After decades of planning, construction crews are at work building the first Metrorail station in Loudoun County.
Site clearing and excavation began April 26 at the Loudoun Gateway stop, part of the $2.78 billion six-station Phase 2 project, extending the Silver Line from Tysons Corner to Ashburn. It will be another four years before residents can expect a train of subway cars to pass through the station every six minutes, but the real estate business is already buzzing.
Rebecca Vittitow, a Realtor at Century 21 Redwood Realty, said Metro’s promised arrival already has homebuyers competing for new homes near the future Silver Line stations.
Westmoore, a housing development next to the Ashburn Station, advertises its neighborhood as “Loudoun County’s only Metro community.” Another development on the north side of the Dulles Greenway, Toll Brothers’ Moorefield Green, will also offer easy access to Metro.
“Metro is the big buzz right now,” she said. “I have a long list of clients who just want to be near a future Metro station.”
Some of Vittitow’s clients who purchased in Westmoore two to three months ago already have $30,000 worth of equity in their homes, she said. Some are buying just for the investment alone, she said.
One of her clients initially looked at buying in Arlington or Reston because he wanted to live near a Metro station and have access to night life, but ended up loving what Westmoore had—and will soon have—to offer. “They have townhomes with rooftop terraces and covered decks, plus access to Metro, so they’re making it totally like city living,” Vittitow said.
Eric Pearson and Chuck Smith, founders of fast-growing Pearson Smith Realty, made their Sterling-based business the first commercial tenant in Loudoun Station following the county’s Department of Economic Development, which also leased space there.
“Our brokerage is kind of built on recruiting top talent to help service our clients, so Loudoun Station being that kind of vibrant, mixed-use environment that’s eventually going to be serviced by transit, it’s going to be essential to attracting that kind of talent,” Pearson said.
Their corner offices above the movie theater in Loudoun Station are scheduled to open in June. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls of their future lounge area overlook the site of Metro’s planned stop.
The company, unlike other real estate brokerages, tries to bring its real estate agents into the office to share experience and knowledge, and offers help and services to contractors who are just starting out. They hope that having an office in a place like Loudoun Station, next to Metro, will have twofold benefits—it will attract top talent who want a good place to live, and the fun office location will encourage them to stop by the office.
“We’re really banking on Metro,” Smith said.
Loudoun’s Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer told a recent gathering of business leaders that the Silver Line already is spurring interest from companies looking for new space. He said that in Northern Virginia last year, 92 percent of new office leases involved buildings located within 2.5 miles of Metro stations.
“We’re competing for deals now that we were never able to compete for before. That’s a game changer for economic development and for Loudoun County,” Rizer said.
Meanwhile, county leaders continue to tweak their plans for development in the Metro corridor.
Getting It Right
Loudoun’s policymakers have said the Silver Line’s trains are going to bring a lot of opportunities to the county. Some of that is already visible, with developments like Loudoun Station, where a Metro station will open right next door.
“I’ve always argued that one of the great benefits of Metro will not just be the ability of our commuters to leave the county, but for other commuters to come into the county and work in Loudoun,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), whose district includes the future Dulles Airport and Loudoun Station Metro stops. That will allow more workforce diversity, which Letourneau said would help attract more businesses to Loudoun.
“We have a lot of managers,” Letourneau said. “We have a senior, highly professional workforce, but you can’t staff a company with only people who are making $200,000 a year.”
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr.’s (R-Broad Run) district includes the end-of-the-line Ashburn Station and borders the Loudoun Gateway station and Innovation Center station just over the county line in Fairfax. He said Loudoun will need to have its own vision for development around Metro.
“I think if we take the model that Arlington and Reston have taken and only follow that, we’re just going to be competing with them, and they’re closer to the city, and proximity’s going to win,” Meyer said. “But there are other essential models.”
Although county plans have envisioned rail-oriented development in the corridor since the 1990s, supervisors are taking another look. In March, they initiated a new study of land use alternatives; that process is expected to continue through November.
Where some have long seen opportunity in extending Metro service to Loudoun, others have only seen risk. Those range from lingering questions about the competency of WMATA’s oversight and management to claims that the cost of construction and operation will far outstrip the economic benefits.
County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) has heard those critics and she has a response.
“The vote for Metro is done. So everyone who is lamenting the vote—without being too inappropriate—at this point get over it,” she said last week. “Metro is coming to Loudoun and what we have to do now is focus on how to make Metro a success in Loudoun.”
“I think you can see why we’re very excited about Metro, but we obviously are going to have to be part of the regional discussion in making sure that Metro remains a reliable and financially solvent entity so we can actually take advantage of that,” Letourneau said. And even with its current delays and stoppages, he said, Metro might be the best option for DC commuters.
“It’s probably worth noting that a very, very bad on-time percentage for the Metro is in the ’80s,” Letourneau said. “I would submit as someone who drives to DC that if I arrived on time to work 84 percent of the time I would be thrilled, because my commute is all over the place.”
Randall and other board members are optimistic that Paul J. Wiedefeld, appointed WMATA’s general manager and CEO in November, will lead a culture change at the embattled agency. Wiedefeld has been invited to address the board in the coming weeks.
Meyer and Letourneau said Metro’s development will take patience, but its positive effects will stretch out for the long term.
“The goal for Metro should always be to make peoples’ lives here better,” Meyer said, “not just to bring in new people.”
Getting it Built
Capital Rail Constructors, a joint venture of Clark Construction Group and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co., in 2013 was awarded the contract for the $2.78 billion six-station Phase 2 project, extending the Silver Line from Tysons Corner to Ashburn. Most of the work done so far on Loudoun’s side of the county line has been on the Dulles Airport property, where a station is under construction near the main terminal.
Now that crews are working on the Loudoun Gateway station in the Dulles Greenway median, watching their progress will become part of the daily routine for area residents and commuters.
By the time construction is done, there will be 2,750 parking spaces.
The Loudoun Gateway station is located just west of the Rt. 606/Old Ox Road interchange near the Dulles North Transit Center park and ride lot.
Next, crews will begin clearing the Ashburn Station site near the Greenway’s Rt. 772/Ryan Road interchange. Construction work on the line will continue at least through 2019 before the rail line is turned over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for testing—and ultimately operations.