By Frank Dillow and Arthur Nachman
The long-awaited extension of Metro's Silver Line, currently expected to be completed in early 2022, has already sparked massive new development projects, especially around the Town of Herndon. Residential and Commercial Realtors® alike can expect a profound market impact as the projects get underway.
One of the largest in the region is the "bucolic urbanism" mixed-use, transit-oriented project to be known as "Rivana at Innovation Station." The project will eventually create as much as 9 million square feet, described by the Loudoun County masterplan as a "walkable urban center attached to the Metro Station."
Pending governmental approvals, groundbreaking is expected to begin on the first 1.8 million square feet with a planned 2024 completion, which will include 250,000 square feet of first-class office space and nearly 2,000 residential apartments.
During the following three years, the project is expected to expand into 4.4 million square feet of mixed-use development, including offices, a 265-room hotel, and a 185,000 square-foot retail village. The village will feature local-sourced restaurants, the region's largest farmer's market, a world-class performing arts facility, and public areas including two parks, one of them to stretch for 11 acres.
Currently, the 103-acre site, straddling both Loudoun and Fairfax Counties near Herndon, is largely undeveloped Virginia countryside bounded by Route 28, the Dulles Toll Road and Innovation Avenue.
The new development will be connected to Metro's Innovation Center Station, little more than a mile from the entrance to Dulles International Airport and will be located adjacent to the existing Virginia Center for Innovative Technology near the Loudoun – Fairfax County line on State Route 28.
Two years ago, when Amazon passed on the Innovation Center site choosing to build their HQ2 East Coast Headquarters at the competing Arlington County location along the Potomac River, it wasn't clear what the future would hold for the low-density alternative pitched by Loudoun and Fairfax counties. County staff, state and local planners, as well as local politicos, have been busily putting in place plans to take advantage of Herndon's strategic location as the Silver Line extension draws near.
With its location and visibility, the development is expected to attract major corporate tenants and high-end retailers.
"Innovation Center Station will position Loudoun County as an attractive option for major corporate users looking for high-quality office space in a post-COVID environment," Loudoun County Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer explained in announcing the planned development. The development's highly walkable design, with its access to Metro and just one stop from the airport, will allow businesses, residents, students, and visitors to take advantage of a world-class environment in which to live, work, learn, and play, Rizer added. The project also matches Loudoun County's comprehensive plan, which calls for more walkable, urban-style mixed-use developments around all of their new Metro stops.
A separate development nearby is already underway to provide senior living facilities with 115 independent living units and 81 assisted care units, including an anticipated 26 units for memory-impaired residents. That project is expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2023.
A second Metro stop is also coming to the community. Called simply Herndon Station, the stop is located near the intersection of the Dulles Toll Road and Van Buren Street. Developments currently being planned around this new station include a 1.5 million-square-foot project with two office buildings and two multi-family residential buildings.
Herndon is also planning a 4.5 acre downtown mixed-use development with ground breaking expected in early 2022. A former car and tractor dealership, the site will be transformed into 280 apartments, retail, and arts facility and structured parking for more than 700 cars. Fairfax County has contributed $5 million to help fund the $20 million project, which will substantially change Herndon's aging downtown.
Meanwhile, nearby Reston currently has the most office space under construction in all of Northern Virginia, with 1.4 million square feet of commercial projects being built.
The Town of Herndon was originally carved out of prime Virginia dairyland when the railroad from Alexandria to Winchester established its Herndon Station prior to the Civil War. The rail line allowed farmers to deliver their milk and dairy products daily to Alexandria and Washington, DC. The area prospered, and the agglomeration of farms and houses slowly became a town with a sense of itself as a community.
By the time Herndon was incorporated in 1879, Washingtonians had discovered the rural area as a railroad destination for them to turn old farmhouses into summer homes. Later with the paving of roads, Herndon was again transformed as its suburban lifestyle attracted commuters, who discovered they could enjoy Herndon's rural setting while commuting by automobile to their jobs. In 1968, what had become the WO&D Railroad abandoned service, and the rail line became a heavily trafficked trail for bicyclists and joggers.
With the Metro's Silver Line service soon to arrive, Herndon is about to be transformed yet again by rail service to become the first major gateway to the DC metropolitan area from Dulles International Airport, which opened 60 years ago.
Arthur Nachman, CCIM, CPM is a commercial broker with Long and Foster Real Estate located in Vienna, VA. He and his family have been residents and business owners in Herndon for more than a century. He serves on the town's Economic Development Authority and Fairfax County's Board of Equalization (BOE). Nachman specializes in investment sales and has a Master's in Finance from the University of Memphis
Frank Dillow is a past chair of NVAR’s Realtor® Commercial Council, an NVAR instructor, and a senior commercial broker in Long & Foster‘s Commercial Division. He can be reached at francis.dillow@ longandfoster.com.