What is the real benefit to Leesburg as a result of the Amazon’s HQ2 decision? It definitely ISN’T an additional 25,000 well paid employees working in Crystal City. Those workers will most likely be purchasing property or renting within walking distance or a short metro commute to Amazon’s new campus. Very few will choose to live in Loudoun County and the number that do choose to live in Loudoun will be so small that there will be minimal effect on demand for real estate.
Despite this, the potential benefits to Loudoun County and the town of Leesburg are major.
One of the most successful companies on the face of the planet spent a year researching where to locate their next headquarters and they chose Northern Virginia. This is remarkable! Furthermore, the decision wasn’t based solely on tax incentives
No, Amazon made a decision that was in their best interest based on a number of other factors, and apparently one of the most important was a qualified work force.
This is were Virginia stepped up to the plate in a major way. Over the next 10 years, Virginia state universities will commit BILLIONS of dollars to produce tens of thousands of additional graduates with advanced technical degrees. UVA, William and Mary, Virginia Tech and GMU will all be heavily involved in the investment.
This will be the fuel that drives our economy for years to come. The Amazon decision has validated the region’s viability as an east coast tech center. The decision won’t go unnoticed by other companies. They will find an educated, qualified work force and compelling site opportunities in Loudoun.
Buddy Riser and his team at Loudoun County Economic Development came incredibly close to winning one of the most coveted relocations in the past decade. Their bid location, Innovation Station, at the corner of Rt 28 and the Dulles Toll Road was on Amazon’s short list.
Will the Innovation Station site attract a large company like Amazon with plans to locate 25,000 employees? That’s highly unlikely. But I am confident that over the next decade, multiple tech companies will relocate to Innovation Station and other Loudoun locations and bring with them thousands of high paying jobs.
This economic expansion coincides perfectly with a changing Leesburg landscape. Here are four reasons why downtown Leesburg is poised for major growth over the next decade.
Leesburg now has a host of young entrepreneurs that are willing to take a chance on building a business in the historic district. They see the potential that downtown offers and are making investments in capital as well as sweat equity.
Patrick Wilt at Black Walnut Brewery. Nick and Carolyn McCarter at 27 South Interiors. Nils and Olivia Schnibbe at 14 Loudoun and Sidebar. Curtis Allred at Delerium. Damian Dajcz at Senor Remon and Bites. Jason Lage and Rebecca Dudely at Cocina. All are leading a revitalization of the downtown area.
A Changing Demographic
Leesburg is increasingly attracting young professionals from Arlington, Alexandria, and other locations inside the Washington Beltway. Whether they are defined at Millennials or Gen Y, they are generally a group that is focused less on possessions and more on “experiences”.
For them, walking across the street to try the latest cocktail at Sidebar after enjoying a great meal at the Wine Kitchen is much more important than owning a 5000 SF home on 10 acres. The social aspect of living in a more urban location is very appealing and this younger demographic is choosing to live in the historic district.
The other side of the demographic equation skews older. There are a large number of “empty nesters” selling their single family homes in Loudoun and looking to downsize. In the past, these empty nesters would move out of the area. Now they are increasingly deciding to stay local and downsize in Leesburg
New Residential Development
When these millennials and empty nesters look for housing options close to downtown, there will soon be more options. Crescent Place, the mixed use townhouse community on Harrison Street has been a huge success. Don Knutson has broken ground on his newest condo development, Kings Street Station on the southwest side of town. Landmark Commercial is close to getting approval for their Market and Church Apartment development.
These two developments will put minimal pressure on the Loudoun County School system yet infuse vibrancy to the downtown area as more people actually live there instead of just working there.
Town Council Support
For years it seemed as if local businesses and local government were never on the same page when it came to stimulating economic growth in downtown Leesburg. The current environment is very promising. Russ Seymour has taken the reigns of the Leesburg Economic Development and has added much needed leadership. Mayor Burk and Town Council member Josh Thiel are hardworking advocates of local downtown businesses while retaining the historic charm and character of the district.
Leesburg is now able to attract thousands of residents to the monthly “First Friday” event. And it will only get better as the Town learns how to facilitate the crowds and enhance the experience.
Last summer, Leesburg hosted a “Taste of Leesburg”. There will be a learning curve involved with hosting events like this, but what is plainly clear, the demand is huge!
A Bright Future For Leesburg
I’m convinced that downtown Leesburg is on the verge of a major revitalization which will benefit neighborhoods and businesses that are located throughout Loudoun County. Ashburn, Sterling, and western Loudoun will all take part in the economic expansion.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall had this to say about the Amazon decision. “A rising tide lifts all boats…”
My bet is the “Leesburg Boat” will be lifted more than most!