News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dam It: Bechtel Moving to Reston, Bucking a Trend?

Hoover Anne.jpeg

Yesterday's announcement that global infrastructure behemoth Bechtel is moving 625 jobs from Maryland to Reston Town Center is great news, given recent losses of other corporate headquarters in our gritty urban core. But while they've certainly got their hands full with the Silver Line, we're thinking maybe Bechtel should use our earth-toned community as a testing ground for some of their other infrastructure work. Why bother with those silly earthen dams when we can have something like this at the foot of Lake Audobon? Or maybe a special Reston-themed Chunnel that would allow us to drive directly to Columbia without having to see the blighted, non-planned communities in between? Or perhaps they could see what might happen if the tolls exceed 53 Leu on the Transylvania Motorway?

Here's why this is good news, even if we don't get a shiny new building like this:
California-based Bechtel Corp. announced Monday along with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) that it would move 625 jobs from Frederick to Reston Town Center, where they will fill nearly 200,000 square feet at 12011 and 12021 Sunset Hills Road. Bechtel’s rent checks, highly sought after by other Virginia landlords (particularly in Tysons Corner) will be addressed to Boston Properties, which developed the buildings in 1999.

With the federal government dramatically cutting back leasing and new construction, finding large tenants to fill office buildings is becoming increasingly difficult. The pool of major tenants shrunk further when Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced last month that Bechtel’s power division would keep 1,250 jobs in Frederick.

Despite its success, some real estate types think Reston Town Center may be losing some its luster, with Tysons Corner dominating discussions in Fairfax County and properties along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor attracting record-setting prices.
It's also significant because, as with Accenture's departure from RTC to a former car lot, overall trends appear to be shifting away from massive office space and towards more "hoteling" of employees and the use of wage slaves independent contractors. As our Reston2020 BFF Terry Maynard puts it:
The core lesson from the Accenture headquarters departure experience appears to be that we need to re-think the mix of uses (and maybe the high densities) currently planned or being considered for the Dulles Corridor. If Accenture is a harbinger of things to come, we will need to see greater growth in residential space and less growth office space than currently envisioned at both Tysons and Reston and maybe points farther west. Moreover, we will have to re-think the needs of the many new residents in these areas, including the nature of the local retail shopping experience (relatively fewer business-oriented restaurants, more pharmacies and supermarkets, for example), their access to cultural and recreational facilities, and (especially in Reston) the availability of public open space—largely parks and natural areas—to sustain and enhance the quality of life experience in this premier planned community.
It remains to be seen if the Bechtel move is bucking this larger trend, or if the growth of the military-industrial complex government services will continue to fuel demand for office space here and elsewhere.

According to another report, the Bechtel employees moving to Reston have average salaries of $125,000. Maybe we should drop this "web logging" thing and spend a bit more time learning AutoCAD.


  1. Just to clarify: The Reston 2020 post about Accenture you link to represents by personal views, not necessarily the views of RCA's Reston 2020 Committee. I tried to highlight this by putting my name in the topic line. I apologize for any confusion.

    That said, I'm glad to see some companies beginning to fill the 17.2% vacant office space in Reston (per FC's own Economic Development Authority as of mid-2011).

    What I find appalling is that Virginia taxpayers are paying $6.5 million to get 625 jobs and lease 200K GSF of floor space. Even worse is MD. taxpayers paying $9.5 million to keep 1,250 in Frederick. If that isn't extortion, I don't know what is.

    And, finally, Bechtel's move doesn't undermine my view stated in the R2020 post that we can reasonably expect fewer employees in such headquarters jobs as a result of a more dispersed workforce--telework from home, job sites, Starbucks, etc--reducing the need for extremely dense commercial development in Reston.

    NTL--Keep up the great work Restonian! And sorry for the long-winded comment.

    Terry Maynard

  2. Bechtel helped rebuild Kuwait after the first Gulf War. Maybe they could do something about Shadowood.

  3. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonNovember 8, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    As its first pro bono public works project here in Reston, perhaps Bechtel could construct the long dreamed about Intra-Reston Waterway that would link the four Great Lakes of Reston by canal.

  4. so if both partners of a Bechtel marriage make the average salary, the most they could pay for a house is $625,000.

    Given that they already work in frederick they probably won't move but will commute to Reston from MD & PA and when they go home at night they'll take their income taxes with them.

    Fabulous - Reston gets the traffic and Annapolis gets revenue not Richmond.

    Smooth move, McDonald

    1. that is just short-sighted. Even if we assume all 625 people begin commuting from MD -> VA every day, very soon, employee turnover would result in local residents filling those jobs.
      Even if they don't, the gov is collecting taxes from the building owner who is collecting rent and those 625 people would spend money on ancillary services in Reston.

  5. Hey, Chuckie, if they're paying $17 tolls, even if they're riding together, that $170/week that they're giving to MWAA, ostensibly to be used to subsidize Metro to Reston.

  6. Convict

    $53,125 per week ($170 x 313 commuting cars) x 48 weeks per year is only $2,550,000 per year.

    What part of the annual interest on the debt for the silver line does that even cover?

    And that's assuming they don't choose to drive down Route 7 instead of the Toll Road or drive over the Legion Bridge.

    Wonder how much did McDonald pay Bechtel for this move?

  7. Why would anyone want live in MD if they have a job in VA? Seriously? Significantly longer commute, drastically higher income tax state income tax (over $6,000 more), higher sales tax, higher gas tax, existence of local income tax in MD.

    The scenario you present is probably very rare any way.

    1. Why would they want to live in Maryland? Because they can't sell their homes, and a comparable home in Fairfax county would cost 30% more.

  8. They'll continue to live in MD (1) because their mortgage is underwater (2) their kids are in high school (3) their spouse has a job in MD or any number of other reasons. Inertia is a powerful force.

  9. Since it is Power design, why not move them closer to the client base and completely out of the extremely overpriced DC area and give them a break on far more and insure they have a better quality of urban/rural life (where most power plants are). Visiting the interesting places in DC are just that, go visit, not live there. I'm a 42 year veteran of the nuke power business and I will not move to the DC area for any power design job. I know for a fact $125K wont cut it after taxes in the the over priced DC area. My brother has lived there for 30 years and cannot extract himself due to these issues but hen he also made $250K+ just to be able to have what we do here in the south for $100K salaries.