News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Red Alert: Reston Wegmans Rumors Exciting, But Also A Good Test Of What's To Come

The recent rumor that fancypants grocery store Wegmans is considering a Reston location just south of the Toll Road on Sunrise Valley Drive is v. v. exciting. Finally, all those smug Loudounites, what with their "town centers" with, whazzitcalled, "free parking" and all those particleboard homes with, whazzitcalled, "two-story foyers" and "one-sided brick facades" no longer have bragging rights to the one thing they have that is indisputably better than their western Fairfax brethren: a grocery store with prepared food and... what, sushi? We're not exactly sure. But we haven't been so excited since the grocery that used the feminine wiles of "Susie de los Santos" to peddle sexist bread first opened at Tall Oaks!

Far be it from this filthy "web log" to dampen everyone's enthusiasm about this potential bonanza of shrink-wrapped grilled green peppers, but here's a few HOT TAKES that we should all stop and consider:

1. The site Wegmans is reportedly considering, currently home to some dowdy one-story concrete association office buildings, is also the future site of the proposed -- and much-needed -- Soapstone Connector bridge -- something that might get built someday, assuming the county can find the remaining $167.5 million needed to build what must be a very fancy bridge. Given the opportunity to get some sweeeeeeeet tax revenue in the shorter run, will the county stick to its guns and demand the connector road stay there, essentially making the property unsuitable for a low-rise shopping center surrounded by acres of surface parking?

2. Given its proximity to the Metro, even without the Soapstone connector plans, is this really the best place for a low-rise shopping center surrounded by acres of surface parking? Or will Wegmans, which like its Loudoun customer base doesn't prefer being part of "stressful city-like shopping centers" (with a few exceptions), become part of some mixed-use development full of woonerf and whatnot? Or is this all just a negotiating ploy as it looks at other, presumably less expensive, property closer to (gasp) Herndon?

3. With plans to push even denser, less car-oriented development than ever before, will the county stick to its guns -- or just go for the sweeeeeet short-term tax revenue?

It's a good test of principles and promises made on the part of county planners. But given recent events, I think we all know the answer to those three questions. At least we'll have access to some nice prepackaged sushi, though it'll spoil by the time we make it back across the Toll Road through all the gridlocked traffic, the end.

Friday, May 19, 2017

If There's No One To Take A Selfie at RTC, Does That Make It A 'Lonie'?

Please to be enjoying this cellular telephone photo from the busy lunch rush at our favorite fake downtown "stressful city-like shopping center" "texted," or maybe "Snapchatted," to us by a Confidential Restonian Operative. Sure looks like all that recent unpleasantness about paid parking has finally died down and normalcy restored to our vibrant commercial hub. Let's step back and check out all the vibrancy!


You may not have to wait in line for that classic RTC selfie replicating a smartphone app people actually want to use -- but don't try taking any other photos. Just ask the teevee news crew that recently got busted by RTC's ever-vigilant Parking Brigade, in keeping with longstanding policy at our favorite ersatz third place.

The crisis managers couldn't buy better publicity. We're still not sure why the local Action McNews Team from Hagerstown, Maryland, decided to do a story about paid parking in Reston, but after RTC owner Boston Properties got embarrassed by a question about the pushback against paid parking at RTC during a Wall Street earnings call a few weeks back, we guess word got around or something.

The concept of "embedding" "video" hasn't quite made it to Hagerstown just yet (they'll get it shortly after color tevee maybe?), but you can watch the Action McNews crew getting busted at the link here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lake Anne Is For Lovers, At Least For One Week In June

V.v. exciting news from everyone's favorite playground of brutalist concrete adornments, child-free children's fountains, and raw materials for jet-age air conditioning! Turns out that the state's "Virginia Is For Lovers" tourism campaign is adding yet another assortment of structures to Lake Anne Plaza for a week in June -- the giant "LOVE" letters pictured above in a slightly less brutalist setting.

To be displayed at Lake Anne from June 9 through June 14, the LOVE letters befit Lake Anne's recently signposted status as the Colonial Williamsburg of Concrete. It'll be fun to have the LOVE letters there for the week, though we'll be angling for a slightly more permanent -- and site-specific -- addition.

You're welcome, Lake Anne. You're welcome.

Monday, May 8, 2017

On the YouTubes: Rescue Reston Protest Makes The Teevee

Please to be enjoying this highly professional screen grab of the Action McNews coverage of Rescue Reston's Sunday protest in front of Northwestern Mutual's headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive. More than 100 people showed up to caution prospective Reston National Golf Course purchasers to "buy a golf course if you wish, but know that recreational open space is all you will have." All in all, a bit more positive than the last viral video of note to surface from Reston over the weekend, the end.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Secret Sauce of Reston’s Hottest New Viral Video? Causal Bigotry at Trader Joe’s (Updated)

Man oh man, the kids sure do love those viral YouTube videos, so it’s really exciting to know that our own Reston, Va. is now “on the map” with a viral vid that’s setting social media en fuego!

Unfortunately, this particular video doesn’t involve cute animals, or regrettable groin-related injuries, or even an obese adolescent playing with a lightsaber. Instead, it’s a first-person account of some causal bigotry at the Reston Trader Joe’s:

Here's the alleged account, as shared on Facebook and other social media:

My wife was in line at Trader Joe's in Reston earlier today. The store was packed with every lane full. She offered this lady to jump ahead in line since she only had to buy one item and didn't want to stand in the long lines. She had voiced her annoyance with Trader Joe's for not having an express lane so my wife, the kind person that she is, let her cut in front of her.

Then it started. She pointed to the other side of the store and asked my wife if she saw "that woman". My wife didn't know who she was referring to so she asked "who?". It was a lady in a hijab and a nikab (face covered). So the woman then says, "she's Muslim" and rolled her eyes. When my wife said "so?" obviously not sharing in her disgust, she laughed and said "oh wait, you must be Muslim too?”

She went on to ask why my wife didn't cover like the "other woman." When my wife tried to explain to her that it was a choice, etc. she laughed and made more crude racist, xenophobic remarks about Muslims. To be honest, my wife said she wasn't prepared and didn't know how to respond back in the moment. My wife started recording a little late but apparently this lady’s rant lasted at least 3-4 minutes.

This video pretty much hits a 2017 fever dream hat trick. Shock at a Muslim born in the United States? Check. Obama a secret Muslim and about to go to jail for presumably secret Muslim crimes? Check and check. A confidence that if not America, the Reston Trader Joe’s will soon be Great Again? Check.

Like many viral videos ultimately proved to be staged, it’s all so ridiculous that you’d think it was an elaborately acted out hoax. We’re pretty sure it’s not.

We’re also not sure exactly what identifying the person in the video will do to help anyone, as anything anyone does to hold her accountable, if not illegal and/or immoral, will just fit neatly into her worldview — that the PC world is out to Destroy America and will ruin anyone brave enough to try to make America Great Again. It's helpful, though, to be reminded of where we are in 2017, even in a place like Reston -- and at a Trader Joe's in Reston, which you would think would be home to the crunchiest of the crunchy folks who call our earth-toned Nirvana home.

As a great leader would say, Sad!

Update: The alleged person in the video tells her side of the alleged story.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Caddyshackpocalypse Sometime: RNGC Protest To Give Would-Be Buyers 'A Taste Of What They'd Be In For,' And They Don't Mean Unlimited Appetizers at RTC

Hey, remember that time a giant insurance company bought Reston National Golf Course and was all like "syc naw," as the kids might have said at some point, and then tried to get permission to build like 99-story mauvescrapers on the land, and when that didn't work out so great, decided to sell it as Florida swampland primo development property with a killer location right next to the Metro and employers and destroyed brutalist masterpieces and lorem ipsum and maybe a bunch of unhappy and highly vocal neighbors that have so far managed to thwart every development move?

Yeah, that was awesome. With the property still on the market, our BFFs at Rescue Reston are planning another protest rally for Sunday (the picture above is from a similar protest back in ought-twelve). In commercial real estate parlance, this is roughly the equivalent of taking off your shirt and wandering around your yard muttering about UFOs while your next-door-neighbor is having an open house, except maybe it's $200 million at stake. And in true Reston fashion, you can wear any color you like, so long as it's yellow!

We will rally in front of the Northwestern Mutual office (between the Westin and Sheraton). Wear anything yellow and protest signs welcome! We're going to send a message to the majority owner of the golf course (Northwestern Mutual) and potential bidders that Reston will not stop defending the 166 acres across Sunrise Valley Drive from the NWM office. Photos will be sent to the press.

The course is for sale and we want to discourage bidding at a development price. The more that we show speculators that it will be extremely difficult-to-impossible to change the land use designation, the better the chance that a good steward of the land will be able to purchase it. A land use change from open space requires multiple public hearings - let's give them a taste of what they'd be in for!

The protest will begin at 1pm on Sunday at 11790 Sunrise Valley Drive. For more, visit here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

St. Johnspocalypse Maybe: Deferral of North Reston Development Plans Could Be a Revelation for Tempering Future Plans, Or Just Go Up in Smoke

We learned last week that plans to redevelop North Reston's St. John's Wood into the usual bollardy goodness have been deferred. Some 418 units of midrise awesome will now go unbuilt... for now.

As always, we offer the usual caveats: a deferred project is far from a defeated one; developers can always wait for "market conditions" to improve or riled up Restonians to focus their attention on another outrage or just forget about that nice cluster just sitting there, wouldn't it be a shame if something happened to it?

The proposal, which has been floating around for a couple of years, at least, is a good template for the battles we've already seen -- and will continue seeing -- as development pressures move away from the areas closest to the Toll Road and Metro stations. After all, they're not making any more golf courses land! Basically, developers will claim that the comprehensive plan calls for denser development than what is currently there, while neighbors will point out (correctly) that plans don't account for the additional traffic and demands on county services, much less quality of life issues.

Fortunately, between this and the ongoing brouhaha over the future of Reston National Golf Course, we're starting to see a fairly successful template for, if not stopping development outright -- which ain't going to happen, and really shouldn't happen -- ensuring that it's at least more reasonable than it would be otherwise. It includes:

Organized opposition. Whether it's Rescue Reston or the Reclaim Reston group that formed to oppose St. John's Wood, these groups have had an impact that random people speaking at public hearings haven't in the past. Recent organized opposition to proposed soccer fields at Lake Newport also put the RA's feet to the fire in a way it hasn't often felt.

Unlikely heroes. Somewhere down the line, the DRB stopped just dickering about the color of people's doors and started focusing on some more meaningful things, too. They pretty much singlehandedly prevented the as-of-yet-unbuilt Fairway Apartments development from being, as one member called one of the earlier proposals, "a South Florida motel design." And with St. John's, the vice chair made a compelling enough point about "internal overdevelopment" that the developers' attorney complained about its treatment at their hands. We mean, listen to this:

“Contextualism is a term that suggests an architecture that responds to its surroundings by respecting what’s already there, and I think we have a problem here because I don’t think that’s happening,” Newlon said. “I think you guys [Bozzuto] are going to really have to look at the design and do what you can, both from a massing standpoint and, as we get to it, an architectural standpoint.”
That's a lot more compelling than WHUT NO WHITE STONE, that's for sure.

Catchy tag lines. So maybe "if the [design] doesn't fit, they must quit" sounds a bit like something you'd hear in a brick-walled comedy club in the 1990s. But messaging matters. The Save Brown's Chapel folks figured that out when they created the second-best video in the history of Reston, and we can finally say "size matters" at a public hearing and not get arrested.

But the news isn't all good. There are plans afoot to change zoning ordinances throughout much of Reston to allow more density, in theory to accommodate already approved changes to Reston's comprehensive plan. And planning assumptions made for the areas right around the Metro stations are, Reston 2020's Terry Maynard argues, deceptive:

Based on GSF information provided by FCDOT to the Supervisors serving as the Board Transportation Committee, the current Reston station area plan offers the potential for 76,280 added residents (at 2.0 residents/DU) and 29,059 added office worker jobs (at 300GSF/worker) in the next four decades.

If instead of using the County’s faulty planning assumptions, we use real world experience, we can anticipate that the allowable development could result in an addition of 101,492 total residents in 50,746 DUs and 78,559 office workers, including retrofitted office buildings, market conditions permitting. More specifically, it suggests an order of magnitude explosion in residents (11,720 in 2010 vs. 113,212 then) and more than twice as many office employees (69,941 in 2010 vs. 148,500 then) in Reston’s station areas. Overall, Reston can expect twice as many people living and working in the station areas as is anticipated by the Reston plan.

Finally, DRB vice chair Richard Newlon made a scary point. Give us some prophetic blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:
Roughly 10 percent of the 134 clusters in Reston are owned by developers such as Bozzuto, JBG and Lerner. He said the St. Johns Wood project is a “precedent-producing application.”

“One of my concerns is if all of those 13 or so clusters do the same thing, Reston as Reston exists today is gone,” he said. “Reston as we know it would cease to exist.”

Might want to keep polishing those catchphrases, guys.