Seven Years Later, Still No Herndon Downtown Redevelopment

Seven Years Later, Still No Herndon Downtown Redevelopment

Comstock’s 2-year construction pause expired on April 30.

April 8, 2019, Architectural Drawing of Building B on Center Street, part of the Herndon Downtown Redevelopment Project awaiting build by Comstock

April 8, 2019, Architectural Drawing of Building B on Center Street, part of the Herndon Downtown Redevelopment Project awaiting build by Comstock

    The Town of Herndon transferred the 4.675 acres in the yellow area to Comstock. Comstock’s fence currently encloses the area within the blue circle dotted rectangle, where the former Subaru dealership at 770 Elden, shown in the image, was razed in the late spring of 2020 to prepare the site for redevelopment, which was expected to begin soon.

On April 24, a town spokesperson told The Connection that Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton would update the Town Council during its April 30 Work Session on how “the town and Comstock are working together to determine next steps.” 

In April 2022, Comstock paused beginning construction of the Herndon Downtown Redevelopment Project for up to 24 months under the amended agreement with the Town of Herndon. The end date of that pause was April 30, 2024.

On page 20 of Comstock’s latest Investor Presentation, May 12, 2023, which is midway through Comstock’s 2022, 2-year construction pause on the Herndon Downtown, Comstock indicated that the development pipeline for the Herndon Downtown, which includes 273 units and 293 square feet, is an “estimated completion 2025.” But is that valid in May of 2024?

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, at the Connection’s press deadline, the Town of Herndon sent out a release about how Comtock and the town are working “to restructure their contractual relationship in a manner that reflects the realities of project development in 2024.” 

“In particular, today’s sky-rocketing inflation and its impact on interest rates are markedly different than when we first entered our agreement with Comstock,” said Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton in the release. “Our aim is to arrive at a mutually beneficial process that realizes the town’s vision for our downtown and makes good business sense for Comstock.”

Both parties agree that an extension of the agreement to pause construction is necessary to finalize project details, the release states. “Accordingly, both parties have agreed to a new expiration date of the agreement, to Aug. 15, 2024.”

A look in the rearview mirror of the past seven years reflects that the two parties hit some snags after the promising Oct. 24, 2017, event when the Herndon Town Council adopted the resolution to consider a comprehensive agreement between the Town of Herndon and Comstock Herndon Venture, LC.

Specifically, the town would contribute $3.6 million to Comstock's rehabilitation efforts. It included $500,000 for environmental cleanup, $500,000 for temporary public parking, $250,000 for the arts center's relocation, $100,000 for culvert repairs, and up to $100,000 for off-site easements. The town would also transfer the 4.675 acres of property it bought for $5.8 million to Comstock.

Comstock would redevelop the mixed-use property, providing 339 public parking spaces in the garage, the shell of an arts center, an arts and recreation proffer, and $505,000 in proffer funds for town activities. According to the town, the overall value was approximately $12 million in 2017.

In the 2017 Comprehensive Agreement between the Town of Herndon and Comstock Herndon Venture, LC, Comstock agreed to construct a vibrant downtown redevelopment project with retail and rental housing as part of a public-private partnership valued at about $85 million. The town hoped, among other things, that tax dollars estimated by the county officials at $300,000 per year for taxes and fees, a parking garage, and an arts center would boost its economy. Early 2019 was the anticipated start of construction, with completion expected by early 2021.

But on July 7, 2018, Comtock’s project hit its first snag. A group of town residents filed a Notice of Appeal with the town’s Department of Community Development when they opposed and challenged the Herndon Heritage Preservation Review Board’s June 18 decision to award developer Comstock three certificates of appropriateness, which were required for most exterior changes to buildings and structures within the town’s heritage district.

In September 2018, Comstock resubmitted site plans to redevelop downtown Herndon. Staff needed additional time to review the plans, which were then returned to the Heritage Preservation Review Board for approval for a Certificate of Appropriateness.

Then, in March 2020, the pandemic hit, and on Nov. 17, 2020, the Herndon Town Council unanimously approved a resolution amending the Comprehensive Agreement with Comstock to advance the seemingly stalled project. Comstock had yet to construct a building or secure financing. The amendment required that Comstock have the project underway by Dec. 31, 2021.

A month later, Comstock Holding Companies, Inc. announced that Comstock Herndon Venture, LC ("Comstock") and the Town of Herndon had closed on the transfer of land in historic downtown Herndon (Dec. 15, 2020). "Comstock's planned redevelopment of the 4.7-acre parcel is the centerpiece of Herndon's revitalization plan for its historic downtown," Comstock wrote in News Details on December 16, 2020, saying that Comstock and its design team worked closely with town officials to develop a plan that is exciting while honoring Herndon's historic character. The plan earned the unanimous approval of the Herndon Historic District Review Board in 2019.

The amendment’s date, requiring Comstock to have the project underway by Dec. 31, 2021, came and went until April 2022. Comstock used its legal right in the comprehensive agreement amendment to pause construction for 24 months, citing market and COVID-related issues. Two years later, Comstock had not begun construction of any buildings.

As of April 30, 2024, a tall, solid fence surrounds a portion of Comstock’s 4.675 acre project site. No construction is visible anywhere on the site, and the view through the blockade wood fencing includes weeds and broken pavement. Visitors and residents walking along the fence's exterior line facing the town's main street, Elden, must avoid broken glass and litter. Comstock's faded project banner has been announcing for two and a half years, "Excitement is building."

In mid-April, Herndon mayor Sheila Olem confirmed Comstock's pause ends on April 30, 2024.

Snapshots of Comstock Companies

Comstock Companies manages, develops, and operates mixed-use and transit-oriented properties in Washington, D.C. 

        Bisnow reported on Jan. 31, 2022, that Comstock controls over 60 development acres on both sides of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station and plans to build 2.5 million to 3 million square feet of office space and 17,500 multifamily units. Construction is now underway for delivery in late 2024.

        Most recently, and according to Comstock Holding Companies, Inc. (Comstock), “The Grand Opening of its Sales Gallery for the JW Marriott Residences Reston Station” took place on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza.

        On April 8, 2024, Comstock and The Lady Vintner, a woman-owned charcuterie and wine bar, signed a 1,300-square-foot lease at BLVD Forty-Four in Rockville, Md.

        On Feb. 27, 2023, Comstock Partners, LC, an affiliated privately held company, announced on its website that it had secured two 10-year lease agreements with CACI International and The Applied Research Laboratory at Penn State in Reston Station's Commerce District. “These two leases support Comstock's plan to add 1.3 million square feet of office space to Reston. The company is turning the 1990s-era office park Commerce District, next to Metro's Wiehle-Reston East station, into a highly amenitized, mixed-use, transit-oriented development,” the company’s website states.

        On Sept. 27, 2023, Gaming America reported, “Real estate company Comstock is seeking to develop a casino in Reston, where it owns 80 acres of land near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.”