A bleak Thanksgiving for the NCC

Laid bare by recent winds and rain from a distant cold front in November, the National Conference Center is visible now on once-pristine slopes that for years had made it a protected destination for training, first for Xerox and later for the federal government’s defense and personnel workers. When everyone was trained up, Xerox sold it to Whitehall Funds/Oxford in 2000 for $37.7 million. In 2005, Oxford borrowed $50 million to build a 16,000-square foot ballroom and update the facility for the 21st Century. The center, originally built as a training center for Xerox Corp., has 250,000 square feet of meeting space. After the renovation, more than 900 guest rooms were reduced to 546. But Oxford’s massive ballroom took an untimely hit in the 2008 recession, and its loan payments fell behind.

Loudoun County came to the rescue in 2011, paying an artificially inflated price of $20 million for 45 acres of formerly unbuildable land on steep wooded slopes descending to the Potomac River. Better yet, the county rebuilt the Upper Belmont road network, adding roundabouts to the one-way approach to the NCC and persevering against protests from pragmatic, economy-minded environmentalists to build the most expensive high school in Loudoun’s history and distinguishing its location with the name of “Riverside.”

After the hulk of the original NCC sold again in 2014 for $36.9 million, it updated its brand and became known as “The National,” the location for large celebratory gatherings including Chamber of Commerce and public schools events. Its formerly pristine wooded grounds accommodated a colony of telephone poles to reclaim the NCC’s identity as a training center, this time for Verizon.

But among the first drastic closures of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, the NCC closed temporarily in the spring. By summer, Verizon was again housing workers there for training, but big gatherings in the ballroom were impossible or ill-advised. This week, it seems those too have vanished. The gigantic structure that once had more than 900 rooms has “temporarily suspended operations.”

What becomes of a massive structure that needs a new roof? Will a buyer be found for the ballroom and the parking deck, and the rest bulldozed into the river? No ready answers emerge at the moment, but the eery vacancy of The National, and its sadly derelict condition, may have passed the point where even a trendy suburban community college can justify the expense of redeeming its above-ground square footage in the age of distance learning.

About loudounhoa

News, information, and commentary for people who live in HOAs in Loudoun County, Virginia.
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