This week, the Town of Herndon addressed area business leaders concerning future development within the town’s newly-approved, high-density Herndon Metro development area.
On Feb. 28, after two years of deliberation, town officials passed — with a vote of 4-3 — a comprehensive plan amendment that will allow an area of the town abutting the future Herndon-Monroe Metro station to support higher density redevelopment. The station is scheduled to be operational by 2017.
The approved plan will allow enough new building space to be built in the next 25 years to accommodate about 15,000 employees and 4,700 residents, plus retail services to support the new community.
Lisa Gilleran, Herndon’s director of Community Development, on Tuesday outlined to business leaders and developers what the town’s redevelopment hopes and goals are — now that the amendment has been approved.
“We essentially want to minimize traffic impacts and public costs while maximizing transit-oriented development features and benefits to the town,” she said. “We feel that balance is achievable.”
In the plan, nine newly-developed properties consisting of about 6.9 million square feet of gross commercial floor area is proposed by 2035 within the new boundary. A 10th property, a partially, swampy area called the “Fairbrook Property,” was removed from the approved Metro redevelopment area in December. Town staff is dedicating the next six months to researching how it can be reintroduced.
“They were very unhappy that they were left out of the study area, but a critical part of the Fairbrook Property is considered a Resource Protection Area, which means it is only allowed to be built upon for certain public functions,” she said. “But not all of it is RPA, and even in the RPA areas, transmission lines are allowed to go through it, so we’ll see what we can come up with.”
Gilleran said if all the bugs get worked out, the Fairbrook Property would be especially attractive to developers because it would be considered a “greenfield” property, meaning developers could build on it without having to tear down any existing construction.
The majority of the Metro development area already is built out, raising concerns that the cost of tearing down existing buildings might deter developers.
“Other upcoming Metro station development areas, such as the Route 28 station and future Loudoun County station areas will all be greenfield areas,” said business owner and former town councilman Richard Downer. “Herndon will need to be really competitive.”
“I’m afraid that economically, this won’t work as planned,” said Bill Lauer, Tetra Partners President and developer. “I’ve done the math and even a decade from now, those existing buildings will be too new to tear down to be profitable. Herndon will need to offer tremendous incentives, such as abatement of taxes, for anyone to even consider it.”
Lauer said his company looked at a similar situation in Reston in which 2.6 acres including a 60,000 square foot building built in 1975 — about 10 to 15 years older than many of the buildings in the Herndon Metro redevelopment area —was to be redeveloped.
“To make the economics work in that situation we had to look at building a 23-story building with 420,000 square feet,” he said.
The height limit within the Herndon Metro redevelopment area is restricted to 15 story buildings.
“Some of the current owners will want to redevelop themselves, mitigating the costs,” Gilleran said.