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Behind the Scenes: NoVa’s $1B Innovation Center

Real estate developer Ralph Rocks took a small helicopter from the Watergate 60 years ago and landed on a runway that would eventually be Dulles Airport. On a hunch, he scooped up farmland around the future airport and it’s where his family, decades later, broke ground yesterday on an ambitious new project.


Innovation Center South, being developed by Rocks Engineering Co, is over 1.6M SF of residential, commercial, hotel and retail on 12 acres in Herndon, including over 1,000 multifamily units. The project sits at the Silver Line’s last stop before the airport and yesterday’s groundbreaking marks just the start of the infrastructure, which will cost Rocks Engineering and Fairfax County about $45M. The ceremony, which drew about 200 people, including state and local politicians, also marks the beginning of Fairfax County’s plan to build a $65M, 2,100-space parking garage for bus and rail commuters.

Michael Rocks

Ralph’s grandson and Rocks Engineering and Rocks Cos managing director Michael Rocks (above) tells us the price tag could potentially get close to $1B when all is complete. The idea of a Metrorail was not even in the works when Ralph bought the acreage, and the family has spent the last few decades on residential projects, a hotel and retail on some of the land. This is the last piece of the puzzle.


Penzance is developing the project’s 500k SF of office and is in the design process. Michael says there’s already been lots of interest from corporate tenants and multifamily developers. Rocks also plans to build high-rise apartments and a hotel. The office and at least one of the multifamily projects are expected to deliver around the time of the Silver Line Phase 2 at the end of 2019.

Rocks Engineering

Rocks Engineering