County board OKs $5M for stalled downtown Herndon redevelopment

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $5 million in funding for the delayed redevelopment of downtown Herndon.

The approval — which was requested by the town —  brings the county’s contribution to $6.1 million of the $101 million public-private partnership between the town and developer Comstock.

Marred by delays and an oft-changing groundbreaking date, the revitalization project would bring transform 4.7 acres of land previously owned by the town into a mixed-use town center with 273 residential apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail space, an arts center,  and a 726-space  parking garage.

But the county’s financial commitment is conditional. Five payments of $1 million per year would go to the town. The first payment is conditioned on the approval of the certificate of occupancy for the first residential unit.

“The project provides an opportunity to partner with the Town of Herndon in its downtown redevelopment efforts and will produce new tax revenues for the county on a site that currently does not generate tax revenue,” according to a Dec. 7 staff memo.

In response to requests from Reston Now for information, town officials have provided few details on why the project has been pushed back. Comstock has also been tight-lipped about the project.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust lauded county staff for ironing out the conditions of the agreement.

“It’s just going to be absolutely awesome what they have going,” Foust said.

The project faced a $24.6 million funding gap as a result of the effects of the pandemic, changes in the construction market for materials and labor, and workforce restrictions. The town and Comstock agreed to split the funding gap equally as part of a new agreement that was negotiated roughly one year ago, including tax abatement efforts for Comstock.

The county already committed $1.2 million from its Economic Opportunity Reserve Fund in June 2018. The funds were committed but remain undistributed to the town.

If construction stops within six months of the first payment, the county would suspect future funding and restart payments at its discretion — if and when construction activity resumes.

The Herndon Town Council will review the updated MOU at its Dec. 13 meeting. The town is contributing nearly $18 million while Comstock will shoulder $85 million of the total cost. The county’s contribution amounts to six percent of the total cost estimate.

County funds would be pulled from the Economic Opportunity Reserve Fund, which aims to support capital development projects, real estate purchases, and programming support for economic development activities.

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