Q: What is the vision and concept behind The HUB at La Plata?

A: Dr. Jay Hellman is a real-estate developer who originated the theory of Virtual Adjacency and the thinking behind The HUB at La Plata. He knew he wanted to create, for Charles County and La Plata, a community that would allow citizens to live, work, shop, dine and interact with nature in dynamic and proximate settings, structures and spaces. While access to rural broadband has become a concern throughout rural America, the land where The HUB at La Plata will be built already has an available fiber optic network.

Hellman, however, had no idea when, decades ago, he purchased the land designated for The HUB that a pandemic would one day reinvent how people work, with telecommuting and virtual meetings and events becoming the norm. Experts now believe it is likely that a hybrid model, a reliance on both office settings and employees working at or near home, will emerge in a post-COVID-19 world.

Here are some facts that point to this shift:

  • The Urban Land Institute (ULI) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released their 2020 Emerging Trends Report, which drew from interviews with over 550 industry participants and over 1,600 responses to an online survey, and it shows a transition to remote work because of the pandemic. It also found that 95 percent of the respondents said they expect more companies in the future will continue to allow employees to work remotely.
  • Because of the COVID-19 public-health crisis, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed more people teleworking in 2020.
  • A Municipal Maryland story concluded that technologically empowered workplaces present a valuable economic opportunity for the state.
  • As just one example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its biggest union signed a new contract — which allows for its employees to telecommute — and also closed years of difficult negotiations, according to Bloomberg.
  • A study from the car-shopping app CoPilot revealed that newly remote workers nationwide gained, on average, a little more than 10% of their workweek back, and not spending that time and money commuting added up to more cash, according to a Marketplace.org piece.
  • Telecommuting has indelibly impacted corporate culture. However, years before COVID-19, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation reported that the number of jobs filled by telecommuters would grow nearly four-fold before 2020, reported The Atlantic.

Communities with a blend of land uses can help nurture profitable college towns, good living, and sustainability — the latter of which are very important to Hellman. Along with Hellman, Maryland and Frederick Planning Expert Alan Feinberg embarked, many years back, on a pioneering Vision Planning process to transform La Plata from a collection of pieces to a whole.

The HUB will be one of the most successful examples of smart growth and Vision Planning in the D.C. metro region. For Hellman, ecological resources and the natural environment are as important as the housing styles and settings where people can safely live and work. More importantly, reducing long commutes for La Plata and Charles County citizens will make it possible for more people to invest in, and enjoy, this region. They have some of the most expensive and longest commutes in the nation.