both counties together with us and we learned how to play together and work together and pursue something together."
LandDesign partner Stephanie Pankiewicz, whose landscape architecture firm is working on the Rivana project, said the team learned from the HQ2 process about the importance of transportation access. While Amazon selected a site near Reagan National Airport and the Crystal City and Pentagon City Metro stations, she said the Rivana sites have similar access with Dulles and the Silver Line station.
"When Amazon did announce, it was all about this great access, pedestrian connectivity, outdoor space amenities as well as the airport," Pankiewicz said. "That's a key part is this is an international hub of transportation."
As the team looks to land tenants for its planned office space, Pankiewicz said it is emphasizing the amount of outdoor space that employees will be able to use at the development.
"For office users, the No. 1 amenity for corporate tenants is having access to outdoor space, whether plazas, bike lanes or trails," she said. "That's a key component: how we deliver that in a variety of experiences from thinking about outdoor space that has readily accessible WiFi to having places for outdoor meetings."
In outer-ring suburbs like Loudoun County, developments often have relatively low densities and use above-ground parking structures to make the financial math work. But the Rivana project will have underground parking garages with entrances that blend into the design of the project, an aspect that Masinter said was critical to its vision.
"It was essential to create a development that didn't have a lot of above-grade parking structures; that's a less expensive solution, but also visually not pleasing," Masinter said. "Our first challenge was to figure that out here ... we didn't want our guests to be welcomed with a bunch of parking structures."
Loudoun County Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer said the development team's vision for the site is perfectly aligned with the comprehensive plan that the county passed in 2019, calling for higher-density development around the new Silver Line stations.
"What we’re trying to create is a density that is unique for Loudoun County," Rizer said. "We haven’t had the real density you’d see in most Metro developments. This is a place that’s going to have great office. It’s going to have great retail. It’s going to have really impressive residential qualities. The thing that makes it really great is the way the landscape and parks are integrated into the development. It’s exactly what we were hoping for."
The emphasis on the natural environment is a quality that makes the project stand out, Pankiewicz said. The project is planned to have an 11-acre park, a network of walking trails, and the team is also reforesting the site with native trees and plants and restoring a stream that runs through the property. She described the design philosophy for the site as "bucolic urbanism."
"The stream restoration is the first of its kind in Loudoun County, and the benefit that that’s going to bring to reconnecting the flood plain and water quality control and improving the habitat is really key," Pankiewicz said.