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Major Loudoun developers grapple with how county will adapt once Metro’s in the picture

From left to right, Bob Buchanan of Buchanan Partners, Comstock CEO Chris Clemente, Vice President of Miller & Smith Bill May, Lerner Enterprises VP of Development Jim Policaro, Executive Director of the Department of Economic Development, Buddy Rizer and moderator Colleen Gillis of Cooley LLP. Times-Mirror/Sydney Kashiwagi.
“What sort of impact do you think that Metro will have on Loudoun County?” moderator Colleen Gillis of Cooley LLP asked at an event hosted by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce on Sept. 14. The event examined the question -- what will the county look like in the next five years?

That inquiry was asked to top Loudoun developers – Comstock CEO Chris Clemente, Vice President of Miller & Smith Bill May, Lerner Enterprises VP of Development Jim Policaro, Bob Buchanan of Buchanan Partners and county Executive Director of the Department of Economic Development Buddy Rizer.

All of the developers offered different ideas and ways to look at future developments, but agreed the county would need to follow the trends. There is only one chance to get it right, they said.

“In this region in Northern Virginia, 90 percent of all the leases that have been done on a commercial basis have been done within a mile of the Metro station, so really it’s something that we think is going to be ... game changing,” Rizer said.

The Chamber of Commerce event comes as Loudoun is in the midst of drawing out its new comprehensive plan that will outline the county’s development over the next two decades or more, as well as its Silver Line Small Area Plan, which will lay out an ideal mixed-use urban area around Loudoun County’s future Silver Line stations.

Meantime, the county estimates that by 2021 about 50,000 residents, 25,000 new jobs and 16,000 new households will be added to the county.

Buchanan said Loudoun could not take for granted the economic opportunity the Metro would provide, but asked if the county was really prepared for what’s to come.

“Prince George’s County had Metro stations for a long time, there’s not a comparison between where they thought they would be then and where they are today, so let’s not make that mistake,” Buchanan said. “There’s work to be done, let’s not take it for granted.”

Policaro of Lerner Enterprises – the developer of the Dulles Town Center – said his company would continue the development course it has been on, but said there was always room for evolving.

“The coming of Metro here will spark development. It’s gonna take time and we'll just continue to develop our property and manage our property to the highest level that we can,” Policaro said.

The question was then whether the county was ready to bring in the waiting companies, people and development once Metro is ready and whether or not as developers, they had noticed any changes in the market that could help Loudoun attract more business.

Comstock’s Clemente said that properties and projects his company had embarked on or acquired long ago -- such as Loudoun Station -- had taken years to “get out of the gate,” but that today’s properties were coming up and changing hands very quickly.

“Now all of a sudden it seems like every deal and every property along the toll road in Fairfax County’s in play and a lot of properties are changing hands, a lot of businesses are relocating,” Comstock said.

From the Comstock office in Reston, Clemente said most of the nearby tenants he has seen have either moved from farther away to smaller spaces just to be closer to the Metro and are willing to give up the typical office park location.

“That’s just a microcosm of a trend that is going on in the office market in the corridor,” Clemente said.

Buchanan cautioned that despite the Metro coming to Loudoun, the county would still need to develop areas attractive enough for people to want to relocate to the county.

“We can’t just assume that what was good in the past will be what’s needed in the future because it has to have a real buzz, a real energy and a real motivation because [businesses] have lots of places to go,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan also stressed that Loudoun needed to really look at how it could “reinvigorate” its suburban office market or risk eroding property values and decline in economic activity.

Policaro said Loudoun would need to design amenity rich developments as well as sustainable developments in order for businesses and people to want to come to Loudoun.

“We’re trying to develop buildings that are pleasant to work in,” Policaro said.

Rizer emphasized the need for having the right kinds of developments around the Metro stops, including mixed-use developments and walkable areas. He warned that if the county is not successful in getting it for the people who will need it, the county will have “failed.”

“If Loudoun County isn’t successful at the Metro stops then we failed because this is where the opportunity is and this is what we have to get right,” Rizer said.

Comments


Looks like a panel of folks that have robbed Loudoun taxpayers substantially over the years….and gotten rich in the process.  what a pack of self-important turds.


OMG,  Mcgrunt03 nails it.  With a broken etch-a-sketch I could not invent the convoluted traffic patterns that our county let’s developers create (or heaven forbid, they force developers to implement).  The new Lowes is a great example.  Vertigo-inducing spins around and around before you can enter the parking lot…


“Developer” For the last 50 years living in NVA, I have yet to see anything “Developed” that works. Example: Leesburg Outlet Mall parking lot; one awkward way in, and no way out. Does the word Developer mean: Stop Lights, Stop Signs, Stop Progress in any other language?


They don’t know?!

They jammed it down our throats and they don’t know the impact?!

It’s a good thing I’m not cynical—because otherwise, I’d think the only reason they supported Metro out here was because they bought up all the land first.


Forest and trees.

“The question was then whether the county was ready to bring in the waiting companies, people and development once Metro is ready….”

Personally, I’m more concerned about a WMATA in free-fall with plummeting ridership that will require more and more government/taxpayer subsidies to function because nobody will be riding the trains once they arrive.  Will we have shiny new metro stations on a failed regional transportation system?  The assumption is that government will always step in and keep funding a miserable regional transportation system.  WMATA is so bad, can you really discount the risk of complete system failure?

“We can’t just assume that what was good in the past will be what’s needed in the future ...”

We have self-driving cars in operation now.  Its hard to believe people will crunch into 19th century rail cars once they can commute on auto-pilot.


Our county leaders, both in government and business, have succeeded in getting a lot of people to come to Loudoun.  Now it’s time to start focusing on improving the quality of life factors—where we are really behind.

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