Hundreds of unused acres of land at Dulles Airport could be sold to a data center company, depending on a decision by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
On Tuesday, the airports authority’s Strategic Development Committee will consider selling 424 acres on the western edge of the property, known as the western lands, to Digital Realty Trust LP for $236.5 million.
Starting in 2005, the airports authority bought land to the west of the airport for a fourth runway and support facilities. The airports authority expects to use about 414 acres of that and hold on to another 16—leaving 424 acres of a total 854 acres unused and undeveloped. In July 2017, the authority started the process of seeking organizations to buy or lease that property.
According to the airports authority, Digital Realty was the highest bidder, and has already negotiated with the authority and made a $5 million deposit. If the full airports authority Board of Directors agrees, closing is expected between Sept. 28 and Oct. 12. Airports authority staff supports the sale, arguing the lands are unneeded and could bring in significant revenue, and that Digital Realty’s plans are compatible with the airport. The deed will include covenants to ensure it stays compatible.
Digital Realty is already an established presence in Loudoun, with 17 data centers in in the county already according to the company’s website. Some of those data centers have drawn noise complaints from the nearby residents, such as at Regency at Ashburn.
But the western lands—between Old Ox Road and the airport’s runways—are far from most homes, except Loudoun Valley Estates, and in an area where by policy the county does not allow residential development due to airport noise.
Loudoun County Department of Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer called the proposal “a very exciting opportunity for Loudoun County.”
“Returning the ‘Western Lands’ to the county tax rolls will have a positive impact for the taxpayers of Loudoun in the way of schools, roads, public safety and other services,” Rizer stated. “Digital Realty is one of the world’s top technology developers, with millions of square feet of development already in operation in Loudoun. With this purchase, Digital Realty has made a major commitment to the future of tech in Loudoun and Data Center Alley.”
The property is part of a larger 584-acre parcel listed in county records at a fair market value of $115.9 million. Under MWAA ownership, the land is exempt from county real estate taxes. Once it is transferred to a private owner, it will be subject to county real estate taxes and the county’s special Metro-area real estate tax districts, currently set at an additional 20 cents per $100 of assessed value.
The Strategic Development Committee will hear about the proposed sale before making a recommendation to the authority’s Board of Directors. Both meet Tuesday, Sept. 18.