After a decade of planning, the Academies of Loudoun opened just in time for the 2018–19 academic year. The public STEM high school in Leesburg is the most expensive school ever built by the county, costing $125 million. Its inaugural class of 1,700 students has the run of the 305,880-square-foot space, which includes state-of-the-art research labs, glass-walled communal areas designed to spark collaboration, and individual work areas with professional-grade equipment.
One reason for the Academies: to keep Loudoun’s brightest math and science students from leaving for Fairfax County’s revered Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
Loudoun County has more in common with California than wineries: In August, the US Geological Survey recorded a small but noticeable 1.3-magnitude earthquake whose epicenter was within five miles of Leesburg. The USGS says Virginia has had documented quakes for centuries, including infrequent larger ones.
A Cyber Space
Leesburg (and Loudoun in general) is working hard to outgrow its country roots to become a hub for the tech industry. City planners have invested in tech-centric coworking spaces and business coaching. Their efforts are paying off—take the Mason Enterprise Center, an incubator where entrepreneurs can access resources from George Mason University and the Loudoun Small Business Development Center. Another local success story is Cofense, which was acquired earlier this year by Pamplona Capital Management and BlackRock at a valuation of $400 million. The company, which makes anti-phishing software, just moved into a new 35,000-square-foot Leesburg headquarters.
Delays to second-phase construction of the Silver Line mean Metro isn’t scheduled to reach Loudoun County until 2020, but developers are high on the growth possibilities. (Stops in Loudoun will include Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway in Sterling, and an Ashburn station.) This spring, Rappaport bought the retail portion of the mixed-use Village at Leesburg, located on the busy Route 7 corridor and anchored by Wegmans. A 300-car park-and-ride is under construction on the site to provide locals easy access to the Silver Line.
Meanwhile, Leesburg’s Town Council continues to consider allowing more housing developments nearby. Countywide, nearly 55,000 residential units are planned or being built. Still, some experts predict a housing shortage in Loudoun—the fastest-growing county in Virginia—by 2040.
Loudoun’s food scene is about to get a new destination, with ChefScape, a business incubator tailored to local owners of food trucks, catering companies, and other food-focused concepts just starting out. The 16,000-square-foot space will feature a commercial kitchen where its members can cook; event space for receptions, chef competitions, and corporate events; and eventually a food market with various vendors. It’s slated to open this fall in the building that once housed Smokehouse Live.
Lansdowne Resort and Spa, known mostly as a corporate meeting place, is aiming to appeal to those who want to commune with nature. It recently began offering everyone—not just guests—access to the Potomac River, with activities such as kayaking and fly and spin fishing that launch from the property’s shores.