MARKET INTEL: Circling the DMV: 3 Major Influences on the Office Market

November 15 - 2022

Some big changes are in store for Washington, D.C.... and they aren’t all political. CompStak is keeping an eye on three things that are bound to impact the office landscape in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.


1 | The Silver Line to Dulles Opening November 15 

After years of delay, the Washington Metro will open Phase 2 of its Silver Line. Beginning on November 15th, new service will extend to Washington Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County, connecting major employment centers along the Dulles Toll Road that were previously difficult to access via mass transit.

 

 

CompStak recently spoke with Bisnow about the impact of the Metro on key Northern Virginia office markets. CompStak’s data shows that after Phase 1 of the Silver Line opened in 2014 (adding four new stations to Tysons Corner), average office effective rents grew faster in the Tysons Corner submarket than in more distant, automobile-centric Northern Virginia (NoVA) employment centers. Reston Town Center Station, unlike its counterpart Wiehle-Reston Station, will have no parking facilities for commuters into DC. The station area itself will instead act as a commercial destination, much like Tysons Corner. With an estimated three quarters of NoVA commercial development occurring near metro stations in the last few years, Reston is a submarket to watch for rent growth.

 

 

Additionally - will Herndon and Loudoun County office rents see a steeper climb after the areas have additional metro service?

2 | Federal Office Lease Terms Shorten

From 2012 to 2021, CompStak’s data shows that the General Services Administration (GSA) signed longer term leases on behalf of Federal agencies across the DC Market. This upswing in the average lease term was potentially influenced by the ability to unlock larger tenant improvement budgets for items such as security features from landlords. But as Federal work-from-home policy became more lenient following the pandemic, that trend has slightly reversed, with average new lease term length shortening by nearly 1.5 years from the peak in 2021. Traditionally, GSA has opted to extend leases when lacking the capacity to fully restructure a deal. But these post-pandemic shorter term leases may be a sign of something else - that the GSA is uncertain about the long-term future of the Federal Government's office needs. 

 

Millions of square feet of office space occupied by the federal government will expire in the next decade. An outsized share of NoVA’s space will expire in the short term - 48% before 2026. Major government tenants are already announcing their intention to vacate massive office footprints,  such as the U.S. Patent Office, dropping more than 800,000 square feet in Alexandria

Will the federal government ultimately renew and/or downsize, as telework is now a more normal facet of Federal Government operations

 

3 | Amazon Comes to Arlington

Hybrid and remote work policies are also contributing to rising vacancies in Arlington. That’s one reason eyes are on Amazon and the Crystal City submarket. After Amazon announced Arlington as the future home of its second headquarters (HQ2) in 2018, Crystal City rents rose dramatically. Since then, the gap between rents in Crystal City and the rest of Arlington has narrowed significantly.

 

Amazon itself leased more than 850,000 sqft in the submarket, but the online giant ultimately aimed to build its own space. It plans to deliver its 2 Million-square-foot campus in 2023, in stark contrast to a slow 2022 that saw few offices completed in NoVA. According to CompStak’s data, 191,000 square feet of space Amazon rents at 1800 South Bell Street will expire at the end of the year as it prepares to move. Much more is expected to expire by 2024.

Amazon’s new campus is also far from typical in Crystal City. The average built year of an office in the submarket is 1983, and the average year for a major renovation is 2006. About 72% of office square footage in Crystal City was built before 1990. On the surface, many of its qualities are reminiscent of Manhattan's Third Avenue, which has struggled to adapt to the post-pandemic environment.

How will Crystal City landlords adapt after Amazon fully moves into HQ2?

Looking Forward

Major CRE players themselves are upgrading in DC-area submarkets - Both JLL and CBRE moved their NoVA offices closer to the Metro (from Vienna and elsewhere in Tysons respectively). Many office buildings in NoVa are still considered desirable assets -  those home to defense contractors continue to sell, as the region continues to cement itself in the tech and defense industries. Boeing is moving its headquarters to Arlington along with Raytheon. The latter announced its intention to construct an additional 131,000-square-foot in Crystal City - not far from Amazon.

There’s a lot happening in Washington D.C., and not all of it is due to Tuesday’s election results. Want to learn more about Amazon in DC, federal leasing activity and/or office rents trends along the new Silver Line? Join CompStak to get more insights!

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