Strategically Green - Commonwealth Centre: A Platinum Opportunity

Fall 2011
Despite the recession, BPG Properties was able to complete construction of 14360 Newbrook Drive in 2009, due to pre-leasing activity and substantial equity strength.

Commonwealth Centre sits on a 101-acre mixed-use development site located in Westfields Corporate Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The undeveloped site was acquired by BPG in the fourth quarter of 2005 for $41.75 million on behalf of BPG Investment Partnership VII, L.P., a fully discretionary fund with total equity commitments of $550 million.

Part of BPG’s strategy to purchase Commonwealth Centre was its location in a highly desirable submarket. As a suburb of Fairfax County, Chantilly was a prime location for many large-scale companies because it offered convenient, large tracts of land and access to a growing labor pool. Located near the crossroads of Route 28 and U.S. Route 50, just south of the Washington Dulles International Airport, Chantilly had become a hub for national and international commercial manufacturing and defense contractors. The tenant footprint tended to be a mix of large-scale companies looking for well-designed, environmentally responsible, Class A properties that offer access to Washington, D.C. Today, the region is one of the largest employment centers in western Fairfax County with more than 11 million square feet of office space and nearly 9.5 million square feet of industrial/flex space.

At the time of acquisition, Commonwealth Centre was the largest and last available tract for development in Westfields Corporate Center, the county’s biggest business park. Spanning 1,100 acres and 14 million square feet of space, Westfield’s Corporate Center had a number of large-scale tenants, including the National Reconnaissance Organization (NRO), Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, Boeing, CACI and TASC. In addition to its location and proximity to a desirable tenant mix, Commonwealth Centre offered visibility and access to Route 28. The site also provided numerous development opportunities including a secured campus that met all setback requirements well in excess of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) legislation while still accommodating additional buildings with Route 28 frontage. To gain a competitive edge and differentiate BPG in the marketplace, sustainable features and cutting edge design elements were incorporated into each building of the site plan, which would eventually include integrated office, retail and hotel space.

In October 2007, BPG completed the first 160,000-square-foot, five-story Class A office building in Phase I. In keeping with BPG’s dedication to green construction, the building has an intelligent building design with an IT backbone allowing for integrated building systems and the capability for high-end IT functions along with several leading-edge sustainable design features.

The attention to detail paid off: within one year, BPG inked a 200,000-square-foot lease with CACI International, Inc, (CACI) a Fortune 1000 professional services and IT consulting firm based in Arlington, Va. The CACI transaction was an important step in the development of Commonwealth Centre, as it both fully leased their first building and enabled BPG to begin construction of the second building, which was now 37 percent pre-leased.

Commonwealth Centre exterior shot

Commonwealth Centre has been approved for the development of approximately 1.4 million square feet of integrated hotel, retail and office space.

Overcoming Economic Hurdles

Construction on 14360 Newbrook Drive began in earnest in 2008. Hickok Cole Architects was selected to lead the project design team, which included KTA Group, Burgess and Niple, SK&A, Lewis Scully Gionet, Hydro Designs, Getchell Consulting, CPM Scheduling, Suffolk Construction and Steven Winter Associates. Once completed, the 165,000-square-foot office building would offer excellent access to Route 28, five floors of efficient office space and exterior of precast concrete panels, tinted glass and aggregate accents.

As construction progressed, however, the economy began to falter. The ensuing collapse of the financial markets posed significant challenges to development as rivers of credit slowed to a trickle. Financing for real estate projects dried up, virtually overnight, causing thousands of projects to stall indefinitely. Across the country, demand for new, Class A office space slowed dramatically as credit markets tightened and unemployment levels increased significantly.

In spite of these challenges, BPG was able to prove the value of their investment strategy. The firm’s track record of successful LEED-certified developments, along with pre-leasing activity and substantial equity strength, allowed the firm to continue construction as planned. In June 2009, 14360 Newbrook Drive was successfully completed in adherence to LEED standards. The following year, BPG added the United States General Services Association (GSA) to the building’s tenant roster, bringing occupancy up to 90 percent.

LEEDing the Way

14360 Newbrook Drive achieved LEED certification in 2011 for efficiencies in the use of energy, lighting, water and material as well as incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. The project team led by Hickok Cole was able to exceed the original goal of Silver and achieve Platinum certification through the utilization of sustainable wood products, green power, waste diversion, and local and recycled materials.

LEED certification of 14360 Newbrook Drive was based on a number of green design and construction features that positively impact the project itself and the broader community.  These features include:

  • site-wide storm water management that captures a great portion of the storm water in BMP swales, ponds and rain garden;
  • a white roof;
  • low-flow irrigation funded by non-potable sources, highly efficient plumbing fixtures including 1.28 gpf toilets and waterless urinals;
  • intelligent building systems;
  • exterior views from 90 percent of the regularly occupied office spaces; and
  • low-emitting construction materials and finishes.  

An Eye Toward Future Development

Commonwealth Centre has been approved for the development of approximately 1.4 million square feet of integrated hotel, retail and office space.  The entire development is being designed to meet the requirements of LEED using the Multiple Buildings and On-Campus Guide. Once completed, the entire site will be connected by walking paths and will include a landscaped plaza with outdoor seating. At the completion of Phase III, Commonwealth Centre will be a destination location in a truly integrated campus setting.