News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

"Not an Opportunity for Public Input:" Fairfax County Signals Intent to Move Forward With Reston Zoning Changes, Public Be Damned

It's not what Fairfax County says, it's how they're saying it. What should have been a simple announcement of planned public hearings about the complex -- and controversial -- Reston zoning changes proposed by the county definitely reinforces the idea that, despite cafeterias full of concerned residents and the opposition of virtually every organized Reston group, it's a done deal. Give us some zoning-related blockquote, BFFs at Fairfax County Ministry of Truth and Developer Affairs "Public Affairs:"

Following 17 months of public engagement, Fairfax County will move forward with proposed zoning changes for Reston.
That doesn't exactly sound like the county is going to carefully weigh the pros and cons of the proposed zoning changes, does it? But maybe we've just become hypercritical of the county's motives in the face of statements like "we can't stop development waiting for roads to be built." They work for us, after all, and I'm sure our dedicated public servants relish the idea of more public input. Let's give them a chance and read on, shall we?
The Board of Supervisors is anticipated on Dec. 4 to authorize public hearings on the zoning changes for early next year. The Dec. 4 meeting will not be an opportunity for public input.
"You can't provide public input at the meeting to authorize public input!"

As if that wasn't subtle enough, the press release continues with an equally unsubtle threat:

If the update isn’t ultimately adopted, Reston may lose its unique zoning designation that has shaped the community for the past 50 years, officials warn.
"Nice little planned community you got here, paisano. Two golf courses? Cute! Would be a shame if something happened to its governing documents that have (to date) kept anyone from redeveloping them."

Perhaps we're being oversensitive. After all, the press release did acknowledge the idea isn't universally loved:

While some residents believe development in Reston would be halted if the zoning ordinance update isn’t passed, county planning officials say this is unlikely.
We've been writing this filthy "web log" for more than a decade, and we think it's safe to say no one actually believes that development would suddenly come to a halt and, what, Memco and Burger Chef would suddenly reappear. But thanks to Strawface McStrawman, they've set up a nice bit of false equivalency: you're either for development or against it.

Upon reading this somewhat insulting press release, our first question was, "Did Supervisor Cathy Hudgins sign off on this?" After all, she did halfheartedly promise to continue talks on the zoning proposal with concerned residents, although she clearly believes additional development is important to keep Reston a diverse community in the spirit of Bob Simon's original principles, even though developers to date haven't exactly been thrilled about the idea of providing housing for the Ford Focus crowd.

Others, however, are less willing to give Hudgins the benefit of the doubt. The Coalition for a Planned Reston -- the Traveling Wilburys-like supergroup formed by Reston 20/20, the Reston Citizens Association, and Reclaim Reston -- flatly called her out for "reneging" on her commitment to continued engagement:

The announcement did not explain why Supervisor Hudgins was requesting that the formal zoning process commence without having completed the small group working session activity to which she had committed. Additionally, despite repeated requests by CPR, Fairfax County officials failed to provide answers and materials as they agreed during small group sessions held with CPR and Reston Association over the summer.

CPR will soon announce community action in opposition to Supervisor Hudgins’ announcement. In the meantime please call (703-478-0283) or email Supervisor Hudgins at stating your opposition to her decision to move forward with increasing density in Reston.

Here at Restonian World Headquarters, we've long supported the idea that development is not just inevitable for our plastic fantastic planned community, but also potentially a good thing -- if it's carefully thought through and supported by the reasonable efforts to improve the infrastructure needed to accommodate the growth, not just the "pocket parks" and the An Arts that developers begrudgingly toss our way. We've even tolerated some pretty appalling design elements and workarounds, not to mention the CGI grannies, because we believed better things ultimately could come out of this all.

But... wow. It's hard to read a statement like yesterday's and think the county -- or our own elected representative -- give a fig about any of that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Breaking: Amazon to Western Fairfax: Drop Dead, But You Still Owe Us a Half Billion Dollars For HQ 0.5 (Updated)

Architect's rendering of Amazon's new HQ 1/2.

It was widely assumed almost from the get-go that Amazon would plant its new HQ2 somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area, and for a long time it was sounding like the area around the upside-down CIT building a little ways down the Toll Road was a serious contender, with some other oddly shaped parallelograms closer by perhaps a dark mauve horse? Anyhoo, nothing matters any more because it turns out that Amazon has split its HQ2 proposal between DC and NYC, and the 0.5 units of HQ 2 we're getting is going to Crystal Pepsi City. Guess the creepily deserted underground mall with the puppet store was the winning factor for the mole people of Seattle, who are both unaccustomed to and slightly fearful of bright sunlight.

Anyhoo, the smartest thing Amazon is doing is apparently rebranding Crystal City as "National Landing," which is less bad than some other recent efforts to put a shine on the other oversized soulless office parks in the region (looking at you, "America's Next Great City.") The second smartest thing Amazon did was wring more than a half-billion dollars of concessions from Virginia and Arlington County, plus additional transportation improvements (funny, we're not hearing the "we can't stop development waiting for roads to be built" argument now).

Oh, well. Guess we'll just have to wait for our home values to sextuple again so we can "help" the Commonwealth pay for its largesse, the end.

Update: Get ready for that onslaught of hip young Millennial workers:

Damn straight. We've got pickleball.

Secret's safe with us!

ZOMG, Reston was part of the official presentation to Amazon, describing the rich and diverse housing opportunities for its drones knowledge workers:

If you make a tidy $161K, you can afford to pay for parking, the end.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Save the Giant Beige Band-Aid! Fundraiser to Preserve Fossilized Remnants of Early Reston History Underway at Lake Anne Plaza

Reston's earliest settlers were clearly giants. We don't mean that figuratively, even though they took a giant leap of faith moving deep into the Virginia countryside to townhouses nowhere near a town, ultimately supporting a new model of suburban living that had worldwide influence. Judging by the giant bandage, eye dropper, and utensils that were on the wall of the former Lakeside Pharmacy at Lake Anne Plaza, they must have been approximately 25 to 30 feet tall. Pictures don't lie, folks!

Earlier this year, the iconic decorations were taken off the wall of the former pharmacy, which closed in 2014. The space is in the process of being converted into an exercise spot and some sort of beauty salon, neither of which apparently will offer oversized novelty cutlery and eyedroppers.

Our freakishly large forefathers' loss is history's gain, though. The Reston Historic Trust and Museum is currently conducting a GoFundMe fundraiser to raise $15,000 to permanently display the mutant icons near the entrance to the Plaza. Give us some good fundraising blockquote, Reston Museum BFFs:

In order to preserve these loved icons, the Lake Anne Reston Condominium Association donated the icons to the Reston Historic Trust & Museum in July 2018. On July 17, 2018, the icons were removed by Capitol Museum Services, known for quality work in custom exhibit fabrication and installation. Capitol Museum Services has placed the icons in storage until they can be reinstalled in a new location on the Plaza. The installation is being designed by Jeanne Krohn who designed the Reston Historic Trust & Museum’s exhibits.

We think it is imperative that these icons remain on the plaza at Lake Anne. Last year Lake Anne Village Center was named a national historic district and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The icons are an important part of Lake Anne Village Center’s history, representing an original store that conducted business here for nearly 50 years and the public art which was a hallmark of the new community.

The New York graphic design firm of Chermayeff and Geismar (now Chermayeff, Geismar & Haviv), was hired by Whittlesey & Conklin, the architects of the plaza, and together they treated the storefronts on the plaza as a form of public art. While the main purpose of the Lakeside Pharmacy icons was advertising, the icons are characteristic of the 1960s Pop Art aesthetic and reflected Bob Simon’s wish for fun and whimsical artwork on the plaza. Chermayeff and Geismar were also responsible for creating the logos for NBC and PBS.

Lest you think that these oversized novelty items are less historically significant than a teevee network logo seen by hundreds of millions of people over multiple decades, consider this important piece of evidence:

They were such landmarks they were included on the cover of the Official Reston Resident's Handbook, which our plastic fantastic planned community's early settlers presumably had to memorize on pain of excommunication, possibly to (shudder) Herndon.

Beyond Reston, though, the fancypants elite intelligentsia didn't appreciate the intrusion of commerce into the concrete brutalist playground that Bob Simon gave them, as was made perfectly clear by devoting exactly one (1) sentence of a lengthy article on Lake Anne's sculptures to the decorations:

Pretty sick burn for the pre-Twitter era TBH.

But by preserving these items in amber forever, we can own the libs brutaletists. Joke's on you, fancypants art types!

As of Monday, the Reston Museum has raised $400 of its $15,000 goal, so clicky clicky on the GoFundMe link if you're so inclined. Our future, presumably much taller, Reston residents will thank you, the end.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Now Just No Oaks: Reston Tall Oaks Village Center Meets Its More Than Timely Demise (Updated)

Pour one out, as the kids no longer say, for the long-vacant, little lamented Tall Oaks Village Center Stucco Wasteland, which is finally meeting its maker. The Reston village center that wound up becoming the graveyard of a Giant, two international grocery stories, and the seemingly failure-proof 7-11 and Burger King franchises, finally began getting smashed up into tiny pieces of stucco and sadness on Friday, leaving a Susie de Los Santos-sized hole in our hearts.

Adding insult to injury, Confidential Restonian Operative “Joel” took this cellular telephone photo of Fairfax County firefighters recently smashing holes in the gutted building as practice, we guess, for the next time they need to get into a long-deserted shopping complex awaiting conversion into transit-oriented housing and a smidgen of retail inhabited by hordes of CGI grannies.

After the project, which includes 156 residential units, 8,500 square feet of retail and 6,000 square feet of office space, was approved by the county back in ought-sixteen, we’d wondered why it was taking so long for demolition work to begin. Was it because the bloom was off the Metro boom? Were the developers trying to assuage residents' concerns about limited retail space by covertly developing a shrink ray to compress a full-service Wegmans into 8,500 square feet of retail space?

Hahaha,no, silly rabbits, that would just be crazy! While the county signed off on the general design, the property changed hands and the new developer had recently been going back and forth with officials about whether the planned garage parking spaces could be made smaller. Give us some good minimum-width regulation blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

In an Aug. 21 proposal submitted to the county, Stanley Martin, the contract purchaser of the property, says the county’s requirements for the size of garages, which are included in original entitlements, are too generous and create a “design challenge that is inconsistent with the planned site layout.” The county requires personal garages to have a minimum width of 11.5 feet for single-car garages and 20 feet for two-car garages.
Maybe the firefighters were practicing punching holes in those fancy new garages so people can open their doors after parking. Or maybe this is all overwrought. After all, these cars will fit perfectly!

Construction is slated to begin in March, and Tall Oaks' last two remaining businesses have already relocated to the two pieces of the village center that will remain standing -- Paisano's Pizza to the former 7-11/Curves building, and the Fur Factory to the office building nearby. But still, the demolition marks the end of a kinder, gentler village center, one where one could pick up some sexist bread for dinner or choose from several legitimately great dining options (RIP Mama Wok's, El Manantial, Pho 75, et. al.) and grab one of those old-timey videocassettes to "Betamax and chill," as the oldsters never used to say but would have been pretty cool if they did.

Sad Tall Oaks.jpg

We’ll let Tall Oaks’ onetime symbol of hope for retail revitalization have the final word.

Farewell, stucco emporium of our dreams.

Tall Oaks 1

Update: The first of two hearings on the skinny garage issue is scheduled for November 15. CRO "Joel" sent us another cellular telephone photo of what's left of Tall Oaks after a few days of hot bulldozer-on-stucco action (spoiler alert: not much).

"They sort similar materials into piles, presumably for recycling," he says. "My wife was surprised that there is a market for used stucco."

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

On Reston's Trails, The Nanny State Is Alive And Well

Welcome back, animated gifs from 1997

You'd think, what with America being Great Again and whatnot, all those pesky gumbint regulations would be null and void, and we'd finally be free to smoke our Juul, or whatever the kids call it these days, as we fire our anti-aircraft guns loaded with extra copies of The Fountainhead into the center of Lake Newport, because freedom.

Well silly rabbits, you'd be wrong, because in the objectively socialist People's Republic of Reston, the NANNY STATE is alive and well, still telling us we can't smoke on Reston Association property with its oppressive, freedom-robbin' signs. Thankfully, as our favorite correspondent, the Peasant from Less Sought After South Reston, points out, some Right Thinking Americans recently struck a blow for freedom, only to be harshly repressed by representatives of the Deep (Ochre) State. Here's his account:

While out and about (or, as they would say in Reston, Manitoba, “oot and aboot”) in our autumnal woodlands recently, the Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston stumbled across evidence of yet another rip in the social fabric that binds all Restonians together.

Remember when our earth-toned overlords at the RA decided to order those overpriced special signs banning smoking in our protected open space? Apparently some unwoke anti-social element – perhaps a dissolute youth with the snarky screen name of “Nick O’Tine” – took exception to this diktat and pushed back with an in-your-face “LOL”. Such impudence of course could not go unanswered, so…Nanny State to the rescue!

Who was Nanny? We cannot help but think that a latter day Miss Emily Litella, as immortalized by Gilda Radner from the original Saturday Night Live cast, with her knickers all cattywampus and having a conniption fit (to use two phrases we say here Deep in the Heart of Dixie Reston, bless your heart), made the sincere if somewhat futile editorial reply to LOL.

So, as Nanny Litella might state in all her befuddled glory on the RA YouTube channel, “What’s all this fuss I keep hearing about that hell is no laughing matter? Of course it’s not! Who wants to get poked in the wazoo with a pitchfork for all eternity...”

(Alarmed RA functionary intervenes) “Nanny Litella, that’s health is no laughing matter, not hell.”

“Oh. Never mind”.

Health is other people.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Parallelograms Gettin' STUFFED: Google, CVS Coming to Reston Station in Hot Commercial Real Estate Action

V. v. exciting news for fans of transit-oriented development and glass parallelograms: After sitting all but vacant for more than a year, Google is reportedly in talks to become a tenant of the Helmut Jahn designed, neon bedecked parallelogram at Reston Station. Google "woonerf" on Bing dot com, y'all, because our favorite earth-toned community is on fire!

Give us some good commercial leasing blockquote, BFFs at Washington Business Journal:

The Mountain View, California-based company is in talks to lease about 100,000 square feet from Comstock Cos. at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza, a trophy, 365,000-square-foot office building designed by architect Helmut Jahn. It is not clear what the company has in mind for the space or how close it is to an executed lease.

The deal would be a significant coup for Comstock, which delivered the 16-story 1900 Reston Metro Plaza more than a year ago but has scored only one office lease, with coworking space provider Spaces. The developer was said to have been in contention for at least two major prospects, Leidos Holdings Inc. and Nestle's U.S. headquarters, but both ultimately landed elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

Guess that totally metal viral advertising campaign worked after all.

It's unusual for office towers of this scope to be built on spec, but it's also pretty unusual to have two major anchor tenants casting about for space at the same time, so maybe the decision to move forward with building the long boi office building currently going up next to the parallelogram makes sense after all.

Speaking of which, that building, slated to open in 2020, has announced its first retail tenant: faux urban-curious CVS, which also has a location at Reston Town Center. Give us some exciting press release-generated blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

Christopher Clemente, CEO of Comstock Holding Companies, Inc., said the tenant, which signed a twenty-year lease with three five-year options, will bring “virtually every item one needs for daily living” to residents, tenants, and commuters in the area.
Since CVS has been in the news of late for its absurdly long receipts, perhaps the company wanted a space near the walkway to the Metro station so their patrons can unroll their receipts to look for that one elusive 50-cent off coupon for their next purchase of off-brand Q-tips, the end.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Caddyshackpocalypse Now: With Its 'Grand Park' Proposal, Wheelock Is Moving the Goalposts For Hidden Creek Golf Course

It's been a while since we've checked in with either of Reston's most primo parcels of sweeeeeeeeeeet Metro-proximate development-ready land golf courses. After holding a bunch of focus groups this summer, developers open-space aficionados Wheelock Communities, whose sister company happened to snap up neighboring Charter Oaks apartments for those sweet golf course views reasons, is preparing to make, as they say in the movies, an Offer Reston Can't Refuse. Give us some good blockquote, Wheelock's Dan Green:

The team presented a vision for a world-class, 100-acre Grand Park that the entire Reston community would be able to enjoy and shape. In creating this vision, our team examined other signature parks such as Merriweather Park in Columbia, Md., and Prospect Park in New York City. The vision presented included both passive and active recreational amenities, an indoor tennis facility, the Blue Trail and other trails providing community connectivity as well as cultural elements that adhere to Bob Simon’s Principals [sic] for Reston.

The Grand Park preserves more than 60 percent of the site as public open space. With additional trails and open spaces included within the development areas, as much as 75 percent could be open space. The remaining land would be planned for a variety of housing, some of which will help meet Reston’s needs for senior, workforce and affordable housing to continue Reston’s heritage of being an inclusive community. The exact number of homes has not been discussed as we are in a conceptual stage. However, we can say the housing, if approved, would be a mix of townhouses, single family and multi-family homes.

That proposal has been fine-tuned from this summer's focus group sessions, where Wheelock representatives talked about four different options:
  • Leaving the golf course as it is (hello, strawman)
  • A little bit of development with "lower public benefit" (described as "an alternative form of golf," like maybe the kind with frisbees?)
  • More development and some "medium public benefit" (like maybe a barbecue pit or something?)
  • High density development and "destination-worthy open-space amenities" (like, you know, a golf course, except not).

We've got to admit, the high-density, high-amenity option is appealing, and it does adhere to the principles set laid out by Bob Simon, who repeatedly said it was high density that made all of Reston's green space possible and would have had multiple Heron House-like high-rises ringing Lake Anne had the late 60s, free love version of NIMBYs not gotten in his way. And you've got to give Wheelock credit for putting time and effort into trying to engage with the community, unlike a certain insurance company that thought it could arrogantly bulldoze its way into building midrise woonerfy awesomeness without engaging anybody.

The only problem is that Reston's comprehensive plan stipulates the land cannot be used for anything but a golf course or open space. As our BFFs at Rescue Reston point out:

Reston homeowners must abide by the agreement that they made when buying here: to be Reston Association members, pay RA dues, and agree to the land-use rules that apply.

Purchasers of the golf courses in Reston should be equally bound. Wheelock knew—just as we homeowners did—that they were buying into a planned community with stipulated land-use rules that restrict what owners can do with their property. And the golf course land is NOT for housing.

The next step in the process? Wheelock is presenting its vision for the Grand Park to the Reston Association on September 27, followed by a presentation from Rescue Reston. Of course, the RA has no power over what happens; that's ultimately up to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which could entertain a rezoning proposal from Wheelock. We've said before the county hasn't exactly been a staunch defender of Reston's principles at all times, and a promise to build a sweeeeeeet Grand Park the county doesn't have to pay for itself would certainly be an attractive enticement for it to overlook some of those principles, just as county planners overlooked Hidden Creek in the first place when it stuck a proposed road across a couple of the fairways a while back.

(Oh, and in case if you're wondering if that "road to nowhere" that mysteriously appeared in county planning documents was some kind of wacky, sitcom-like mixup, we finally learned that the county has no plans to remove it, because reasons.) Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

County officials say the road is entirely conceptual in nature, but could possibly be needed to improve connectivity if planned redevelopment happens in the Isaac Newtown Square area. The road could also relieve congestion at the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue by serving as an alternative route to Sunset Hills Road, according to Robin Geiger of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

“As with any new roadway design, the county will work to minimize negative impacts on existing uses and the environment. In staff’s view, the planned road being shown as part of the conceptual street network does not negatively affect the viability of the Hidden Creek Golf Course,” Geiger said.

All's we know is if we wind up getting a Grand Park, we want horse-drawn carriage rides down the "road to nowhere." If Reston is well on its way to becoming Manhattan, as some metric-challenged critics have argued, we want all the attendant perks.