When people talk about the changes taking place in Springfield, the word "synergy" is often used.
Taking a big, empty building that has, at various times, been both a Toys R Us and a mattress warehouse and turning it into a 42,000-square-foot banquet facility would be an example of the kind of transformations that "synergy" exemplifies.
Keith Clark will assume management of the Waterford at Springfield, located on Commerce Street between the Springfield Hilton and the Marriott, the second banquet facility he’s created out of what was an empty storefront.
“Three years ago, I started to look for a place in Northern Virginia to grow the business,” said Clark, who also owns the Waterford at Fair Oaks, which opened in 2000 in a renovated movie theater.
He started to look in the Springfield area, and was interested in the vacant Toys R Us building, but he “passed on it at the time because the cost for environmental measures that had to be taken were very high,” Clark said. He was looking at purchasing the Landmark Mall but the owners decided to tear it down. Right before he was to sign a deal near the Dulles Town Center, he went back to the Springfield site.
“The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce had asked [Lee District Supervisor] Dana Kauffman to talk to me about taking this building and putting the facility there,” Clark said.
MOST OF THE RENOVATION work on the building has been done, Clark said during a tour Friday, March 10. Drywall has been hung, wires have been installed, gravel has been dropped off by the truckload for the parking garage. All that remains are finishing touches, like paint, carpeting, light fixtures and the installation of a 14-foot-high by 16-foot-wide water wall.
“There will be four ballrooms that can open up to one massive room,” said Clark, which will make it the second largest in Northern Virginia. The entrance to the facility will have a fountain in the middle and columns on either side, leading to a total of five ballrooms, two smaller pre-function rooms that could be used for smaller parties, a full service catering kitchen and a back hallway that links the rooms to each other.
“We think this will be quite an addition to Springfield,” Clark said. With a location just off Interstate 95 and close to I-495, the presence of such a large facility will bring in the types of conferences and events couldn’t be held there before.
“This is a tremendously under-served market,” Clark said. “We’ve already been getting reservations from as far down the I-95 corridor as Stafford County and meetings for up to 700 people. There’s a lot of hotels in the area, but none that could hold functions this big.”
AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Nancy-jo Manney said she’s looking forward to seeing the Waterford open its doors in mid-April.
“We’ve already got two events scheduled there for this spring,” Manney said. The facility will be able to host many of the government contractors based in Springfield that had been going to Crystal City for functions, which means more business for hotels in addition to the Waterford.
“This makes use of a property that for so long was an eyesore,” she said. “This gives people a reason to select Springfield as a destination, and we want more of these reasons to be here.”
Combining the opening of the Waterford at Springfield with the continual advancements of the Mixing Bowl, the upcoming renovation of the Springfield Mall and the plans for Midtown, Manney said things are starting to “come together.”
“This sits between the revitalization district and the mall, and as all this happens, the property owners are going to see the benefits of this happening everywhere,” she said. “Ten years from now, Springfield will be the place to go. It’s amazing how this is all coming together.”
Until the Waterford officially transfers to Clark and he and his staff move into their offices inside the facility, they are using a suite in the nearby Hilton, overlooking the property.
“The Waterford is going to be phenomenal in terms of the business it can bring in, not just for social events like weddings but the larger functions it can hold,” said Vince Stubbs, a manager at the hotel and chairman of the economic development committee with the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.
LOOKING AHEAD, the hotel has already arranged for a shuttle service to be available for guests of the Hilton who are attending a function at the Waterford, Stubbs said, along with the use of a parking lot and treatment as “preferred hotel guests.”
The banquet hall “will be an essential piece of the new Springfield,” he said. “Combined with the mall and the Midtown project, it will fit neatly into where we’re going as a community and as a whole.”
Stubbs said his hotel will not be harmed by the proximity of the Waterford, considering guests at the banquet hall can’t sleep there.
With only a few weeks left until he moves into his new office, Clark is eager to welcome the first event at his second facility, scheduled for April 26, and the first wedding on May 6.
Walking through the facility, his eyes lighting up as he pointed out things that had been completed since his last visit, Clark said interest in his facility is already apparent. “Our sales office has been open at the Hilton since August but for the past six months, it’s been really busy,” he said.