Four major development projects that are under way or soon will be finished promise to forever alter Springfield.
Three developers and the Inova Health System are preparing for an unprecedented boom in employment in which an expected 18,000 military, federal and contracting jobs come to the area this fall.
Setting the stage for growth is the federal Base Realignment and Closure process. In September, 8,500 jobs from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency will move to Springfield's former Engineer Proving Ground, which now is known as Fort Belvoir North.
The agency already has begun moving some employees into its new 2.4 million-square-foot campus at Fort Belvoir, which will gain about 6,400 employees on its main campus in September as part of BRAC.
As a result, many federal contractors will move their operations to Springfield. One of their destinations is the 1.3 million-square-foot Metropark Complex.
The 37-acre facility, near the intersection of Beulah Street and Franconia-Springfield Parkway, already is home to SAIC Inc., DCS Corp., Calibre Systems Inc. and CGI Group Inc., which soon will be joined by fellow government contractor VSE Corp.
VSE is moving its headquarters from the Huntington area, said Marc DeLuca, a spokesman for ING Clarion Partners, the owners of Metropark.
VSE is contracted to move into a new 95,000-square-foot-building by early 2012. The company will occupy the entire building, which is nearing completion, DeLuca said.
Another 330,000-square-foot building is under construction within the Metropark complex, he said.
The new and existing buildings within the complex originally were built by ING Clarion Partners on speculation. DeLuca said the risk was a calculated one.
"I'd like to tell everyone that we were really brazen to do it, but it really has been a no-brainer," he said. "Every building that we have started building on [speculation] has turned out to be 100 percent leased by the time we are done with it." Clarion did not disclose its development costs.
Monument Realty also is preparing to build on speculation in the same area of the intersection of Beulah Street and Franconia-Springfield Parkway, Monument co-founder Michael Darby said.
Pending approval by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Monument plans to build a 13-acre, 875,000-square-foot office park called Liberty View on the site of some former residential properties.
Liberty View will consist of "four or five eight-story office buildings with structured parking," and will have a final cost of about $260 million, Darby said.
"We don't consider it risky because of the demand we know is coming and the lack of supply that is there," Darby said.
Meanwhile, Inova Health System -- which operates a facility providing emergency services and physician office space near the MetroPark and Liberty View complexes -- is petitioning the county to allow it to expand due to the expected influx of workers to the area.
Inova hopes to more than double the size of its existing five-story, 150,000-square-foot facility, by adding an eight-story building with roughly the same square footage next door, said H. Patrick Walters, Inova's senior vice president for strategic planning.
"We expect a lot of increased traffic and population in the area over the next seven to ten years and we want to be ready for it," he said, adding that Inova has no immediate construction plans, but wants to have the approval process taken care of if it decides the time is right to move forward.
Springfield Mall owner Vornado Realty Trust also is ready to take advantage of the expected traffic and population boom, and is taking the next step toward achieving its vision for an urban-style town center development around nearby Springfield Mall.
Vornado representatives declined to comment on the company's exact plans. But, according to Fairfax County Supervisor Jeffrey McKay (D-Lee), a 10-year redevelopment of the mall -- split into four phases -- is currently under way.
"It is a mall revitalization project that will develop into Springfield Town Center, with high density office and residential space," he said.
Phase one, which McKay said could begin as early as next month, is an interior renovation of the mall, including an improved food court and construction of a new movie theater.
Vornado hopes eventually to add as many as 2,700 apartments, 450 hotel rooms and 1 million square feet of office space to the 78-acre site, while expanding the retail component of the area to 2 million square feet of shopping and dining, according to a 2009 county staff report prepared for the county Board of Supervisors.
The town center vision also includes improved pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Franconia-Springfield Metro and Virginia Railway Express stations and a circulator bus service that serves the transit station, the mall area and the rest of the Springfield revitalization district.
The developer's plans also include construction of a central plaza, ground-floor retail in the apartment buildings, a grocery store, cafes with outdoor seating, a health club, and basketball and tennis courts on top of a parking garage, according to the 2009 county staff report.
"We are very happy to see all this proposed new growth in Springfield," said Nancy-Jo Manney, executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. "Some of it, like the construction at MetroPark, is already visible. Just seeing those new buildings coming out of the ground already feels like a rebirth for the area, and growth is always a catalyst for more growth."
Manney and McKay agree that residential growth in Springfield is still several years away, but said that, with all the expected business-related development, residential growth will follow.