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April 2005 Issue

Business in the Boomburbs
Residential design/build firm finds fertile grounds on Washington, D.C.’s upscale fringe.

By Susan Hines

Business in the Boomburbs
Skip Brown

Just 15 years ago, Route 7 in Loudoun County, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., was a bucolic, two-lane country road flanked by rolling pastureland and cornfields—a fitting gateway to Virginia’s horse country and the Shenandoah Valley just beyond. Nowadays, those picturesque scenes have given way to the dull repetition of subdivisions and shopping centers advancing outward from the nation’s capital.

The Northern Virginia region is Sprawlsville all right, but it’s high-end sprawl, and somebody has to landscape it.

Most residents who have flocked to the area over the past 10 years have done so to work for high-tech companies like mci and aol. They didn’t arrive with mattresses lashed to their minivans or move into hastily constructed cottages. Household income in Northern Virginia is among the highest in the nation, and the Route 7 strip boasts both a Costco and a Nordstrom. Houses sell for an average price of well over $400,000. These houses are built in the usual, vaguely traditional, suburban vernacular. The price dictates square footage, the amount of brick used in construction, and exactly how many Palladian windows adorn the facade. In other words, no design thresholds are being advanced in Loudoun County.

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