Loudoun: Transformation Ahead? (Part 2)
Our headline is what longtime Loudoun developer Bob Buchanan says is necessary to secure the County’s future—as opposed to assuming it’s just a matter of economic cycles. Since NoVa NAIOP just named Buchanan Partners “Firm of the Year,” we’re going to pay attention.
Here’s Bob last week with colleagues Russ Gestl and Jimmy Roembke. He says that with Fairfax looking at 19M SF office vacancy, development has to proceed differently now—oriented to smaller, high growth companies in fields like IT, cybersecurity and healthcare; and attractive to Millennials. The answer? A new niche of urban mixed-use with denser residential to support a rich amenity infrastructure, so Loudoun is thought of as a top live, work, play destination rather than just “a suburban market near Dulles.” As leader of the 2030 Group to envision new paths to regional growth, Bob says Loudoun needs to add to its recent economic engines of industrial and data centers, help startups commercialize R&D, forge greater collaboration among jurisdictions and establish a clearer identity.
We interviewed a dozen Loudoun vets for this story who told much much the same thing: The county has seen a steady progression of amenities that is making it “self-contained,” so for shopping and entertainment, you no longer have to venture to Fairfax venues like Fair Oaks Mall or Reston Town Center, let alone Tysons. And not only are residential subdivisions like Willowsford, Stone Ridge, South Riding and River Creek attracting families that like affordable green space, top schools and a triple-A rated government, but now any cravings for nights in Clarendon or DC can be satisfied by a hop on the coming Silver Line.
Loudoun’s biggest mixed-use concentration arrived in 1999 from Lerner, which developed 554-acre master planned community Dulles Town Center at the junction of Routes 7 and 28. It’s got 1.4M SF of retail (185 stores from Nordstrom and Sears to Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Cheesecake Factory); 95k SF and 185k SF corporate office buildings opened in 2001 and 2002; three large apartment complexes; and a Courtyard by Marriott. Now it’s adding Nokes Plaza (56k SF of office and retail) to open early 2016, and 437 apartments at Windmill Parc, set to open next month. They’re also making pedestrian improvements and putting in an 8-acre park. Last Thursday Regal 10 Cinemas opened its doors—or more precisely, its luxurious leather reclining seats.
The latest word in retail is arriving in June: Dulles Landing, an 88-acre, $100M retail center conceived by the late visionary Guy Beatty, center (here with son John and Loudoun Supervisor Janet Clarke at the groundbreaking we covered over two years ago).
Like Ted Lerner, Guy bought land way ahead of time, anticipating demographics and even the road system. It opens in June, and will feature a Walmart, T.J. Maxx, Michael’s and tons more. Phase 2 will incorporate spaces for recreation and family activities.
Miller & Smith has launched another icon-in-the making: One Loudoun at Route 7 and Loudoun County Parkway; we snapped it last week during the rain, so try to imagine this outdoor plaza in great weather. In design since 2003 but delayed by the recession until it opened a couple years ago, the plan is for 1,040 homes, townhouses and condos, and already they’ve built and sold 400. Office is entitled for 3M SF, of which 130k has been built and 80% leased, largely in smaller increments of 2,500 to 10k SF. Supervisors just gave approval to build the remaining 550 residential lots subject to satisfying 300k of leased commercial space, and the developer will construct out-of-pocket the interchange at Route 7 and Ashburn Village Boulevard, an encouraging example of local government and business working together.
We felt very hip going into Bar Louie and meeting two authentic Millennials, who had time to pose only because it was the middle of the afternoon and the happy hour crowds were still a couple hours away. One Loudoun is entitled for 700k SF of retail, 300k of which is built. Other restaurants include Uncle Julio’s, Nando’s, Redskins Grille, Elevation Burger, Okada and superchef Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal. Also: Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which just opened and bills itself as dinner, drinks and meals all under one roof. Clyde’s in Broadlands and Lightfoot in Leesburg may still attract Boomers, but these new offerings are directed at Gens X and Y.
Comstock’s Maggie Parker tells us about Loudoun Station, a mixed-use TOD contemplating up to 3.5M SF of office, residential and retail, at the end of the Silver Line. The first 357 luxury apartments, done in three four- to five-story elevator buildings with an urban feel, over ground floor retail, opened in July 2012. Maggie says they've had a “phenomenal” reception, maintaining occupancy well into the 90s.
An 11k SF family and adult entertainment center just opened—what’s being called a Dave & Buster's on steroids (laser tag, crazy 3D video games)—supplemented by nail, massage and other offerings you might find in a city. Starplex Cinemas out of Texas is putting in 11 screens, fine dining will be added, and they’re at work on 50k SF of Class-A office, with views of the Blue Ridge mountains and walkable access to the Silver Line, and where they hope to be adding tech and medical offices.
Economic development chief Buddy Rizer, whom we snapped in his office in Leesburg, says that while the state of the economy is strong, he’s focused on diversifying Loudoun’s tax base. Although they’ve created the No. 1 data center location in the world, he cites cyber, health IT, aviation and aerospace as target growth areas. Other goals: avoiding dependence on public sector spending, improving road networks in preparation for Metro’s arrival at three stations in late 2018, and making sure zoning and quick decision-making processes are in place to help accelerate development.
With the help of Assistant Director Miguel Salinas, Buddy leads a staff of 23 and personally logged 120k miles last year on business recruiting missions to Germany, Russia and Korea, and stateside to Seattle, S.F., LA and all over Texas. In 2015 he plans to zero in on India, Asia and Europe. Recent wins include bringing in Cyrus One and Raging Wire and expanding the activities of Telos, Rockwell Commons and Raytheon (which brought a whole new division to the county). Overall, $1B of commercial development has been undertaken in the last three years.
Even in his tie, Buddy doesn’t forget pastoral western Loudoun. Here he is with his agricultural development officer, Kellie Boles, at Fabbioli Cellars—one of 42 wineries in Loudoun. Like Gerry Gordon in Fairfax, Buddy’s responsible for marketing the county around the world, but in contrast focuses not just on filling office and retail but promoting land and rural as well. Here’s a link to Loudoun’s annual development report.
Mark Hassinger is president of West Dulles Properties, and chair of NoVa NAIOP (flourishing on his watch with over 900 members). As with a couple new sites his firm has acquired in Prince William, they also have 30 acres in Loudoun near what will be the Silver Line station at Route 606, suited for data centers and TOD. While they’re big believers in a region that boasts some of the highest median education and income in the country, and in the new energy they foresee Metro ushering in, they also believe the county needs to facilitate more workforce housing, and through a comprehensive plan amendment avoid overbearing zoning, decision-making and taxes. Mark reminds us there are other counties out there competing for business.
In the Route 50 corridor west of Dulles, Keane Enterprises founder Brian Cullen (snapped in his office today with marketing VP Laura Cole) is leading the development of Willowsford, 2,200 homes set among 2,000 acres of open space (with an organic farm operation and community center kitchens). Brian says the recent story of Loudoun is that it has matured from a bedroom-only county that built quality schools, kept taxes low, and was one of the country's fastest-growing areas for many years, to one that is fighting for new business activity to diversify its tax base so it can maintain those attractive budgets and rates. (On Friday, by the way, Keane and partner Trammell Crow announced a build-to-suit for medical device maker K2M at Keane's Oaklawn at Leesburg, the type of employer the County is seeking.)
Real estate broker Bill Soltesz, who owns multiple office buildings and self-storage facilities in Loudoun, calls Route 50 "the new Ashburn," i.e., the area of highest growth in the county, like Ashburn was in the '90s. He cites activity from Van Metre, Toll Brothers, NVR and Keane, as well as significant road improvements underway like Tall Cedars Parkway and the Tri-County Connector.
Residents will also be getting cutting-edge health care. On Route 50 at Gum Spring Road, we snapped Stone Springs Hospital Center, which parent HCA hopes to complete in a year. On 51 acres, it will be 243k SF with 124 beds, plus a medical office building. Another benefit: bringing in more high paying jobs. Want to hear more? Join us tomorrow morning in Leesburg, at our Bisnow Summit on the Future of Loudoun and the Dulles Corridor.