FROM THE GROUND UP

Army's Arrival May Mean a New Day for Springfield

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By Alejandro Lazo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 27, 2007

Springfield has languished for years in the shadow of other Northern Virginia business hubs, but that could soon change with an influx of Army jobs to the community and to nearby Fort Belvoir.

For about a year, developers have been buying shopping centers, office developments and vacant land in anticipation of the influx of 19,000 Army workers. The relocated jobs are part of a nationwide redirecting of Army employees and bases intended to comply with tighter security guidelines established after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

All the jobs were originally set to go to Fort Belvoir, but an agreement the Army made last month with Virginia officials will send 6,200 jobs to Springfield. Springfield had already expected a boost from the jobs at Fort Belvoir, but the change would bring even more benefits. County officials and developers believe that the deal will make the home of the Mixing Bowl a destination for commerce.

"It is a huge shot in the arm for Springfield -- which really to date has not had the density or been as vibrant as anticipated," said Brian McVay, a broker for the commercial real estate firm Cushman and Wakefield. "This really puts them in the thick of things instead of on the outskirts."

Some bureaucratic hurdles remain to getting the jobs to Springfield. The Army has, on paper, only deferred its decision about where 6,200 jobs will go, and an environmental review must be completed. An act of Congress is also required to declare the 70 acres in Springfield owned by the General Services Administration a noncontiguous part of Fort Belvoir.

A warehouse will have to be torn down, and an office complex constructed on the site.

Nevertheless, some of the area's biggest developers have already placed their bets on Springfield.

Boston Properties, a publicly traded real estate investment trust, bought three parcels of land near the GSA warehouse in early January for $42.1 million. It plans to build at least 800,000 square feet of highly secured office space on the site, which is adjacent to the future Army office site and a short walk from the Metro. No tenants are lined up yet.

Raymond A. Ritchey, executive vice president of Boston Properties, said he thinks the Springfield location will yield lucrative rents because there is little available land nearby.

"There are barriers to entry in the Springfield market," Ritchey said.

Vornado Realty Trust also stands to benefit. In 2006, it bought the Springfield Mall, half a mile from the Metro. The firm plans 1.1 million square feet of office space, 2 million square feet of retail, 2,000 residential units and a 225-room hotel, according to Cushman and Wakefield.

ING Clarion's MetroPark project about a mile from the Metro is partially completed, with four buildings housing tenants including defense contractors SAIC and Booz Allen Hamilton. The company, which bought the land in April 2006, plans a total of 1.1 million square feet of office space, said ING Clarion Vice President Marc C. DeLuca.

"When we acquired the asset, there were grumblings of what may happen with BRAC [Base Realignment and Closure], but we decided to take a chance," DeLuca said.

Jeff McKay, chief of staff for Fairfax County Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman, said the new jobs in Springfield would boost the city's redevelopment plans.

"It will help business owners, whether they are retail or restaurants, and those are important things," he said. "From our perspective, this does take Springfield development to the next tier."

Alejandro Lazo covers commercial real estate. His e-mail address is lazoa@washpost.com.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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