Environmentalism, almost a dirty word when Tysons Corner was being built, has become central to Buchanan’s outlook, he said.
He’s getting out of the McMansion business. Of the 4,000 residential lots that are in some stage of development on his properties, about 5 percent will be single- family, detached homes. In the 1990s, two-thirds would have been.
In Old Town Alexandria, he is building 175 apartments above a Harris Teeter. “Years ago I would have thought — nobody wants to live above a grocery store,” he said.
Buchanan also has bet heavily on the area west of Dulles, where real estate has been slower to rebound since the recession.
One of his largest deals, made a decade ago, was a 400-acre property at the intersection of Route 50, Route 606 and the Loudoun County Parkway. At that time, Loudoun housing market was seeing double-digit annual price increases. It was one of the most profitable places in the country to build new houses.
Buchanan Partners planned to turn the grassy, partially wooded site into Arcola Center, with 2 million square feet of commercial space, more than 1,000 homes and 800,000 square feet of retail around a main street anchored by a Target and other big chains.
After the housing bust, construction of exurban subdivisions froze, and the prospects for projects like Arcola dimmed. Land values and housing prices in Loudoun collapsed. The median sales price for single-family homes was $611,638 in 2005, when 10,606 homes sold; by 2010, the median sales figure was $390,000, and there were 5,008 sales.
With development stagnant, Buchanan looked to local public officials for solutions but saw none forthcoming, he said. Frustrated, he enlisted like-minded partners to form the 2030 Group. The year 2030, they thought, was when many of their concerns would come to a head.
At first 20 people — mostly developers, consultants and general contractors — committed to contribute $20,000 annually over a five-year period. Others have joined since.
Thomas S. Bozzuto, chairman and chief executive of the Bozzuto Group, a major home builder based in Greenbelt, was a founding member. He said the group’s purpose was to “force the political community to think a little bit more broadly than they usually do.”
“We provide a view that in some cases otherwise is not out there,” he said.
With its considerable war chest, the group set about cultivating academic credibility for its agenda. In a three-year period, according to the group’s tax forms, the 2030 Group spent more than $520,000 to finance research at George Mason University and the University of Maryland.