High-tech ‘Smart City’ in Ashburn would adapt to conditions, data and people

Thinking Cities
By Thinking Cities March 18, 2016 15:28

High-tech ‘Smart City’ in Ashburn would adapt to conditions, data and people

Imagine a place that continuously reacts to the people who are living, working, shopping and playing there. 

In such a place, energy systems might adjust to weather and environmental conditions of the moment. Traffic might be directed to the most convenient routes or parking places. Community services might respond to people when they need them most. Schools might adapt lessons to what’s happening in real time. Business intelligence might be applied instantly to almost any problem.

Those are the scenarios of a concept called the “smart city.” While it may tease the imagination, the smart city is a plausible vision of how technology and its connections to people can create economic development that improves the quality of living while ensuring sustainability through the efficient management of resources.

Now, the vision of the smart city is coming to Ashburn. Reston technologist Minh Le and 22 Capital Partners, a Chantilly-based private equity company that invests in real estate, technology and renewable energy, have enlisted partners, including Microsoft, to bring the vision to Ashburn.

They are proposing to build the Gramercy District, a 2.5 million-square-foot, $500 million development on 16 acres fronting the north side of the Dulles Greenway, adjacent to the planned Ashburn Metro station on the Silver Line. 

“What we’re looking to do is build the next great tech real estate company,” Le told the Washington Business Journal. “We believe that technology is going to be a major force and driver in the way people live, the way people learn, the way people socialize.”

Microsoft is a co-investor and will reportedly bring its expertise and capital to bear. The company is developing its CityNext program with a focus on neighborhood management, smart buildings, operations management and sustainable land use. 

Details of Microsoft role are scarce. But Buddy Rizer, executive director of economic development for Loudoun County, has reviewed the plans and confirmed Microsoft’s involvement with the developers.

Gramercy District was originally part of Comstock Partners’ adjacent Loudoun Station, but the two projects were split during a December meeting of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Gramercy District’s partners now control the 16 acres closest to the future Ashburn Metro station under a 99-year lease with a private landowner.

Comstock’s 26-acre Loudoun Station, already partially developed, will house one of two 3,500-space Ashburn Metro garages. Commuters will have to pass through Gramercy District.

The Gramercy project is planned in multiple phases, first with luxury apartments, parking, retail and a high-tech business center; next with a hotel, office building, more apartments and more parking. Sophisticated information technology systems are planned to attract tech companies and startups.

The smart city vision calls for integrating multiple information and communication technologies to manage the assets of an urban city. It could include the information systems of multiple agencies, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, law enforcement and community services.

The goal of creating a smart city is to use technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs. Integrated systems enable officials to interact directly with members in the community. Through the use of real-time systems and sensors, data are collected from citizens and objects – then processed in real-time. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency. 

Thinking Cities
By Thinking Cities March 18, 2016 15:28