News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Reston Native Plays Jeopardy, Sadly Gets No Question About Landlocked HOAs

Yet another Restonian has taken the stage on Jeopardy, everyone's favorite teevee show of obscure trivia. Our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, weighs in with a recap:
"Today's Jeopardy categories are: Planned Communities - Earth Tones - Charrettes - Cathy Hudgins - Massive Overdevelopment - Willie Reston East Metro"

Alas, no, nary a Reston-themed subject in the mix, but we are still hopeful that Reston's own Scott Simpson will prevail in tonight's Jeopardy. Scott, a Foreign Service officer who by definition must be well-rounded, is up against current champ Rich Blashka and fellow newcomer Kelly Lasiter.

In the first round, Scott gets off to a somewhat slow start but then comes roaring back a couple of minutes in as he knocks out a string of correct answers in categories as diverse as video games and Shakespeare. At the first commercial break his $4,000 puts him in the lead. When Alex Trebek interviews the contestants afterwards, he notes that Scott has served in some dangerous countries, and Scott lists among his overseas assignments Libya, Afghanistan, and Australia. No doubt the first two are indeed very hazardous; not sure about Oz, though, unless those 'roos have gone rogue. At the end of round one, Scott is in the lead with $6,200 to Kelly's $5,000 and Rich's $4,600.

Double Jeopardy features a Trebekian potpourri of categories from "Italian Composers" to "Cowboy Talk" and, ironically enough, "Oz". In the category "When Walls Fell", Scott does extremely well, making us think he has just taken himself out of the running for the job of Ambassador to Mexico (Build that wall, Scott! Not the exact opposite!). But since he also scores well in the category of Italian composers, maybe the job of cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Rome is his for the asking. An incorrect daily double answer by champ Rich, combined with a correct answer by Scott on the other daily double, extends Scott's lead, and with only one category left, he pulls far ahead of his two competitors. At the end of the second round, Scott has $19,000, Kelly $11,400, and Rich $10,200. Scott's total is subsequently upped even more to $21,400 when the judges accept an answer previously marked against him.

The final Jeopardy category is "Landlocked Country Names", and given Scott's worldwide career, we figure it's Reston for the win. But it's a tricky question: "One in Europe and one in Africa, these two countries have the same two letters at the start and end with the same four letters." Only Kelly comes up with the correct answer of Switzerland and Swaziland, giving her a winning amount of $22,800. Scott ends up in second place with $19,999 and ex-champ Rich a distant last with $200.

Swaziswitzerland notwithstanding, we are proud of Scott for playing a very good game, even if there is no tickertape parade awaiting him on a victory lap through Reston Town Center in a RIBS bus.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Reston Development: Choose Your Poison

Lovely renderings of proposed developments adjoining the future Vaguely Near Reston Town Center Metro station on both sides of the Toll Road provide a glimpse of our hellish dystopian post-urban future what transit-oriented development is starting to look like in our beloved earth-toned community. As the kids may have liked to say back in the 1940s, choose your poison:

Super-dense high rises or undistinguished midrise residential with the (possible) much-delayed Reston debut of the beloved "Texas donut", without nary an interesting parallelogram in sight. Great choices!

To be fair, the RTC Gateway rendering at top, which recently resurfaced in the media, is actually at least a few years old. No doubt developer Boston Properties has since been feverishly fine-tuning the plans to be as responsive to community concerns about cramming a whopping 3.94 million square feet of mixed-use awesomeness into the current gaps between RTC and the Toll Road as it has been about paid parking and.... sorry, we thought we could get through this sentence without laughing, but then we remembered the collective breath-holding until the county approves its fun new proposed zoning ordinance amendment to allow essentially no caps on density in some parts of Reston and the laughter stopped.

If the county wants to know why Reston groups are getting so riled up, including the recent Reclaim Reston proposal to issue a moratorium on all unsubmitted development projects, maybe they should look at these renderings. Or maybe approach Reston's much-needed infrastructure improvements with the same urgency as they implemented the taxes to pay for them.

We actually think Metro-oriented development is a good thing; we'd rather live in a community that's thriving and growing than one that's not. Besides, Reston really needed another Starbucks and some sweeeet pop-up retail, and we can't wait to woonerf our way to McTacoHut. But the county really needs to step up and be more responsive to Restonians' concerns, and maybe make sure what they're approving makes sense and is supported by infrastructure the day it's completed, not some vague point in the future after the Sleestaks emerge from level G7 of the Wiehle Metro garage to rule the earth.

And lest we think that it's totally normal for it to take a pedestrian bridge nearly a decade to be built, please to be checking out this exciting You Tubes video of the second-largest ball of twine on the Eastern seaboard one of only 24 covered bridges in Virginia, lovingly (and much more quickly) restored by the Reston Association:

If you like lengthy discussions of corroded I-beams, whatever those are, this video is your "jam," as the kids probably no longer say, the end.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

80spocalypse Now: Yet Another Reston 'Landmark' Falls To The Wrecking Ball

From the Facebooks, this poignant cellular telephone photograph depicts the demolition of this 30-year-old office building along Sunrise Valley Drive, right next to where a legitimate brutalist masterpiece of concrete and unflattering right angles was flattened last year to make room for some unremarkable townhouses. Looks like our efforts to spark a similar wave of support for preserving this equally iconic reminder of the last great unfettered Fairfax County building boom went unheeded. As another great real estate developer might say, Sad!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Flashback Monday: A Video Trip Back To 1987, When Woodsy Reston Was Even Woodsier

Set the controls of the Earth Toned Wayback Machine to 1987, when YouTubes user "Cowboy Frank" recorded a fancy VHS "video tape" of a motorcycle ride through our woodsy nirvana. The picture above shows "Cowboy Frank" driving up (then, as now, as shall ever be) Temporary Road, taking in the breathtaking vista of our favorite "stressful city-like shopping center" ELITE clump of trees while navigating around the shockingly boxy cars that were the vogue then. Of course, given the size and weight of video recording equipment back then, it's a surprise the motorcycle didn't tip over every time "Cowboy Frank" made a turn.

Thrill along to this exciting loop around an even woodsier Reston of yesteryear, from a starting point on Chimney House Drive near Lake Anne, to North Shore to Wiehle to Fairway to (then as now) Temporary Road to Reston Parkway (nee Reston Avenue) to Baron Cameron to North Shore and back home. Mostly you see woods. Lots and lots of woods, interspersed with some of the finest motor vehicles of the K Car era. A few "highlights":

Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland on the left, invisible then as now. No CGI grannies for another three decades, but there's some rando dude out for a relaxing stroll down Wiehle on the right.

The intersection of Reston Avenue and Baron Cameron, with Home Depot (then Hechinger's? Definitely not Memco?) in the background. Classic big box architecture is timeless. And speaking of which...

Back in the 80s, no big box stores surrounded the then massive four-story office building soon to be home to Reston's tallest mauvecsraper. Which of course means that the Macaroni Grill is still to be, and still to be cut down in the Great Chain Eatery Attrition of the Oughts.

Dammit! We told ourselves we were not going to cry, the end.

Monday, June 5, 2017

No Way To Run A Railroad, Or A Swimming Pool For That Matter

Confidential Restonian Operative “Adam” sent us this "Twitter pic" of the useful signage to help people do the one thing they voluntarily go to RA Headquarters to do: pick up a pool pass. Apparently more people than usual are having trouble with what we're going to stop calling WebTrak and start calling PoolRTC, in honor of another exceptional app the people of Reston love, so they've set up a process to help people through.... the process.

Now, we’re not what the kids call “UX” design experts, but any process which requires this much explanation is probably not the most efficient. We feel sorry for the front office staff at RA headquarters trying to help people through this mess, though the multiple lines and explanations make a trip to the DMV look distinctly non-Soviet by comparison.

Also, if we’re going to have this fancy rule requiring pool pass applicants to submit photos in order to crack down on the menace of BIG TIME SWIMMING POOL FRAUD, couldn’t they have added a, whazzitcalled, “upload button” to the WebTrak SwimRTC system instead of requiring people to send photos to a random email address? And what’s next, urine samples so they can sequence the DNA of perpetrators of future pool “accidents” and bring them to justice?

Alls we know is that the RA loves their flowcharts, like this one to remind them to actually tell people before they start ripping up fields and whatnot:

Looks like we should have opted for the UX major instead of the "web logging" one when we shelled out for our PhD by mail degree, the end.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

RTC Partialpaidparkingpocalypse Now: Boston Properties Backs Off On Paid Parking, Makes First Hour, Evenings Free (Updated)

Facing lawsuits, a loss of goodwill and foot traffic (with one exception), confused astronauts, and general embarrassment over its ham-handed implementation, Boston Properties has backed off slightly on its awesome paid parking initiative at our favorite fake downtown "stressful city-like shopping center." Starting next week, the first hour of parking at RTC will be free, and so are evenings after 5 and (as has always been the case) weekends. Um, yay?

Let's hear the elite crisis managers earn their retainer:

Based on a study of traffic patterns and behaviors as well as retailer input--
We think that was loud and clear.
--Boston Properties identified that one hour of free parking and free parking after 5 p.m. would address the primary concerns expressed by the community while still supporting the original goals of paid parking: protecting the parking rights of RTC tenants and visitors and augmenting revenue dedicated to community reinvestment.
"Community reinvestment?" LOL.

The change is long overdue, and good on BPX for recognizing the damage they've already done and manning shoppingcentering up. But it's still not ideal -- people will still be rushing through their midscale chain lunches to avoid getting ticketed, something that could have been easily addressed by making two hours free. And while they're making changes to the parking kiosks, the ever-popular ParkRTC app has yet to be tossed onto the ashheap of smartphone detritus with the likes of Angry Birds and Draw Something. In fact, you need it even to get your one hour of free parking before 5pm. But haters gonna hate, revenue's gotta be augmented, and crisis managers gotta eat, amirite?

But be warned: On-street parking is still paid at all times. Or, as the crisis managers put it:

To ensure convenient parking for RTC retail customers, there will be no changes to the existing street parking structure.
Translation: The bumblebee isn't going back in dry storage just yet.

Update: According to this fancy online poll, fewer than 1 in 5 people think that Boston Properties have made this right. The rest are almost evenly split between thinking 2-3 hours of free parking is more appropriate and wanting parking free at all times (not gonna happen).

Also, this insightful comment:

To understand Boston Properties' debacle with paid parking, take 3:45 minutes to watch this video from 2011 of Reston business and civic leaders praising Boston Properties for embracing Reston's community concept and ethic.

Boston Properties had been one of the shining regional examples of how to blend community with development. But early last year, something changed within the company. Some tone-deaf company executives decided on a bone-headed plan to charge for weekday and weeknight parking at a town center where parking had been free for 25 years. From the start, the plan was ill-conceived, drawing the company needlessly in a fight with the same community that had praised it for years. Among other things, the company failed to consider the impact of fees on low-wage workers, forcing BP to backpedal. The company announced the fees without first informing its tenants, leading to lawsuits and ill will. The company failed to gauge community sentiment, and make itself available to the public to explain its reasoning. Worst of all, the company failed--until now-- to consider a reasonable compromise to allow some free parking on weekdays and weeknights. It has been a textbook public relations fiasco from the start, and may take years for Boston Properties to restore its reputation in Reston.