2019 | The Sauer Center, Richmond, VA | Whole Foods Market

West Broad Street, The Sauer Center, Richmond, VA
WFM The Sauer Center Beer Wine
1635 Boro Pl, The Boro, Tysons, VA 22102
WFM | The Boro, Tysons, VA
NEWS   |   October 10, 2019

Leesburg, VA

Virginia Village | Leesburg, VA

Loudoun County has seen a surge in mixed-use development over the last few years, but that boom generally hasn’t included the town of Leesburg — until now.

A developer with a long history in the county, Keane Enterprises, is now advancing plans for the redevelopment of the aging Virginia Village shopping center into a mix of residential, retail and office space. The 18-acre strip mall has been a staple of the town dating back to the mid-1950s, and sits just a short walk from Leesburg’s historic downtown area.

Keane bought the property in 2017, and has been at work ever since drawing up plans to transform Virginia Village into a mixed-use space. The developer submitted plans to the town in late September for a development including up to 490 apartments, around 160 townhomes and condos, 105,000 square feet of office and 70,000 square feet of retail.

The town has tweaked its zoning rules over the last few years to allow for just this sort of mixed-use development, particularly as the sections of Loudoun along the Silver Line extension have seen massive growth. But Keane’s application will be a first for Leesburg, a factor that is sure to complicate the developer’s vision.

“This is a big thing for Leesburg, in terms of the size of it,” said Brian Cullen, Keane’s founding principal. “Hopefully this helps them understand how to better develop in this sort of way. That’s what they say they want and I think they’re going to need it.”

Cullen has kept his eye on the town’s growth over the years while working elsewhere in the county — his firm developed the Ashburn Ice House and the Willowsford community nearby in Aldie — and he’s become increasingly convinced that Leesburg is ready to move away from its “automotive-oriented” past.

He believes some townhomes built near the downtown core of Market Street have invigorated local shops and restaurants, and he’s heard anecdotally that town officials are eager to see more of that sort of development nearby. While Leesburg isn’t Metro accessible, Cullen nonetheless wants to embrace the sort of walkable ethos driving transit-oriented developments.

Considering the lack of apartment developments in the area, he foresees many service workers who are driving into town moving into such a development, rather than having to live in far-flung exurbs like Winchester or Charlestown, West Virginia. He hopes that will help many people walk to work, and further revitalize Leesburg’s downtown.

“We’ve got to be complementary to downtown, not competitive with downtown,” Cullen said. “It’s got to be frictionless to move in and out of those things in nonautomotive ways.”

While shops and restaurants will certainly be a big part of the new Virginia Village — Cullen envisions something like a gym standing alongside a variety of other eateries and retail — Keane is pitching open space as the main draw. The development is set to include two different parks at the center of the retail and residential buildings, in addition to an outdoor amphitheater that connects with a bicycle and pedestrian bridge stretching over to nearby Harrison Street.

“There’s really nowhere for people to just go hang out, outdoors,” Cullen said. “You want to be the place where, when people’s parents come to town, this is where they go.”

Despite Cullen’s praise for walkability and open space, the development will still be fundamentally a car-dependent one — the five-story mixed-use buildings will be built around structured parking garages, with a total of 1,450 spaces in all. Naturally, Cullen expects that will generate community concerns about traffic.

“That’s the immediate fear that people have,” Cullen said. “It’s local politics, the 10, 15, 20 people who town council members might hear from every day that make a difference.”

But, in general, he’s optimistic the plans will be well received. Cullen’s been careful to work closely with the Ours family, who built the shopping center, to embrace the site’s history, and he’s been making the rounds at community gatherings.

He hopes to have the town’s approval for the redevelopment by the second or third quarter of 2020, setting up a groundbreaking on the first phase by 2022. He plans to move west-to-east across the site, starting work on a second phase (which would include the pedestrian bridge) by 2025.

That approach would allow him to help any business in the existing shopping center remain on the property as the development continues, moving into one phase as he demolishes the rest.

In fact, Cullen says Virginia Village still has an occupancy rate in the high-90% range, so it’s not as if it’s struggling. But he sees so much potential in redeveloping that he’d much rather pursue that approach than simply keep leasing it as is.

“They’re not killer rents,” Cullen said. “We could continue to lease it if we needed to, but it’s not the best use of the property.”

NEWS   |   October 9, 2019

Charlotte, NC

Atherton Mill | Charlotte, NC

When the Republican National Convention convenes in Charlotte, North Carolina next year, more than a few attendees will step on the light rail adjacent to the Convention Center and head to the South End for craft beer, fine dining, wine bar hopping, to stroll shops or to stand in line for freshly churned ice cream.

Yet, only a few years ago Charlotte’s South End was an abandoned mill town dotted with empty factories.

“The area grew up around the railroad, which brought large mills and smaller industrial uses like machine shops,” says Megan Liddle Gude, Director of Historic South End, a department of Charlotte Center City, a non-profit devoted to the development of the city’s urban core.

“By the 1960s, manufacturing left, and the area was in decline. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, art galleries and design businesses began to occupy some of the old mills.”

Gude points out that the rail line that brought industry to the South End in the first place also spurred the area’s renaissance.

“After obtaining the right of way on either side of the old train tracks, the city established a light rail line in 2007.”

A wide pedestrian-friendly swath with great views of Charlotte’s dramatic skyline, the right of way has become a favorite place to stroll, sit, jog or people-watch. It also houses a number of public art installations. And the once-decaying industrial buildings see new uses as a new young population moves into the area.

Today, the one-square-mile South End is the single fastest growing apartment submarket in the United States.

“In 2000, the area had 500 residents,” Gude says. “Today, there are 11,000 residents and 6,600 new housing units.”

One of the places where people will live is at the Atherton Mill, a mixed-use development on the site of a former textile mill.

“We have 115,000 square feet of retail, including the historic mill and trolley barn,” says Lyle Darnall, managing director of Edens, who is developing the property. “There will be 345 apartment units and 36 live-work spaces. We also provide space for Charlotte’s farmer’s market.”

Edens’ environmental budget exceeded $1 million. The state of North Carolina helped with the remediation of the property, which included removing oils and chemical contaminants from the soil under the mill building and replacing factory floors that had been soaked with coal tar resin.

“We replaced the floors with the same kind of end-grain wood blocks,” Darnall says. They look just like the original, but there is no off-gassing or smell.”

The Lance Packaging Company, which makes peanut products, was headquartered in a beautiful red brick building in the South End before moving into a more spacious facility. Today, the building houses condominium lofts on the upper floors and, at street level, Lincoln’s Habadashery, where chef Michael Shortino crafts sandwiches named  after things like the Thirteenth Amendment.

“It will set you free!” Shortino says. At Futo Buta Ramen, located at the edge of the light rail trail, he serves up steaming bowls of freshly made noodles in a flavorful broth.

The former Nebel’s Knitting Mill, built in 1927, now is called the Design Center and is home to local favorites like Superica, a Tex-Mex restaurant, and Pepperbox Doughnuts. Nearby, C3Lab provides co-working space to artists, designers, entrepeneurs, freelancers and other creative types. Business is booming: the owners are expanding into neighboring buildings.

The energy in this part of the city is palpable. Perhaps some of next years’ conventioneers won’t find their back.

NEWS   |   October 7, 2019

Reston, VA

construction projects Reston Halley Rise | Reston, VA

The massive mixed-use development that will bring a Wegmans and Pinstripes near the future Reston Town Center Metro station is underway.  Bisnow/Jon Banister Brookfield executives, partners and local leaders celebrating the Halley Rise groundbreaking Brookfield Properties celebrated the groundbreaking Monday for Halley Rise, a $1.4B project on the site of a 36-acre Reston office park.  The development’s first phase, scheduled to deliver in 2022, will feature 640 residential units, 450K SF of office and 200K SF of retail. The retail will be anchored by Wegmans, which is bringing its smaller urban grocery store concept to the project, and Pinstripes, a restaurant with a bowling alley and bocce court. The developer says the project will also feature a movie theater, a fitness retailer, and more food and beverage and entertainment users. Additionally, the project will create new public streets and two new parks. Arts Brookfield will curate cultural programming.  Bisnow/Jon Banister The Optimus Ride demonstration during the Halley Rise groundbreaking In February, Brookfield announced a partnership with Optimus Ride to bring its self-driving vehicles to the project. Optimus Ride has already begun giving rides to the tenants of the property’s two existing office buildings. Brookfield Executive Vice President Greg Meyer said Optimus Ride has given 15,000 rides in its first five weeks of service.  “It’s going to be not only something that distinguishes this project from our competitors, but something that helps address the issue of how do you move from space to space,” Meyer said. “The answer can’t just be cars. It has to be a lot of different things, and we think Optimus Ride and their autonomous vehicles are a really important part of that.” Brookfield Properties A rendering of Brookfield’s Halley Rise development in Reston The development of the 36-acre office park had previously been branded as Reston Crescent and had called for three new office buildings totaling 1M SF surrounded by surface parking. But with the Silver Line Phase 2 bringing a new Metro station 500 feet from the property, Brookfield decided to instead pursue mixed-use development.  “The plan is now to build a community, and a community means a lot more than one use,” Meyer said.  At full build-out, Halley Rise is slated to include 1.5M SF of offices, 250K SF of retail and 1,500 residential units, 15% of which would be set aside as affordable. Brookfield is working with several architects on the project, including Morris Adjmi Architects, MV+A, Eric Colbert & Associates, Hacker, Allied Works, Fox Architects and KPF.  Halley Rise is not the only major mixed-use development moving forward near the Reston Town Center Metro station. Boston Properties, the developer behind Reston Town Center, is also building Reston Gateway, a 1M SF office project anchored by Fannie Mae. JBG Smith is building the second phase of RTC West, a 1.3M SF development with a mix of office, residential and retail.

Towson, MD

Towson, Maryland, is transforming into a bustling college town that will rival the most livable towns across the nation. Crossroads, jointly developed by Gilbane and Greenberg Gibbons, anchors the 1.2 million sf. mixed-use development called Towson Row by Master Developer Greenberg Gibbons. It is prominently found at the intersection of two major streets—York Road and Towsontown Boulevard—at the southern gateway into Downtown Towson. Here, MV+A was tasked with the challenge of planning and designing a Whole Foods Market and plaza facing in-line retail with stick-built residential atop it all.

The tight urban building site presents several challenges, most notably a 35′ height difference across the site, activity wanted all around the perimeter, and the existence of a historic railroad abutment. MV+A was able to make creative use of the grade difference across the site by stacking the grocer above plaza-facing retail and residential lobby programs. This arrangement makes use of the rapidly rising sidewalks around the building to allow all retailers, including the grocer, and the residential lobby to have direct access from the sidewalks. While this arrangement creates the desired all-around perimeter activation, the nature of that activation varies as one walks around the block. A much quieter experience with the residential lobby lining the majority of the York road frontage changes to a plaza-fronting retail experience along Towsontown Boulevard and eventually culminates in the Whole Foods Market experience along the higher, newly planned Towson Row Avenue at the center of the development.

The linear plaza along Towsontown Boulevard provides much needed outdoor space for the community and allows the retail programming to spill out into the outdoors. The plaza extends all the way east and incorporates within its footprint the historic railroad abutment found at the previously mentioned southern gateway. The building corner here is carved to acknowledge the existence of the abutment and while it functions as a contrasting background to the abutment, the architecture language here has been devised to give the viewer a layered timeline of the past and the future at this site. As Downtown Towson is being made over, MV+A considers itself fortunate to have a hand in sculpting its future.

October 2019
Contextual plan view of Towson Row with Crossroads at the intersection of East Towsontown Boulevard and York Road
Whole Foods Towson Row
Whole Foods Towson Row
View from the intersection of East Towsontown Boulevard and York Road
Public spaces, amenities and design are a focus of Baltimore County's Design Review Panel