The developers behind Arcola Center have proposed changing plans for a 279-acre swath of land dividing the Village from the Shops and The Residences at Main Street, fencing all of it off for a secure data center campus.
That would involve changing a development plan approved by the county in 2013 to convert retail, office, and commercial land to industrial use, relocate a site for an elementary school, reduce open space and tree conservation areas, and cancel plans for pedestrian and road linkages across the property.
County Project Manager Jackie Marsh said county staff members do not support that proposal, which she said would cut off the northern and southern ends of the property from each other.
“Staff does not have concerns over the proposed rezoning to the PD-IP (Planned Development-Industrial Park) district, but the original concept of an integrated, pedestrian-friendly mixed-use development is no longer possible with the addition of a secure data center campus in the middle of the site,” Marsh said. She said the Residences at Main Street would no longer be part of a larger Arcola Center community, but “would now function as a stand-alone residential development.”
Google announced in November that it has purchased about 91 acres in the undeveloped middle of the property, along with another 57 acres at the Stonewall Business Park south of Leesburg, on land that Loudoun Department of Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer said in November wouldn’t have been considered as viable locations for data centers even two years ago. Google is developing a data center at Arcola now.
Arcola Center’s representative, Cooley LLP partner Colleen Gillis said the developers envision “two approvals, but three different experiences”—the Village at Arcola Center, “a complete community;” Google’s future campus; and the shops and residences on the southern end of the property. A separate application on the southeastern end of the property, at the shops, would make more minor changes to zoning and is largely supported by county planners.
Two residents from the area came to the May 22 Planning Commission public hearing to express their concern.
“What Ms. Gillis describes as a minor modification between moving an elementary school and the villages makes a major impact to those of us that own houses that are backed up against what was supposed to be an elementary school,” Kirk Kloppel, a Winsbury resident.
The planned elementary school would be moved to share a site with the Arcola Slave Quarters.
Commissioner Fred Jennings (Ashburn) said he appreciated the data centers and the decreased traffic they bring, but “you might as well build a Chinese wall between these two communities. It fundamentally changes a concept, and I recognize the market has moved since 2007, but there’s a big chasm here.”
Commissioners voted 6-0-3 to send the application to another meeting for more work, with commissioners Tom Priscilla (Blue Ridge), Jeff Salmon (Dulles), and Jim Sisley (At Large) absent.