On Thursday, February 18th, ULI Washington’s Young Leaders’ Programs Committee hosted Planes, Trains and Toll Lanes: Development Along the Silver Line Extension, a virtual webinar panel discussion with leaders from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, Capital One, Boston Properties, and Comstock Holdings. With over 150 attendees, the webinar examined key real estate developments along the WMATA Silver Line extension and the future impact to the corridor.
Victor Hoskins, President & CEO, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, moderated the panel, which included:
- Meghan Trossen, Manager, Marketing and Community Affairs, Capital One, Capital One Center
- Pete Otteni, SVP, Development, Boston Properties, Reston Town Center
- Timothy Steffan, EVP, Asset Management, Leasing and Development, Comstock Companies, Reston, Herndon & Loudoun
- John Harrison, SVP, Development, Comstock Companies, Reston, Herndon & Loudoun
Victor Hoskins opened the event with a brief history of the Silver Line Extension and overview of Fairfax County, including an interactive quiz to test the attendees’ knowledge of the local market and new metro stations. Victor highlighted the competitive advantage that the Silver Line Extension will give Fairfax County creating a new economic ecosystem in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area. Victor emphasized some of the unique aspects of extension that will lead regional growth through the creation of new dynamic office spaces coupled with retail and residential areas, creating the Live, Work, Play lifestyle for area residents, setting the stage for the distinguished panel to give brief overviews of what is to come for their specific projects along the Silver Line Extension.
First, Meghan Trossen of Capital One gave an overview of the Capital One Center in Tyson’s East which was originally acquired in the late 1990s by Capital One and is becoming a dynamic mixed-use urban development project surrounding Capital One’s recently delivered 2018 new headquarters. The Capital One Center’s plans include a planned future 300 key hotel, along with the new Wegmans grocery store that opened in 2020, the upcoming open-air terrace sky park known as ‘The Perch’ and Capital One Hall complete with a 1,600-seat theater, lounge, classrooms among other future spaces.
Second, Pete Otteni of Boston Properties reviewed Reston Town Center Station and discussed the history of Reston starting with Robert E. Simon’s purchase of 6,700 areas and subsequent master planning in the 1960s, which started as a self-contained planned community, but over time has become the connected and dynamic regional center we know today. Dubbed as an ‘origination and destination station’, Reston Town Center has planned development projects totaling 4.4 million square feet of office, residential, hospitality and retail projects which will be encased with a robust system of walkable residential areas coupled bike trails, shuttles and expansive bus systems connecting to the metro line which will create a diverse community with public open spaces.
Next, Tim Steffan and John Harrison of Comstock Companies delivered a brief overview of the 40 year history of Comstock Companies and discussed the developments at Reston Station and Loudoun Station. Tim outlined Reston Station’s four districts on 30 acres located on both sides of the metro station and controlled by Comstock Companies which will contain over 5 million square feet of planned mixed-use development with office, retail, residential and hospitality. Tim then reviewed the Loudoun Station’s 26-acre development site with 5 phases of planned development that is ripe for midrise office and residential developments. Phase I and Phase II have been delivered with residential and retail deliveries currently open and operating during the pandemic. Tim outlined the proximity to Dulles airport as offering a great opportunity for people to live, work and ride with a sense of community and expects a great high population growth rate.
Finally, Victor led a discussion amongst the panelists on a variety of topics and issues facing the growth along the corridor, including the delayed opening of the Silver Line Extension due to pandemic, which is now slated to open in late summer or early fall 2021. The panelists remain bullish on the future of the corridor, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put stress on the region and the large development projects as the developers deliver grand openings marred by the pandemic. Many panelists noted that the pandemic really highlighted the need for great outdoor public spaces, something that each of the town center projects have readily available.
Victor highlighted the tremendous effort that Fairfax County took at the outset of the pandemic and the panelists stressed that Fairfax County did a great job keeping construction moving during the pandemic by quickly shifting procedures to keep approvals and permitting moving at the pace needed to continue construction while also ensuring proper COVID-19 safety procedures were put in place by developers, general contractors, and construction teams. John Harrison noted that Comstock is taking a hard look at new technologies, including HVAC upgrades and revisions to current plans, including changes to permit increased exchange of outdoor air with buildings. Many of the big questions are unknowns right now as developers continue construction, such as what office tenants will require moving forward? Will they desire more traditional office footprints or more open working space? Meghan Trossen noted that Capital One has made pivots to certain construction designs and will be examining potential changes as it continues development with more than 1000 construction workers continuing to work onsite. Pete Otteni said that Boston Properties remains bullish on cities and office for the future, as the pandemic is not going to break the city model that people love.
Overall, the panelists shared a general sentiment that Metro served areas in Fairfax and Loudoun County will come back and thrive after the pandemic because people want to live in vibrant multi-modal urban centers with amenities and night life. The Silver Line extension will bring energy to the area and offer people an 18-hour lifestyle. People want the variety of options with consistent experience that great real estate developments offer.
As of the afternoon of March 5, WMATA announced that the Silver Line extension will not open for passenger service until 2022.