News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Master Plan Phase 2: Site-Specific Plans Would Increase Density Near Forest Edge, Redevelop Fairfax Hunt Club

Hey, remember how one of the sneaky new elements of Phase 2 of the Reston Master Plan process was that it allowed people to submit proposals for redeveloping specific chunks of Reston? Yeah, that was awesome. Turns out three property owners did just that, and one was "not specific and disqualified" (no truth to the rumor that it was our application to build a very narrow 96-story mauvescraper in the backyard of Restonian World Headquarters).

The other two requests? One would increase density at the 48-acre Colvin Woods Apartments near Forest Edge Elementary, and the other could result in the Fairfax Hunt Club rezoning its property near Lake Fairfax for residential development.

ColvinThe owners of Colvin Woods Apartments, seven garden-style buildings from the late 1970s, are proposing to build three additional low-rise buildings and 40 townhouses on the southern portion of the site.

"The site benefits from its unique location between two regional open-space amenities, Lake Anne and Lake Fairfax," the submission states, adding that the additional development would justify modernizing the complex and offering properties at a broader range of rental prices.

HuntThe Fairfax Hunt Club, best known for the old-timey log cabin right outside Lake Fairfax Park, said in its submission that it was "considering relocating its operations and desires to have the option for this property to be converted to residential as are the surrounding properties."

Our BFFs at Reston Now point out that the club's history and Reston's go back to the days of the drunken village of Wiehle:

The Fairfax Hunt has deep, if not active, roots in Reston. A. Smith Bowman – founder of the former Reston distillery bearing his name — also founded the Fairfax Hunt Club in 1928. He later gave part of his 4,000-acre property to the club, and the clubhouse, built in 1951, remains as a catering facility today. Eventually, much of the surrounding land was sold to build Reston and fox hunting moved farther into horse country.

The clubhouse contains part of a 200-year-old log house that was formerly located a few miles away in Vienna. The club’s still owns eight acres near Lake Fairfax Park to the south and housing subdivisions on the other sides.
We've seen worse ideas (and locations) for redevelopment in recent years, but this is yet another reminder that more ch-ch-ch-changes are coming down the pike.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Metro Ribbon Cutting Marks Beginning of Brave New Bollardy World for Reston

IMG 4811
Confidential Restonian Operative "Joel" captured the very instant the ribbon was cut at Saturday's grand opening ceremonies at the Wiehle Avenue Metro station and parkatorium, its fraying yellow strands, one of which is suspended in mid-air forever in this photograph, symbolizing the very moment Reston was transformed from a sleepy nudist colony turned planned community to a bustling socket in the region's transit network. It'll have to stay suspended in mid-air until next Saturday, though, because that's when the first train leaves the station.

IMG 4820Unfortunately, our busy candystriping schedule kept us from attending the grand opening. But we have this CONTINUING TEAM COVERAGE, courtesy of yet another Confidential Restonian Operative:

Ribbon cutting at 10:00, loitering until 3:00. Come for the SLHS marching band, speeches and self-guided tours. Preview the commuting experience. Get information about the Master Plan review, Phase 2 (“There Goes the Neighborhood”). Maybe review your retirement planning.

I suggest parking in the original Reston North outdoor park-and-ride lot (corner of Sunset Hills and Wiehle). Cross busy Sunset Hills Road and Reston Station Boulevard. Time the traffic lights and dodge turning cars. Ignore the enormous sidewalk scaffolding, construction crane and workmen overhead if you use Metro Center Drive. Pretend you are in Bob Simon’s Manhattan.

IMG 4782Or park in the new Wiehle Garage. Visualize yourself racing 3,300 other drivers down the three inbound traffic lanes towards the station, hoping to find a spot before the garages fill on weekday mornings. (As the Reston Station signs say, don’t get shut out!) Practice dodging the 30+ Fairfax Connector buses per hour that will serve the underground bus bays during peak periods.

If you currently park at the Interim Lot (Sunset and Town Center Parkway), with nearly unlimited free parking (only hassle is the geese), try to envision yourself parking in the new multilevel garage. Watch out for those pesky structural columns (cost $4.85/day). Count the exit lanes/gates, stop lights and difficult left turns as you leave. Morning arrivals will be staggered, but how long will it take to pay and exit in the evening, even with that awesome smartcard technology?

If you currently transfer from commuter bus to rail at West Falls Church, with covered walkways from bus stops to the platform, compare the Wiehle experience: the exposed plaza and long open-air bridges over the 12-lane highway (no windows, you’re kidding). Imagine waiting in the Wiehle-Reston East platform wind tunnel during bad weather. What are the odds you’ll have to stand on the train for 40-minutes?

IMG 4789Finally, look for the commercial spaces, including the food services, promised for station opening last December. Oh and where did they put the taxi cab line? Remember, no hitchhiking!

Hope you enjoy the open house and new station. See you on the Silver Line. To paraphrase WMATA’s slogan, Get on board, you don’t have a choice!
Our BFFs at Reston Now have more, including this telling quote:
Bob Whiteman of Oak Hill said he moved to Reston in 1980, and even then his Realtor told him “a train to Dulles would be here in five years.”

“I believed [rail] would never happen,” he said. But now that he is two years from retirement, the federal employee said he will most likely stick to his usual commute.
Hope he enjoys the extra tolls.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On The YouTubes: A Magical Journey to the Metro

Our BFFs at the Washington Post strapped one of those, whazzitcalled, GoPro cameras to one of their paperboys' bicycles and take us from the W&OD trail and across several traffic-clogged pedestrian-friendly intersections to a tour of the plaza outside of the Wiehle Avenue Metro station's still-locked gates.

Screen Shot 2014 07 18 at 10 18 36 AM

It's a magical, often bewildering journey. Fortunately, the scribes at the Post are there to explain what some of the strange sights are:

Screen Shot 2014 07 18 at 10 09 09 AM

This next one doesn't really help answer our earlier question: Is this art? Like, on purpose?

Screen Shot 2014 07 18 at 10 09 13 AM

Maybe they can use some of that extra tape to tie those suckers down, the end.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

With 10 Days to Go, Silver Line Still Needs Some Tape, Names For LoCo Stations

TapeWith 10 days to go before our awesome E-ticket ride to the wonders of Tysons and beyond begins service, we're eagerly anticipating news of yet another delay seeing a fully operational system when we ride walk down the escalators a week from Saturday. Um, right?

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said on Monday that several items DTP should have completed by now are not finished.

One area — the application of heat tape on the third rail — is to be done by the end of July according to the post-operational readiness agreement. Stessel says the heat tape work has not even started.

“It has been disappointing to us to see that the contractor has not been taking advantage of every available work window,” he said. “They could have done much more.”

Stessel said DTP has also not resolved water leaks at several stations. He said that the heat tape, which prevents freezing so it isn’t urgently needed in July, can be applied after opening.
Exactly how hard is it to apply tape? We've hung a few posters in our day -- without a no-bid contract even.

In the meantime, there's a fancy open house on Saturday, where you can see the escalators while they're still running. And the temporary Park and Ride lot on Sunset Hills will close on July 26, the day the Silver Line opens, presumably to allow its owners to forego their $1.46 million in leasing fees and continue to move Reston Town Center's footprint closer to the nearby, someday-to-be-built Metro station there.

But all the ch-ch-ch-changes will be worth the hassle, according to yet another Metro ad, this one not directed at lonely men:

That sweeeeeeet wood paneling screams "early '70s Reston family room," so we totally relate.

Meanwhile, the process for selecting names for the Loudoun County stations to be built in the next phase of the Silver Line has begun, according to (awesomely named) website Ashburn Rising. No one paid attention to our humble suggestions during the first phase, but as is the case with painting hand railings on a no-bid contract, maybe the second time will be the charm:

You're welcome, Loudoun. You're welcome.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Flashback Monday: Cussin' Cider At The Foul-Mouthed Farm Market

You may recall the video about the original Reston Farm Market that lost to a talking dog in the Reston: The Video contest. But now there's a fancy website detailing the market's 23-year run through 1997, when encroaching McMansions development finally prompted it to shut its doors. It's actually a great romp through a much-loved bit of Reston history, including an online memory book sharing favorite moments. It's worth a visit, but we'll just focus on one bit of Farmer's Market lore:

The D Word
Turns out this 1981 ad, aired before the advent of all those cussin' channels on the cable teevee, invited the wrath of some busybodies concerned churchwomen:

Moonshine? Slick advertising? Wow, 1981 was different.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Smokepocalypse Now: Petition to Ban Smoking at Reston Town Center Could Extinguish Last Vestiges of Urban Grittiness

Soon, only the dumpsters will be left smoking at Reston Town Center -- at least if the organizers of a fancy online petition have their way.

Banning smoking around "public seating areas, such as around the fountain" would certainly remove the grit from our gritty urban core, leaving behind nothing but midscale chain restaurants and retail establishments. Why would you want such a hollow existence, Mr Buzzkill online petitioner?

We all know Reston Town Center is beautiful and family friendly. In fact when I ask people why they like it so much, "family friendly and safe" are the common responses. I considered this to be true until last week when I was "smoked out" twice in one day by smokers and forced to move. While I was eating lunch and reading a book in the seating areas by the fountain, someone came and sat down in the table next to me. They proceded to light their cigarette. I can smell it (I'm allergic and sensitive to cigarette smoke) of course being so close. I'm usually alright with this, but unfortunately two other people around me started smoking as well. I had to pack up my lunch, books, and move to the other side where I was no longer in the sun and quite uncomfortable. I don't know if others have had this expierence, but it was rude and ruined my entire lunch. If Reston Town Center is so "safe" and "family friendly", why is smoking, something that has been proven to cause HARM to other people, allowed in public areas? There are always kids running around for god's sake. I'm asking that while smokers sit around other people that don't want to intentionally poison themselves, that they move to a designated smoking area and come back after.
According to our BFFs at Patch, the petition has yet to -- wait for it -- set the world on fire:
So far, the petition has 17 signatures and at least seven of those signatures are from out of state.
As of this morning, the petition has broken the 30-signature mark, meaning it's only a matter of time before the mall RTC security starts focusing on cigarettes instead of cameras.

This shocking development comes after the Reston Association -- which has no jurisdiction over RTC because of bad decisions made decades ago -- voted last year to ban e-cigarettes in public areas and put up a bunch of no-smoking signs. What is the world coming to for smokers? Soon enough, they might have to venture outside of the friendly beige confines of Reston to (shudder) Herndon to light up. Or, you know, just smoke in their yards or on their decks or something, the end.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On the YouTubes: Reston Station From Above

Please to be enjoying this exciting view of Reston from one of the construction cranes working on building the vowel-free, 21-story BLVD apartments at the Wiehle Avenue Metro station. Among other things, we're told the crane operator goes up to the cab every morning with lunch, a drink, and "a bucket." Alrighty then!

We also learn that the first of the parallelogram office buildings to be built on the site is in the permitting process, but that there "is no tenant and no plan, at this point, to construct the 16-story, 350,000-square-foot, Helmut Jahn-designed property on spec." But where will we park the Official Restonian Action News Chopper until the helipad is built? It doesn't quite fit in our carport.

Meanwhile, the Connection news-paper did a "think piece" long article on the imminent arrival of the Silver Line, eliciting this quote from RA President Ken Knueven:

More companies making the move to Reston, with its new access to rail transportation as a factor when choosing an operating location is one of the benefits that Reston Association President Ken Knueven says they’ve been counting on. “The arrival of the Silver Line can’t help but positively impact our area economically through increased business opportunities, job opportunities and up-valuing our real estate.” A Reston resident since 1987, Knueven was quick to make assurances that the Reston values are being protected. “Sustainability, and the connection to the natural, right in our own commercial backyard, is part of what has made Reston the great community it is, and the Reston Association and our many civic organizations are working to ensure that the spirit of Reston is preserved as we move forward. Reston has been at the forefront of visionary community planning since its conception and we will stay there.”

TO THAT END, Knueven expressed his pleasure with the working coalition of so many involved in the Silver Line and the attendant developments. And it’s a pretty large group. Aside from the Reston and Herndon leadership, there is WMATA in the mix, VDOT, county governments and citizens’ advisory groups, and the Dulles Corridor stakeholders. “It’s along the tollway Corridor that you will see most of the development, and the highest density. We may not always agree, but everyone has come to the table, and I am happy to report that the work has been cooperative and goal oriented. Get cars off our roads wherever possible and provide our residents with exceptional opportunities to ‘Live, Work, Play and Get Involved’ – the Reston motto.” Part of Reston’s Phase 2 is focusing on the redevelopment of the town “villages.” “All of this, Metro and Reston’s growth and refreshing, goes together.”

Knueven does wish that the Wiehle-Reston Station East was not the short-term terminus for the Silver Line. “Of course that creates its own problems with traffic, but we have planned and prepared and will do everything we can to offset those problems. We have a variety if multimodal plans in play to make access to Metro and around Reston even easier for bikes, and pedestrians, as well as intersection improvements to help keep the traffic flowing. I really believe the positive effects far outweigh any of the possible growing pains.”
We'll find out soon enough.

Bonus points to the videographer, who, upon returning to the ground, points out that one of the garage's escalators is actually working. That's one more thing to add to the punch list, the end.