Thursday, July 13, 2017
JBG finds anchor for new Bethesda office tower...itself
JBG's decision generated a sigh of relief among panicked County officials yesterday. So moribund is MoCo's private sector economy, that attraction of new corporations has given way to a desperate effort to retain the few flagship firms the County has now. So, much like Marriott moving down Old Georgetown Road in a few years, JBG's move is essentially reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic; Montgomery County hasn't attracted a major corporate headquarters to relocate here in two decades and counting.
The new JBG SMITH HQ will add 55 new jobs over its existing workforce. But the need to fill such an impressive building in such a prime spot again painfully disproved the MoCo political cartel's claim that corporations demand Metro access over highway and airport access, and walkable retail and restaurants in a mixed-use environment over suburban office parks.
4747 will be on top of not one, but two, Metro stations - the Red Line and future Purple Line. It will be surrounded by the successful and highly popular mixed-use retail, restaurants and housing of the Bethesda Row and Lot 31 developments. It will even have the trendy Dean & DeLuca attached to the building, in an already-built retail structure adjacent to the tower site.
Yet, much like 4500 East-West Highway, the building had no takers to be the anchor office tenant. If you had bought the arguments of Planning Board Chair Casey "What ex parte rules?" Anderson, et al that the new urbanist environment was the key to attracting business...your mind must be officially blown by this turn of events. No, Virginia, mixed-use is not the sole answer to MoCo's economic woes.
JBG is taking a hit to the pocketbook long-term to stay here in Montgomery County, a sacrifice County officials should thank them for profusely (did you know, for example, that electricity is 44% more costly in Maryland than in Virginia for businesses?). JBG is also commendably endorsing the urban, walkable environment it espouses itself with this move.
But County officials shouldn't dwell on their dodging of this latest bullet. They need to act, so that we can finally grow our economy, instead of sticking fingers into all the leaking holes that are increasing by the day. That includes reducing the County's massive taxes and exploding debt, building a new Potomac River crossing to Dulles International Airport, and completing our master plan highway system.
Rendering courtesy The JBG Companies