By Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D
This is an exciting time in western Fairfax County as it continues to mature as a community and an employment center.
Metro’s Silver Line is changing the way people live and work in Tysons Corner, and major changes are also coming to western Fairfax County as the second phase of the Silver Line is built through Reston and Herndon to Washington Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.
These changes – creating more transit-oriented employment opportunities, shopping and housing options – will be felt before and after Silver Line construction finishes in 2019 or 2020.
More than 40 percent of the office space in Fairfax County already resides in the western end of the county: Reston, Herndon, Chantilly and Centreville. Employers, many of which are in technology sectors and professional services, are drawn by the presence of the airport, the Dulles Toll Road and Route 28, a highly educated workforce, and quality-of-life assets such as a wide range of housing options and excellent public schools.
Because those assets are so strong, so is the outlook for long-term growth in western Fairfax.
Much of that growth would be concentrated near one of the Silver Line stations under construction, and much of it would be mixed-use development – in other words, a combination of office, residential, retail and institutional uses.
There are about 28 million square feet of mixed-use projects in the development pipeline for western Fairfax County. Virtually all of the proposals are close to a Silver Line station, which would make western Fairfax even more of a lure for innovative companies and the workforce they want to attract from around the Washington region.
Projects include some that are under construction, such as Reston Station that is sprouting at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station with 1.5 million square feet, including 550,000 square feet of office space, and the Reston Heights project that is adding 2.4 million square feet of mixed uses, including 1 million square feet of office space, near the Sheraton Reston Hotel.
Some projects have received approval from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, such as One Reston Town Center on Reston Parkway. It would be the tallest office building in Reston at 330 feet tall and would add 420,000 square feet of commercial space to our inventory. Developers are waiting to line up an anchor tenant for the building before construction begins.
Finally, some projects are wending their way through the county’s approval process. These include Innovation Center, which would straddle the Dulles Toll Road near Route 28 at the Innovation Station on the Silver Line. It would have 1.6 million square feet of development, including 500,000 square feet of office space.
This pipeline of development, and the location of the proposed development, is critical because western Fairfax County will continue to grow as a commercial hub thanks to the Silver Line.
A 2014 study by Transwestern, a large commercial real estate brokerage group, predicted that the Reston area will add 17,600 jobs between 2015 and 2040, and more than 60 percent of those jobs will be located within a half-mile of a Metro station.
Likewise, the Herndon area could add 20,000 jobs by 2040, the study suggests, and two-thirds of those jobs will be located within a half-mile of a rail station.
If the past is any guide, most of the growth will come from the sectors that have built the Fairfax County economy – information technology, defense and aerospace, engineering services, financial services, software and telecommunications – and from the innovative sectors of digital media, cybersecurity, data analytics and life sciences that are taking advantage of the skilled workforce and market opportunities here.
A Time magazine columnist wrote that Fairfax County “is one of the great economic success stories of our time.” The county is home to eight Fortune 500 headquarters, but it also is home to more than 150 companies on the Inc. 5000 list of fast-growing entrepreneurial businesses. Many of them are located in western Fairfax County.
A thriving, diversified employment center in western Fairfax is vitally important to furthering the economic well-being of the entire county. This builds the commercial tax base that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors uses to fund the high-quality public services that are a key part of the quality of life in the county.
The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority works with companies to locate and expand in the county, to create jobs and build that commercial tax base. The FCEDA staff offers site location services, market intelligence, business development assistance, and connections with county and state government agencies.
Anyone who works or lives in western Fairfax County can attest to the dramatic transformation of the area from a farming community to one of the nation’s most dynamic business centers in barely two generations. The transportation projects underway, and the development projects under construction and on the drawing board, will help the area continue to evolve as a great place to work as well as to live.
Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., is president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Visit www.fairfaxcountyeda.org. for more information.