Timothy J. Steffan, chief operating officer of Comstock Companies, recently addressed the company’s development at Reston Station and the Herndon Historic District. Steffan's bio details experience managing various asset types and large-scale portfolios, including retail, office, multifamily, mixed-use, and hotel properties, identifying opportunities to generate new revenue streams.
Comstock is developing the approximately 80-acre Reston Station, a development that provides access to the Wiehle–Reston East Metro Station, the current terminus of the Silver Line. Opened in 2014, it is one of the mid-Atlantic region's largest mixed-use, transit-oriented, urban employment centers. It is being developed through a public-private partnership between Fairfax County and Comstock Partners LC.
On Aug. 30, 2022, Comstock announced the acquisition of approximately eight areas of the Midline development at Reston Station. On Sept. 6, 2022, Comstock announced an additional acquisition, the redevelopment of 1891 Metro Center Drive, formerly owned by federal government contractor Maximus, Inc. The Metro Center Drive acquisition expanded Comstock's Reston Station development further, adding the 2.67-acre property with frontage on the Dulles Toll Road (Virginia Route 267).
Steffan said Comstock would temporarily use the former Maximus building as swing space for its existing tenancy. Steffan said Comstock would demolish the building at some point but could not say when that was to happen. “That building has seen the end of its useful life,” he said.
"Quite frankly, all the uses are being examined, including means to improve vehicular-pedestrian traffic and experiences around the neighborhood while the buses are involved from Metro," Steffan said. He noted that Comstock is considering some big-box retail stores and is looking into creating an additional piece of the Reston neighborhood that allows for a better flow of commercial, private vehicle, and bus traffic.
Asked about affordable housing units, Steffan said. “All of their products have affordable housing. Absolutely. We believe in the product very, very much."
Steffan discussed the proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendment for Reston and its newly added community health and equity sections. He said as the company moves through design, they are "thoughtful on the type of residential assets" being designed.
He noted the type and availability of retail have altered during the pandemic. Amazon functions as a large-scale retailer that provides product delivery to porches. Retail can be about service, entertainment, and food. It can be groceries, lots of things.
"If we can create an environment that's fully accessible, that is highly multimodal, that addresses the health and wellness needs of the community by way of bike paths, pedestrian experiences, activated areas with events, digitization, landscaping, and recreation, and you can proliferate it, those needs of service, entertainment, and food are met," Steffan said. “You have created something special that not only attracts new people to the area but serves the existing community in a manner that improves their everyday lives, whether walking to and from, (or) driving to and from, health, wellness, food, and entertainment."
Comstock is careful and very specific about the design of its acquired parcels. Steffan said that the customer, stakeholder, traveler, and tenant experiences are expected to be as exceptional as possible. The company knows if there is a parcel available that is continuous to a property they own, it is probably something they want to control. "The only way you can control that is to control all the physical elements your stakeholder touches," Steffan said.
According to Steffan, Comstock ownership and investors are very much vested in creating and installing art as objects and how they design the hardscape in the common areas. "We look at our common areas as large palettes of art in and of themselves. “Nothing is exciting about a fountain and bunch of limestone and cobblestone,” he said. Comstock has to make something different and activate it. They must use other materials to create a palette that makes something completely different.
“That of itself allows and creates a desire for people to come by. That's what they strive to get in everything we’re designing … which is why we use a different architect for every building we use because we want each building to have its own personality.”
HISTORIC HERNDON District is to be developed through a public-private partnership between Comstock and the Town of Herndon
When will Comstock have cranes up and shovels in the ground for its downtown Herndon Redevelopment project given Comstock delayed the construction date?
"The market is so unpredictably predictable now," Steffan said. "It's supply chain issues. It's delivery issues. It’s a cost of material issues."
"Projects designed four years ago, five years ago, or six years ago have changed dramatically based on costs. Comstock has been talking to all of its project partners and trying to figure out how to get our [Herndon] project off the ground," Steffen said. With every single month that you delay a project, that you wait, the parameters change. And it is not solely cost now."
Steffan says that rental prices had been going in the right direction, but they may have reached the top of their growth. Even though it is helpful, the rise in rent is either equal to or outpaced by the increase in construction material costs. According to Steffan, the increase in material costs is caused by a lack of materials because tradespeople have not returned to work where those materials are made and because of higher fuel prices.
Construction was delayed for a year for the JW Marriott hotel, planned at Comstock’s Reston Station and is anticipated to deliver in 2024.
Comstock Herndon Timeline
October 24, 2017 – Town Council adopted the comprehensive agreement between the Town of Herndon and Comstock Herndon Venture, LC.
November 17, 2020 – Town Council unanimously approved a resolution that amended the comprehensive agreement with Comstock.
December 15, 2020 – The town transferred the development site to Comstock.
April 2022 – Comstock exercised its right in the amended comprehensive agreement to pause construction commencement for up to 24 months due to market conditions or other matters, including delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic