moribund Montgomery County. While our County Council is fighting any attempt to build the roads necessary to jumpstart our lethargic private sector economy, and only talks about increasing MARC rail capacity and a White Flint station, Virginia is building Express Lanes down to Stafford County and more Virginia Railway Express stops and extensions. Along with the business-friendly policies of Virginia and Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg is booming, while Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of jobs over the last decade, and a loss of over 2000 jobs in retail alone since 2000.
The latest evidence of the difference in business climate is the Liberty Place project in downtown Fredericksburg. Once conceived of as luxury condos, the project will now be an 86000 SF office building with ground floor retail and restaurants facing William Street. "We're responding to the market," Liberty Place developer Tom Wack told The Free Lance-Star of Frederickburg, which noted the "strong demand for commercial property" in the city. The developers will offer free parking for the public in a garage connected to the office building (imagine that in any urban center of Montgomery County!) as part of a deal with the city.
The Fredericksburg City Council is set to vote on a memorandum of understanding for the deal tonight. Very few office projects are being developed in Montgomery County. The JBG Companies is constructing a new office building on Bethesda Avenue, but could not find an anchor tenant, and will now move its own headquarters into the building from down the road in Friendship Heights to fill the vacancy.
"Downtown's gotten pretty hot," Wack said of Fredericksburg. The office market is heating up as home construction continues to explode around Fredericksburg, which recently scored the idX Corporation factory that fled Maryland and the Lidl distribution center with 200 jobs (Virginia also won the sweepstakes for the Lidl corporate headquarters).
Every imaginable restaurant can be found in Fredericksburg, as well as the kind of hip breweries our County Council likes to talk about. Stafford and Spotsylvania counties are adding the jobs that will put less cars on the roads into D.C. every morning. And new infrastructure to reduce congestion for the commuters and businesses who make the increasingly-smart choice to locate in the Fredericksburg area.
Meanwhile, the bedroom-community-building Montgomery County Council is - as usual - asleep at the switch.