This is a story about Bill May and One Loudoun.
One Loudoun is one of the most high-profile, high-visibility mixed-use communities ever built in Loudoun, and Bill May, its managing director, is the man most responsible for it.
The Tribune sat down with May last week to talk about his role in One Loudoun, and how it’s contributing to the amenities available in Loudoun County.
Who gets the credit for the vision that is One Loudoun?
Somebody’s got to get the credit or the blame, and I’ve been fortunate to be the leader of a terrific team from day one until now. It’s a vision of a team of people from Miller & Smith. It may look like everything came out of the ground in very short order, but it was actually 12 years ago next month that we started planning One Loudoun with a blank sheet of paper.
We went through planning and zoning from the summer of 2004 through January 2007, when we got the vote to move ahead. We had a proffered obligation for an elementary school site and made it happen quickly because there was such a critical need.
We got plans, plats, subdivision recordation, land development and everything else done to be able to convey the site to the county in November 2007. That allowed the county to move forward with construction so the school could open in August 2008. Everyone involved, including the folks at Loudoun County schools, has a lot to be proud of. I don’t know of any other developer who has been able to get that done in such a compressed time frame.
Who came up with the name One Loudoun?
That’s a fun question to answer. When we acquired the property it was zoned as One Loudoun Center, a typical late eighties suburban office park. When doing our initial planning we went through a typical marketing exercise, including what to name it. We spent months and no small amount of coin to come up with a different name, and we came back to One Loudoun. I think we made the right decision.
What took so long for One Loudoun to come out of the ground?
The economic world that we knew disappeared in 2008, so the next couple of years were extremely difficult. We had partners who wanted out and a lender who wanted out, but Miller & Smith wanted to stay.
So we brought in a new partner and got restarted in the beginning of 2011. By the end of the year we were ready to come to market and opened our marketing center across from the elementary school. It was 11/11/11, at 11 a.m.
We started vertical construction in the spring of 2012, and what you see now is about 400,000 square feet of commercial, non-residential space, including some 20 places to eat, along with 439 residential units build and sold. All in about 48 months of time.
The next phase of residential includes Stanley Martin, which is now pre-selling 160 garage condominiums and 28 town home condominiums.
What’s next for the project?
Within the next 12 to 15 months we’re going to put up six or seven more buildings, and Miller & Smith will also be building 128 high-end, four-story, elevator town homes in the heart of our downtown.
Who is your buyer at One Loudoun?
We’re drawing people from greater Ashburn and beyond, western Fairfax as well, to eat, shop and play. As far as the home buyer, we started out with the concept of getting first move-up buyers, and we did. We were surprised that we also had others too, especially move-down buyers – folks whose kids were off to college, who were living in a big house with a big yard and a lot of maintenance, and whose need for all that was in the past. With our services and amenities, we’re offering them stress-free living.
The housing units look unique, are they?
We’ve kept control of the architectural, and on the residential we’ve required all the builders to create new facades for all their product. If they’re building it somewhere else, we don’t want it here.
How does differentiation fit into your master plan?
Our intent and vision has been to create a place that looks like a real town that was developed over time with different architects, materials and styles. And I think in large measure we’ve done that.
Have TopGolf and iFly helped put One Loudoun on the map?
Yes, they’ve helped, but we can’t take credit. They are part of Commonwealth Center and owned by Peterson Companies. By them having what they have there, it complements what we’re doing at One Loudoun. Together we’ve become a magnet.
What’s going to happen with the proposed ballpark?
It’s something we’re working diligently on. Something to keep in mind is that most ballparks around the country have a significant public funding component. No one at the state or county level has expressed an interest in being a part of this, so the issue is how you get it done with 100 percent private financing. I’m not going to go on record saying it can’t be done without public financing, but so far after a lot of effort and time we’ve not been able to create a business plan to get it accomplished just with private suitors. We’ve been patient so far, but patience won’t last forever.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy being with my family, traveling and playing a little golf. I’ve been blessed. I’m a lucky guy.
What are your professional goals? Might there be another One Loudoun?
There’s a lot left to accomplish and I would like to see One Loudoun through for several more years. And you’re always looking to see what comes next.
Tell us the first words that come to mind when we say Dulles Airport.
The goose that laid the golden egg.
We’re building 20 workforce housing units here.
Metro’s Silver Line.
Critically important to the future of Loudoun County.
Loudoun’s public schools.
Loudoun’s Chamber of Commerce.
In all fairness, I sit on the Chamber’s Board. I think we’re an asset to the business community and the community at large.
New Board of Supervisors.
I’ve been around the county close to thirty years and have seen a lot of boards come and go. They all find their collective personality. I think this one is off to a pretty good start.
Miller & Smith.
We’re a 52-year-old privately held company headquartered in Tysons Corner, and I think we enjoy an excellent reputation in the community and the building and development industry.
He gets up every morning and does the best he can.