A land design and engineering firm will expand soon with a new office in Fairfax County, where it already regularly consults on development projects.
Headquartered in Woodbridge, Land Design Consultants (LDC) announced Thursday (Nov. 9) that it will open a second Northern Virginia office in Metroplace I, an 8-floor office building at 2650 Park Tower Drive near the Dunn Loring Metro station.
Intended to give the company a base closer to its clients in the D.C. area, the new, 4,000-square-foot office will focus on landscape architecture services with studio space for 20 employees, who are expected to move in this coming January, according to a press release.
“This is an exciting step forward as our company celebrates nearly 40 years offering land development engineering, planning and surveying services to our valued clients,” LDC President Matt Marshall said in the press release. “This new office will allow us to continue our mission of providing technical expertise, sustainable design and quality work that contributes to the success of our clients’ projects.”
The landscape architecture studio will be led by LDC Director of Project Managment Jessica Bradshaw, according to the firm.
Founded in 1985, LDC provides planning, civil engineering and surveying services to developers. Its Fairfax County work has included The Lofts at Reston Station, Stonebrook at Westfields, and the redevelopment of the Four Seasons Tennis Club in Merrifield into the Marche’ townhomes.
Current projects include The Flats at Tysons, a condominium development that will be built on a parking lot behind the Fairfax Square shopping center, and Workhouse Place, single-family houses currently under construction next to the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.
MetroPlace I has four spaces available for lease, totaling 12,875 square feet, according to property manager Lincoln Property Company.
Another Fairfax County office building will soon morph into a live/work development, where units are designed to serve as a home, a workplace or both.
A proposed repurposing of the 10-story office building at 2000 Corporate Ridge in Tysons got approved Tuesday (Oct. 24) by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors after a straightforward public hearing where the only community member who signed up to speak couldn’t be reached.
The unanimous vote gave another win to Madison Highland, which was created last year by developers Madison Marquette and Highland Square Holdings to focus on live/work lofts. The team has now led six office conversions, including at the Skyline Center in Bailey’s Crossroads and Inova’s former headquarters in Merrifield.
Like those other projects, the Corporate Ridge repositioning will revitalize an underutilized property with a live/work concept that offers flexibility for tenants and new amenities for the general community, including pedestrian paths and park space, McGuireWoods land use lawyer Greg Riegle argued while representing the developer.
“The potential remains for this building to be predominantly or even exclusively workspace as markets and needs evolve,” Riegle said. “As we try to sort out the new workplace, to say that flexibility is the name of the game is a significant understatement. This project embraces clearly evolving trends with respect to how and where people are choosing to work.”
The newly approved development plan converts 2000 Corporate Ridge into 250 live/work units. A 4-story, 644-space parking garage on the 8-acre site will be retained, while the surface parking will largely be replaced with a private tenant amenity area and publicly accessible open space.
Totaling 3.2 acres, the open space includes a neighborhood park, a preserve with a boardwalk and bird-watching station and a “reforested hillside” with an 8-foot-wide, ADA-accessible trail that will provide a connection to the pedestrian bridge over the adjacent Capital Beltway (I-495).
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik acknowledged that the project’s proximity to the Beltway could lead to noise issues, as the Fairfax County Planning Commission discussed last month, but she expressed confidence in the developer’s planned window upgrades and other mitigation measures.
“I do believe that the developer’s design provides a significant improvement in the overall pedestrian experience,” Palchik said. “I know that they are committed both to…the private as well as the publicly accessible amenities and to have passive and active recreation throughout the property, and its environment aesthetics will be considerably upgraded by reducing unnecessary surface parking, added landscaping and the integration of best management practices.”
As Northern Virginia’s office market continues to struggle, Fairfax County has seen a slew of development projects seeking to replace commercial uses with residential ones. In Tysons, the board approved a shift to apartments for a planned office building near the Spring Hill Metro station, and a proposal to convert the former Sheraton Tysons Hotel to housing is in the works.
Recalling that the county studied building repositionings even before the pandemic, Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said it’s been satisfying to see that report’s strategies “in action” and asked whether there are any plans to provide an update.
Tracy Strunk, director of the county’s Department of Planning and Development, confirmed that staff are compiling a “white paper” on how building conversions have affected the office and residential markets. It could be released next year as the county works to update its policy plan, which governs everything from land use and housing to environmental and revitalization goals.
“I just think we really need to blow our own horn and celebrate something that a lot of people thought we shouldn’t be doing or just this wasn’t going to work, and it’s working, so I look forward to that,” Gross said.
The workers who clean office buildings around Fairfax County won’t have to hit the picket lines anytime soon.
The union representing about 9,100 commercial office cleaners in the D.C. area reached a tentative agreement yesterday (Tuesday) for a new contract with property owners in the Washington Service Contractors Association (WSCA), averting a potential strike.
Expressing frustration with wages that haven’t kept up with the rising costs of food, rent and other basic needs, union members in Fairfax and Loudoun counties voted unanimously last week to authorize a strike if an agreement wasn’t reached by the time their existing contract expires on Sunday (Oct. 15).
“These men and women proved that collective action has the power to improve jobs and lives, just like other low-wage workers deserve nationwide,” said Jaime Contreras, executive vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union’s branch for the D.C. region.
Under the proposed contract, which will go to members for ratification next week, cleaners will get hourly wage increases of $3.55 to $3.75 over four years, according to the union. Pay currently ranges from $12.50 in Loudoun and Prince George’s counties — just over Virginia’s minimum wage — to $18.60.
The union’s 3,000-plus cleaners in Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria, who currently earn $15 an hour, will get the $3.55 raise, set to take effect in increments every July 1 through 2027, according to WSCA negotiator Peter Chatilovicz.
The larger increase of $3.75 will go to Loudoun and Prince George’s workers to keep them above the minimum wage, which will rise to $15 on Jan. 1, 2026.
The contract also preserves existing benefits for both full-time and part-time cleaners, per 32BJ SEIU:
Under the contract, janitors maintain access to free professional training and language courses as well as legal services for concerning issues such as immigration, family and matrimonial matters, and housing law among others. Full-time cleaners in all regions will maintain employer-paid health care, including prescription drugs, dental, vision and life insurance. Part-time cleaners will continue to receive life insurance and family dental benefits.
According to the union, the agreement was reached over seven bargaining sessions that started on June 22.
While pay was the primary point of contention, the union also took issue with a proposal that would’ve reduced shifts for new employees from five to four hours long. The suggestion was taken off the table last week, as local elected officials — including almost all Fairfax County supervisors — signed pledges and appeared at rallies in support of the cleaners.
A 32BJ spokesperson confirmed that the change in shifts was not part of the tentative agreement.
“I think it was a fair agreement for both sides,” Chatilovicz said. “We managed to, I think, give some very reasonable wage increases to the employees. Benefits all stayed the same without any further costs, and like I said, I think both sides were pleased to be able to reach an agreement before we had to worry about the contract expiration.”
The contract negotiations with the WSCA came amid a frenzy of labor actions across the country. While film and TV writers recently ended a nearly five-month strike, Hollywood actors and the United Auto Workers are still on the picket lines, and health care workers for Kaiser Permanente may walk off the job again in early November after a strike from Oct. 4-7 failed to produce an agreement.
More office space could be coming soon to an existing secure campus in Chantilly’s Westfields International Center.
COPT Stonecroft is seeking Fairfax County’s permission to expand the amount of office space at the park center, which is located at 4850 Stonecroft Blvd. Sought for an unnamed “Federal user that desires to expand its footprint on the Property,” the additional development requires upzoning to allow more office uses.
In a Sept. 28 application, the applicant’s representative said the recent addition of high-quality residential townhomes and apartments have made Westfields an “even more desirable corporate location.”
“The expansion represents a significant and desired investment in office use within the Dulles Suburban Center and will allow the Westfields Corporate Park to continue to succeed in its original goal of providing a prestigious and desired corporate office atmosphere,” McGuireWoods land use lawyer Scott Adams wrote in the application on the developer’s behalf.
Two additional buildings — which were originally the subject of a 2016 application — are proposed. The buildings would stand at 120 feet and contain a little over 1 million square feet of space. A new seven-level parking garage with 2,765 spaces is also proposed on the western portion of the property.
In 2016, COPT Stonecroft, a division of COPT Defense Properties, sought a height increase for three new office buildings to accommodate an unidentified, high-security tenant, but only one of the three buildings has been constructed.
The proposal is in the initial stages of the county’s approval process and has not yet been formally accepted for review.
Image via Google Maps
Another strike may be on the horizon for the D.C. area, this time led by office cleaners who say wages have stagnated even after they were expected to keep working through the pandemic.
About 9,100 janitors, more than 3,000 of them in Northern Virginia, are voting this week on whether to go on strike if they’re unable to agree on a new contract with the Washington Service Contractors Association (WSCA) before the existing one expires on Oct. 15.
Cleaners employed in commercial buildings across Fairfax and Loudoun counties unanimously voted on Tuesday (Oct. 3) to authorize a strike, following the lead of their colleagues in D.C., who voted a day earlier, according to 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union’s branch for the D.C. region.
Coinciding with a three-day strike by Kaiser Permanente employees that’s reportedly the largest ever by U.S. health care workers, Baltimore area cleaners were set to vote yesterday (Wednesday), followed by Montgomery County workers today and Arlington County workers tomorrow.
“No one wants to strike, but we are ready to strike if employers keep pushing cuts that cleaners can’t afford,” 32BJ SEIU Executive Vice President Jaime Contreras said.
According to the union, a core sticking point in the contract negotiations, which began in June, has been a proposed reduction in shift lengths from five to four hours for about 1,100 cleaners — a third of the Northern Virginia workforce.
The change would amount to a 20% pay cut for the affected cleaners, who would have earn $100 less per week and have less time to do the same amount of work, the union says.
Peter Chatilovicz, the WSCA’s lead negotiator, told FFXnow yesterday that proposal has been taken off the table, noting that it would’ve primarily affected D.C. workers. The goal was “to provide flexibility to bring in new workers,” not cut wages for existing ones, as commercial property owners adapt to a challenging office market, he said.
The region has lost about 1,000 office janitorial jobs in recent years, according to 32BJ SEIU. A union spokesperson confirmed the shifts proposal was “verbally” withdrawn, but as of last night, nothing has been put on the record in writing.
The cleaners and WSCA last held contract negotiations four years ago, and there’s a “tentative agreement” for the next one to be the same length, extending to October 2027, Chatilovicz says. He’s “cautiously optimistic” that a deal will be reached in time, but the two groups are still split on pay.
“That’s the big issue right now is coming up with a wage compromise so that employees who are not the highest paid employees in the area or in America get a fair wage during this time, and so that we’re able to still be competitive and deal with the issues in the industry,” Chatilovicz said. “So, it’s a typical negotiation where we’re trying to exchange proposals and come up with a compromise that management can live with and the union is satisfied with.”
Under their current contract, Fairfax County cleaners earn $15 per hour, while Loudoun cleaners get $12.50 an hour. They also receive benefits like paid vacation, holidays and sick leave, health insurance if they work full-time and access to a training, education and legal services fund, per 32BJ SEIU.
Alejandria Paz, a member of the union’s bargaining team who has worked as a cleaner at 1881 Campus Commons in Reston for over a decade, says she’s already struggling to keep up with the rising costs of food, rent, transportation and other necessities.
However, she also sees the prospect of reduced hours and pay as a frustrating reflection of how little attitudes toward cleaning staff have changed, despite the heightened attention to building cleanliness and ventilation brought by COVID-19. Read More
General commercial vacancy rates have dropped from 6.6% at the beginning of 2023 to 6% in the third quarter, Fairfax City Economic Development (FCED) — a partnership between the city’s economic development office and the Fairfax City Economic Development Authority (EDA) — reported last week.
The downward trend extends to both offices, where vacancies have gone from 9.8% to 9%, and retail, which has dropped from 2.8% to 2.3%, according to FCED.
Local economic development officials attribute the city’s relative success on this front to lower market-rate rents and “more right-sized opportunities” compared to larger markets. Office rental rates in the city currently average $24.8 per square foot, while retail space rents at an average of $30.7 per square foot.
“This data shows that Fairfax City is competitive and in demand,” FCED Director and President Christopher Bruno said in a statement. “As a city, we provide our residents and businesses excellent services and they want to be here. Northern Virginia, and Fairfax City, are the ideal locations to start, expand, and develop new companies.”
The declines reported by Fairfax City defy nationwide trends in commercial real estate. A recent report by the firm Colliers found that, as of the second quarter, 20.2% of commercial spaces in the U.S. were unoccupied, a rate that exceeds the previous record set during the 2008 recession, according to Business Insider.
In July, Fairfax County, which has the country’s second largest suburban office market, reported a 16.7% office vacancy rate — its highest in 10 years.
With the pandemic-fueled embrace of remote and hybrid work looking more like a long-term reality, despite some companies mandating office returns, many businesses have opted for smaller workspaces, while property owners try to entice tenants with renovations and added amenities.
Like other localities, Fairfax County has seen a surge in development projects seeking to convert or replace underutilized commercial space with housing, raising some concerns about how the shift will affect taxpayers and public services.
Fairfax City hasn’t seen as robust a push to turn offices into housing, receiving one inquiry about a potential conversion from an office building owner but no formal applications, according to Nicole Toulouse, FCED’s senior assistant director of business investment.
Toulouse, who’s also the senior vice president of the Fairfax City EDA, couldn’t permitted to publicly identify the building, since a proposal hasn’t been officially submitted. But she says it’s a “highly tenanted building” with a vacancy rate under 4%.
“To me this shows that is likely a general portfolio move by the owner and not based on the performance of the building,” Toulouse told FFXnow.
As part of its pandemic recovery efforts, FCED has established several initiatives aimed at filling the city’s commercial spaces, including a grant program for businesses that lease space in high-vacancy office buildings and a Technology Zone that gives tax incentives to tech businesses that sign a lease lasting five years or longer.
“We’ve long felt that Fairfax City is optimally positioned for the relocation and growth of businesses, particularly those looking to locate in the geographic center of Northern Virginia’s steady and innovative economy,” Fairfax City EDA Chair Beth Young said. “FCED’s programs create expanded opportunities for businesses who otherwise may look elsewhere.”
The accessibility of Tysons Corner Center and other attractions will make the property enticing to residents and workers, who can now cross I-495 with a pedestrian bridge, McGuireWoods land use lawyer Greg Riegle argued on developer Madison Highland’s behalf at a Fairfax County Planning Commission public hearing on Sept. 14.
However, county staff fear noise from the adjacent highway could deter those same residents and workers from utilizing the park and amenity spaces proposed to replace most of the 8-acre site’s surface parking.
The developer, going under the name McLean Corporate Ridge Property LLC, has committed to some mitigation measures, including window upgrades and evergreen tree plantings to separate the public park areas from an existing sound wall along the Beltway, according to a staff report.
“There still remains outdoor recreation and park space that is encumbered by noise impacts that exceed Policy Plan guidance,” staff said in the report. “Staff continues to recommend creative solutions, like artistic walls, to further mitigate noise impacts to better be in conformance with the Policy Plan or to increase the useability of the space of future residents should be further explored by the applicant.”
Despite those concerns, which Riegle noted could be further addressed at the more detailed site plan phase, county staff and the planning commission recommended that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve Madison Highland’s rezoning application.
Following up on similar projects in Bailey’s Crossroads and Merrifield, the developer is seeking to convert the 10-story office building northeast of the Beltway and Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) into up to 250 live/work units, which can serve as housing, a workplace or both. Between 10 and 13% of the units will be designated as workforce dwelling units, in accordance with the county’s guidelines for Tysons.
Even after recent renovations, 2000 Corporate Ridge is struggling with vacancies in a slow office market, according to Riegle. Compared to a full replacement, the proposed conversion would be a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to put the building “to productive use,” while keeping the door open for future commercial uses, he told the planning commission.
“The building as it exists doesn’t contribute anything to the fabric or economy of Tysons, and there’s not a good way forward, absent repositioning here,” Riegle said. “The tactical repositioning is good for the site, it’s good for the community, and frankly, it’s good for the remaining office opportunities in Tysons.” Read More
A technology company has officially opened 10,000-square-foot offices in Herndon.
Eqlipse Technologies, a company that provides products and engineering services to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, is set to celebrate its grand opening tomorrow (Thursday) at 2350 Corporate Park Drive.
Paul Frommelt, a spokesperson for the company, said the Herndon location was chosen because of its strategic location near major roadways, including Route 28, the Dulles Access Road and Fairfax County Parkway.
“The location…allows for employees from across the D.C. Metro area to conveniently commute into the office while enjoying our hybrid work options,” Frommelt wrote in a statement. “Additionally, we were able to build out our first-floor suite, taking advantage of modern workspace amenities, like collaboration spaces, vehicle charging stations and a gym for employee health and wellness.”
“Eqlipse is launching with a strong foundation built on decades of history and experience working with our customers, a growing portfolio of proprietary technologies, and a cadre of world-class subject matter experts pushing the art of the possible every day,” David Wodlinger, a managing partner of Arlington Capital Partners, said in a statement.
Released on Aug. 4, the study paints divergent pictures of the two commercial sectors that have defined Tysons since the 1960s — office and retail — as they navigate a post-pandemic world of remote work and online shopping.
While retail visits in Tysons have returned to 92% of the 2019 average, foot traffic at office buildings is at 77% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the study, which was conducted by consultants HR&A, Toole Design and Wells & Associates.
That’s still better than D.C., where office visitation is at just 70% of pre-pandemic levels, but the study found that Tysons is seeing “somewhat slower employment growth” both in general and among office users than Fairfax County and the overall D.C. region — a lag expected to continue through 2028.
“Tysons grew more slowly than surrounding Fairfax County and the D.C. [metropolitan area] in the last three years and is projected to continue growing more slowly in the next five years,” a workforce growth analysis summary said, identifying health care as the industry projected to add the most jobs in Tysons over the next five years.
Even though over 85% of Tysons workers are in industries that traditionally use offices, led by 47,100 workers in the broad category of “professional services,” the area’s office vacancy rate has climbed from 14.8% in 2019 to 20% so far this year.
That exceeds the county’s 16.7% vacancy rate, which is a 10-year high, Fairfax County Economic Development Authority leaders told the Board of Supervisors at an economic advisory committee meeting on July 18.
Constituting 5.6 million of the area’s 27.6 million square feet of office space, the vacancies have particularly affected lower class, older offices built before 1990, suggesting a “preference for newer and nicer properties,” the study report says.
Despite the “historically high” vacancy rates, average rents have grown 24% since 2015 to match the D.C. area’s average of $39 per square foot, driven in part by the $65-per-square-foot asking price at the Tysons Central office building that was completed last year.
Tysons also has an additional 1.9 million square feet of office under construction or planned, though the majority of upcoming development is residential.
“If vacancies remain high, future deliveries could result in stagnant rents and continued high vacancy,” the report says. “For developers to fill pipeline office space, office-using jobs in Tysons need to grow at 1.4 times the projected growth of 3,300 jobs between 2023 and 2033.” Read More
(Updated at 9:05 a.m. on 7/26/2023) Fairfax County is currently the second largest suburban office market in the nation, with an inventory of 120 million square feet.
However, the current office vacancy rate sits at 16.7% — topping the county’s previous 10-year high, according to Stephen Tarditi, director of market intelligence at the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
He called the office market “a lagging economic indicator” when presenting the data last Tuesday (July 18) to the Board of Supervisors economic advisory committee.
Despite the county’s vacancy rate, Tarditi said the demand for office leasing is increasing.
“Last year, we had 6.6 million-square-feet of office space leased, so we’re 37% below our pre-pandemic average,” he said. “And comparing that to 2021, we were about 4.5 million square feet.”
Almost half of the county’s office inventory was built before 1990, and Tarditi said the county is seeing a bifurcation in its office market, where older buildings are not being leased at the same rate as newer buildings.
Almost 5.9 million square feet of office space is slated to be demolished or converted into another use, most of it built before 1990, according to the presentation.
“The class B, class C inventory — that’s not seeing your net new tenant demand. It’s your trophy office buildings. In fact, the trophy office vacancy rate for Fairfax County is right around 10%, which is very healthy,” Tarditi said.
According to the data, coworking space is another strong sector in the office market, with demand increasing among more small businesses.
“I think more and more building operators — if there is vacant space and newer buildings — they’re looking to incorporate coworking space and have them graduate in that space,” Tarditi said.
National economic indicators that could have a potential effect on the county’s office market include mass layoffs and interest rates. Although the county is seeing a high vacancy rate, Tarditi highlighted some statistics that could indicate growth in office demand in the future.
Fairfax County now has 42,000 employee establishments (companies with employees and payroll) — a record number for the county, according to Victor Hoskins, CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
“That shows that there would be future office demand as a new company is established,” Tarditi said.