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Monday, December 28, 2015

FXCO working group exploring new uses for old office buildings

The rear of the Sun Trust Building on Leesburg Pike in Seven Corners. It has three suites for rent.

A new Fairfax County working group launched by Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova is exploring ideas for repurposing older office buildings with lots of empty space.

The Fairfax County Building Repositioning Workgroup’s objective is to “come up with a multipronged strategy” for how to deal with some of these underutilized buildings, says Tony Castrilli, the county’s public affairs director.


The 7 Corners Professional Building on Castle Place has space available.

The county has an office vacancy rate of 16.5 percent, which equates to 19.2 million square feet of unoccupied office space, according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s midyear 2015 real estate report. The vacancy rate has risen every year since 2005, when it was 7.8 percent.

The office vacancy rate in the Bailey’s Crossroads area is 46.6 percent, the highest of any of the submarkets in the EDA report. The vacancy rates for Annandale and Seven Corners are both at 14.4 percent.

“We’re looking at how to speed up the permitting process for developers who want to renovate older office buildings and also how to make the zoning rules more flexible to allow different uses in these buildings,” says Braddock Supervisor John Cook.

According to Cook, some of the buildings and office parks zoned for office space might be more useful if there was more flexibility. For example, he said, they could be converted to housing, retail, light manufacturing, or “maker space,” in which items are produced, such as furniture, and sold in the same space.

That won’t be cost-effective in places with lots of demand and high rents, like Tysons, he said, but could work in areas with a lot of empty space, like Bailey’s Crossroads and Falls Church. 

A hallway in the Doctors Building on Castle Place in Seven Corners.
While the EDA focuses on marketing the county to higher-end companies, Cook says, “our group is focusing on places that are older and are no longer attractive for the uses they were built for.”

“There is no market for class B office space,” he says. “We’re looking at changing the space, as opposed to simply getting new tenants for the space.”

Class A office buildings are relatively new, with high-quality design and lots of amenities, such as spacious lobbies with seating space, fountains, first-floor conference rooms, and fitness rooms. They tend to be in prestigious locations, like Tysons, and have the highest rents.

Class B buildings are older and have small lobbies with just an elevator and plain halls. Class C buildings are in worse shape; they might have been nice 50 years ago but are now outdated.

The working group doesn’t have a specific mandate or a deadline, Cook says, but will probably issue some kind of final report with recommendations.

Cook is the only elected official on the working group. Other members include Barbara Byron, director of the Office of Community Revitalization; Jeff Platenburg, assistant superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools; Donna Pesto of the Department of Planning and Zoning; other county officials; and real estate professionals, including representatives from the JBG Cos., Jones Lang LaSalle, the Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, and McGuire Woods.

16 comments:

  1. How about moving a certain DMV into one of them?

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    1. That would be too logical. They much prefer to reck a neighborhood shopping center so they can run it into the ground. Sounds like what the Soviet State use to do.

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    2. THANKS OBAMA

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    3. Dont blame Obama for the DMV. We got our own local officials to blame for this travesty.

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    4. Democrat or Republican - no difference. Different promises same results.

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  2. Or, the East County office building project...

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  3. Fairfax County government (with schools included) is the biggest landlord in the county.

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  4. and "one cent" gross wants to add to their inventory at our tax paying expense

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  5. why isnt there any resident representation on this? This is a good and timely working group to have, but we need resident voices there!

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    1. Jeffrey, with respect, our candidate lost. Hence, the issue of resident representation is moot.

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  6. Jeffrey is exactly right, there should be community representation in this incredible committee. This committee is full of developers, lawyers for developers, the County zoning person, Donna Pesto, who brought us RSUs, single residential units, that would have turned single-family homes into group homes. The community fought for months to stop that and thank heavens the county came to its senses. But here we go again, we've got a DMV that will overwhelm a small shopping center and now they, BOS and a committee, are going to decide what to do with our vacate space. Why is it that Mason District gets to be experimented on with all their crazy ideas. It's time to stop the Board of Supervisors and developers deciding what we need to do with Class B or C buildings. We don't need to trash Mason District even further. And we don't need another school retrofitted into an office building, instead we need a new school at Willston. And for sure we don't need an East County Office Building. People, Penny is going to buy the International Landmark Office Building on Columbia Pike for more than it's worth to tear it down and build a new East County Office Building. That is on the docket for January 12, BOS hearing. Please people we need community representation in Mason and we need to start demanding having a community representative put on these committees to report back to the community before they decide what we need and want. If I made any typos please forgive because I'm very upset about what is happening under our noses.

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    1. Chill out, Mollie.

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  7. Fairfax County has to move beyond the Plantation mentality. We have too many people who work as tree "service", maids, pest control, and so forth. These people are like slaves. Cook is on right track: we need more "makers" - people who know how to build real things that people need every day.

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    1. I agree with you on needing makers but comparing "service" people to slaves is quite a bit of a stretch.

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    2. Actually, slavery is not so uncommon here as it was a few decades ago.

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  8. How about fitness/yoga centers that could cater to local workers? Improve vacancy rates & health of citizens. When I worked at NADA in Tysons we used an empty office for yoga class mid day. A teacher would come in & employees would pay her for each class. Convenient, relaxing, healthy and fit to be productive all afternoon. Classes could be offered before work, during lunch periods and after work, and employers and/or insurance companies could offer subsidies/incentives.

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