The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has voted to keep a proposed government center project in its future plans within the 2020 Capital Improvement Program.
The estimated $140 million, 150,000-square-foot proposed center on Sycolin Road will house the offices of planning and development.
On Nov. 21, the board voted 6-2 during its final business meeting of the month to keep the project in the program. Supervisors Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) opposed, and Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) was absent for the vote.
In a separate motion, the board voted to rescind a lease-to-purchase offer for the old Walmart in Leesburg. The additional 20,000 square feet for county office space would've complemented the nearby Shenandoah Building for an expansion of the county's human services operations, helped address growing county staff, accelerated planned relocations from the government center and reduced future CIP expenditures.
Umstattd and Higgins said they are concerned with the impact to constituents' access to human services and the costs associated with the project.
County staff identified a cost avoidance between $66-$70 million with the lease-purchase of the Walmart facility for the human services and renovating the Shenandoah Building for the development services agencies in comparison to the estimated $140 million for constructing the new Sycolin Road building.
The Walmart lease-to-purchase deal would have been for a term of 20 years, according to county staff. Under the adopted CIP, funding to design and construct the new county government office space is slated for fiscal 2023 and 2024.
The proposed construction of a new county office building on Sycolin includes renovation of buildings at Trailview Boulevard and the Shenandoah office.
“To require them to get down to a new site on Sycolin Road makes it more difficult for a population that already faces a significant difficulty with transportation,” Umstattd said. “So even though I know there are problems with taking tax-paying buildings off the town’s tax rolls, I think given the population needs in the northeast quadrant it's important to go with the Walmart site. It saves us $66 million—that’s a good deal.”
Higgins added, “So we’re going to spend $66 million more and we’re not going to occupy it in three or four more years later? That’s why I’m not voting for it.”
Broad Run Supervisor Ron Meyer (R) said he was sympathetic to Higgins’ concern with cost, but he said the Walmart option was taking a “Band-Aid” approach.
Approaching his final month as supervisor, Meyer encouraged current and future board members to be open-minded in considering other locations for a development services hub. He said it would be wise to consider public-private partnerships.
“I agree with you the cost is concerning, but that’s why I offered potential other solutions to future boards where you can make up that delta pretty quickly with a [public-private partnership], so there are other ways to make sure you can have both central hub and save the money,” Meyer said.
Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) and Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) noted that human services are staying in Leesburg with either option. Constructing a new office center space is a solution for the continued growth across the county, they said.
Buona considered the proposed construction a “long-term solution” for county employees.
“I think we owe them that,” Buona said. “I don’t think we can play musical chairs and say, ‘Hey, you’re going into the old Walmart today, and then we’re going to move you over here and over there.’”
Randall said constructing a new building has been in talks for a long time, and now it’s time to “bite the bullet.”
"… we have a very fast-growing county, and we have to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done,” the chairwoman said. “Doing this piecemeal – after 2030, we are still going to need something else, and so it’s not as if this pushes off a large government center, it pushes it back, but 2030 is not that far away, everyone. And so I don’t know why we would wait to do this when we know we’re going to need it anyway.”
The board endorsed several motions as part of supporting the county’s office space strategy plan, including co-locating specific agencies in the current government center. They further supported continuing the planned office space expansion at the Government Support Center Campus (see accompanying map up top); pursuing additional space for the Eastern Loudoun Service Center; pursuing space for a new Southern Loudoun Service Center; bringing back to the board’s finance committee an item on board district offices; and developing a capital project to provide for county warehousing and co-located General Services operations.