In the week following the historic, unanimous Falls Church City Council approval of his co-owned major Class A office building and mixed-use project at the City’s central intersection, locally-based developer and investor Todd Hitt made a rare public appearance here, addressing the monthly luncheon of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce to share his business and life philosophy and organizing principles and to offer some advice for the future of the Little City.
The event was the formal occasion for the announcement that Hitt’s Kiddar Capital investment team would locate its global headquarters right in the new Broad at Washington complex, occupying the majority of the 74,000 square feet of office space in the building, with plans to call the central Falls Church location home for the long term.
Hitt’s firm manages $1.4 billion in assets across a number of sectors and currently has offices in Falls Church, Houston, Palm Springs and London, England. The Broad and Washington project, which it owns in partnership with the Insight Development Group, will not only be Kiddar’s global home base, but will include 295 residential units and 25,000 square feet of retail, expected to generate a net fiscal impact of $35.7 million for the City of Falls Church.
“Our approved plans call for an architecturally significant HQ building that will be operationally flexible, including a lightweight and interactive environment that is uniquely responsive to our team, the community and will immediately present an engaging atmosphere for Falls Church residents,” said Hitt. “Kiddar Capital is committed to the communities where we operate and invest. Our new headquarters will integrate all aspects of the local community, including education, government, business and the arts in a way that will help us fulfill our mission to create jobs, fuel innovation, drive economic growth and enhance cultural vibrancy.”
Hitt is the developer of the 301 W. Broad mixed-use building that houses the Harris Teeter grocery in downtown Falls Church, and owns another major commercial property in the immediate area that he has plans to develop.
Hitt told the large luncheon gathering at Mad Fox Brewing Company Tuesday that he grew up in Arlington and locations in Falls Church were among his stomping grounds as a youth. He said his most important values he acquired in his youth, and that the premise for his business decisions are rooted in what he calls “conscious capitalism” that has an immediate positive social impact for the communities in which it operates.
He contrasted his approach to the looting approach of big capital in small towns across America that bought up the key local industries to strip and outsource them, gutting the towns and leaving it mired in unemployment. “There’s another way to do it,” he said, “by putting money into the community. Our American way of life begins and ends with opportunity.”
It is contrasted to the “big castle” approach where a big company sets itself up so that everyone in a community is striving against it, he said.
In the case of Falls Church, where he’s been operating for the last 10 years, “There is great leadership here, and we can speak face-to-face.”
(Falls Church Mayor David Tarter, Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly, City Council members Phil Duncan and Letty Hardi and a number of members of the City staff were in the audience).
“We want to bring young innovative thinkers here, and the new Class A building will be that, bringing people here for a purpose,” he said. “It will be an education center.”
He said Falls Church should adopt a “slow and steady” approach to its future, noting that “there are big things on the horizon.” He advised, “Be careful and patient” at the West Falls Church Metro site. There is a “retail Armageddon” coming as globalization, the Internet and other factors change the landscape of the economy, although, he said, that won’t be as serious a factor for this region.
Build flexible spaces, he said, nothing that parking will undergo a huge change in the next 15 to 20 years, relieving the $38,500 it costs to build a single parking space underground today.
“My buildings are built to last 150 years,” he added, noting that the 301 West Broad building is all concrete with no wood.
On the issue of housing affordability, a major issue in this region, Hitt said that “the wealthiest companies need to get together with government to align on this issue to figure out how we can move ahead. We need far stronger policies in place to make it work.”
“As a conscious capitalist, money means little to me. I learned most of my life lessons before I was 12. It has to do with character, how you grow up, and having a positive social impact is everything.”