Some people would call it bad luck or poor timing.

Jan D. Reese left a successful career in Florida land development in June to join Chicago-based VMS Realty Partners as a vice president. His job: overseeing the conference center VMS was building at the massive Lansdowne project in Loudoun County and researching a joint venture between VMS and Xerox Realty Corp., owner of the 2,267-acre mixed-use development.

But after he arrived in the Washington area Reese saw that financial problems at VMS, including foreclosures and a heavy debt burden, precluded a joint venture with Xerox. The executive switched jobs, becoming senior vice president of Xerox Realty Corp. and general manager of Lansdowne on July 23.

The real estate slowdown and the credit crunch facing developers have led industry veterans to say the top spot at the 20-year, multibillion-dollar Lansdowne project, which was started in 1987, is more a burden than a prize. Xerox spent most of the last year looking for someone to take the development off its hands.

But Reese said he is excited about the new job and confident that Lansdowne will succeed. Xerox is fully committed to the project, he said, though it is getting out of the real estate business to focus fully on office equipment products and financial services.

"When you're involved in projects that take 20 years to develop, you're going to go through good swings and bad swings," Reese said. "Hopefully, you've done the long-term planning and have the resources to get through both times."

Reese, 42, born into a family of Florida real estate developers, has worked in every level of the industry -- from construction to zoning to management.

After running a small real estate company in the mid-1970s, Reese helped found the commercial-industrial division of Arvida Corp. in Boca Raton, Fla., in 1978.

Reese left Arvida in 1984 to head up the $200 million Florida portfolio of the Zaremba Group of Cleveland. He formed his own company, Reese Interests Inc., to manage the properties after Zaremba phased out its industrial and office park projects in 1988.

Walter Zaremba, president and chief executive of the Zaremba Group, said Reese is well-suited for Lansdowne. "He has a good background in real estate, primarily in marketing," Zaremba said. "It's a tough world out there right now, but that type of project is right up his alley."

Reese said he is concentrating on the roads and water and sewer systems that Xerox will build over the next two years in the section of Lansdowne that will house Japanese-owned Washington International University, which is scheduled to open in 1992.

Once the infrastructure takes shape, Reese said, he will look for residential developers interested in building near the university complex.

He shrugged off the real estate slowdown as simply part of a cycle and said finding developers interested in building at Lansdowne is a matter of maintaining a reputation for quality.

"We may have to structure deals a little differently and do some more internal financing," Reese said. "But the strong will survive and, frankly, will have less competition."