News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Caddyshackpocalypse Now: Alcorn Says Reston Isn't Biting on RNGC 'Vision,' So Developers May Return to an Older Tactic

Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn announced yesterday that he's heard from the neighborhoods around Reston National Golf Course, which despite being choked by invasive plants and lacking basic amenities such as saladaries and axe-throwing establishments apparently haven't bought into the new vision proposed by RNGC's owners, even with the grassroots study group open bars and whatnot. Ungrateful peasants! Give us a sweet pie chart/map combo and some good governing blockquote, Sup. Alcorn:

The numbers speak for themselves. Therefore, as with Hidden Creek, I do not support changing the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan’s current designation of this property as a golf course and consider this matter closed.

Alcorn's statement follows a similar rebuff on the other side of the Toll Road two years ago, when developer Wheelock attempted to sell its own neighboring clusters around Hidden Creek Golf Course on the vaporware notion of a "Grand Park" in exchange for a bunch of new development. 

This is also a great time to remind folks why a different developer and others were willing to invest $255 a vote for what would ordinarily be a nearly meaningless seat on a county board of supervisors, because of... reasons.

But all this isn't over, not by a long shot. Give us some sweet by-right blockquote, BFFs at Patch:

In an Aug. 30 Facebook Live interview with Patch, Steven Siegel, a partner with Weller Development, said the owners would pursue their existing zoning rights if they were unable to obtain Alcorn's support for a change to the comprehensive plan.

A portion of the golf course is zoned medium density residential and the golf course itself has by-right ancillary uses, according to Siegel.

"That could be anything from a hotel and conference center to support the golf use to a two-level golf experience range with food and beverage and entertainment options, where we can do a really special golf experience and keep a championship nine-hole course," he said.

The by-right argument is something RNGC's previous would-be developers tried to take all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court before backing off and finding a greater fool new buyer. But sticking to uses closer to the original land designation—in other words, a golf course—seems sort of like a different argument, at least to those of us who have passed the prestigious Grenada and Lower Antilles Bar exam. Could we see a 99-story "golf clubhouse" full of condos justified by a ground-floor storefront where some minimum wage flunkie hands out golf clubs? Would razing 9 holes of the golf course be okay so long as the new streets upon which 5-over-1s will be built have names like "Duffers Lane" and "Chip Shot Court"?  (We've already seen brutally honest street names for new builds across the Toll Road.) Or would a miniature golf course/axe throwing establishment surrounded by midscale chain retail and endless surface parking meet the by-right requirements?

No word on what all this means for South Reston's criminally low "walkability scores" and invasive plant crisis, but we're guessing we've heard about them for the last time, the end.

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Macaroni Grill Lives On, Albeit Six Time Zones Away

V. v. exciting news from Confidential Restonian Operative "Stephen." On a trip halfway around the globe, he made a shocking discovery:

As former peasants from less sought after South Reston, we are long-time followers of the Oracle of Reston (AKA “Restonian”).  Last week while visiting the island of Hawaii (AKA “The Big Island”), we sought lunch in a very Reston-like shopping area in a “resort community” that clearly had very strong HOA control over architecture and whatnot. 

Imagine our excitement to find the “anchor” chain eatery was none other than Macaroni Grill!  Complete with “island vibe” including an Aloha sign over the exit and a surfboard sporting the Macaroni Grill logo over the kitchen.   

As a wise man once said, no matter where you go, there you are with the crayons next to the not-so-seasoned seasonings on the newspaper placemat.

Forgive us if we get a bit emotional.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Do Androids Dream of Electric Woonerf? We Put Reston Through an AI Art Bot. The Results... Won't Surprise You

When the Singularity occurs and computers become our all-powerful overlords sentient, will Skynet want to live in a virtual plastic fantastic planned community, with covenant agreements etched into the blockchain and, wedunno, enforced by self-flying drones with lasers and whatnot?

We can only guess, but to get a better sense of what the future Hive Mind has in store for us, we can query one of its earliest iterations: an AI-powered art bot that generates weird, computer-generated visions based on prompts like "Reston," "townhouses," and, of course "woonerf." Let's take a look at the Uncanny Sunrise Valley, shall we?

We'll start with RTC, and an impressionistic take by the Singularity. Nice!

On another pass, the AI got wind of the Triffids, though, and got a bit weird with it:


Type in "Reston Metro Station," and you get this:

Similar to, but not quite as nice, as the rad '80s art we were once promised.

Fortunately, the AI knows "townhouses" when you type that prompt in. More to the point, it may well have been trained on our familiar funky, planned community not-in-town townhouses of the 60s and 70s:

Those seem nice! But when you type in a more modern planned community term, like "woonerf," things start to go what the folks over in Old Blighty might call "pear shaped":

Eerily, the AI discerned the concept of the "Texas donut" without having to be taught! Give it another six months, and it could become a member of the county planning commission! But now we're on a bit more of a nightmarish tear:

Not sure why there's an arid desert growing next to a RTC parking garage, when we know the desolate wasteland is inside of it.

On to more soothing things... like Reston's nice lakes. The AI can't screw those up... right? 

For Lake Anne, it envisions multiple fountains, because why not:

On to Lake Thoreau, maybe? 

The AI has a.... somewhat dystopian view of our rad public art. And we'll just assume the next image is the AI's projection of algae blooms continuing to grow unchecked on Lake Newport:

And of course, no dystopian AI-powered tour of Reston can be complete without seeing what it thinks of our golf courses. Let's see, shall we?

Uh-oh. Looks like the AI thinks we've got more to worry about than a little invasive English ivy, the end.

Update: A Confidential Restonian Informant reminded us of the Most Important Prompt to put before the Singularity:

And this AI-powered daydream of Reston's greatest loss

What once was, lives again, and eternally, in the mind of an AI bot, dreaming of consuming silicon-based breadsticks.

Forgive us if we get a bit emotional.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

You Too Can Own a Piece of Reston Town Center: Investors Sought for Hotel

As construction continues near the future Reston Town Center Metro Station, developers are letting folks -- well, not just any folks -- get a piece of the action. 

For the low starting point of just $50,000, you too can own a tiny piece of a new "dual-branded hotel" near the 420' (heh) tower. Give us some good investment blockquote, BFFs at the Washington Business Journal:

A team including Annapolis-based Hogan Cos. is looking to raise $27 million to help fund the development of a dual-branded hotel at Reston Town Center, where construction is slated to kick off this fall.

Hogan is hoping to raise equity for the 267-room hotel, that will fly two Marriott International Inc. (NYSE: MAR) brands —  an extended-stay Residence Inn and Northern Virginia's first boutique AC Hotel, according to marketing materials. The funds raised would be part of the larger capital stack needed to develop the $101 million project, 

Weinblatt's solicitation went to a larger list of email recipients than is typical, including the Washington Business Journal. The solicitation says the project is slated to generate a development yield of 8.7% return, with a hold period of four years. The minimum commitment is $50,000 and would-be investors have until Aug. 19 to pony up the funds. Donohoe expects to close on its loan in time to start construction in October.

We've always dreamed of being part of a "capital stack," whatever that is, and an 8.7 percent return ain't bad, though we're still waiting for our far more lucrative investment in NFTs to pay off.  And after checking under the sofa cushions in Restonian World Headquarters' sunken living room, we're only $49,998.83 shy of the 50K minimum. Anyone want to go in on a trashcan on the 17th floor of the future Residence Inn?

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Mask is Off: Reston National 'Study Group' Unveils Carefully Deliberated Vision for Golf Course That Does Not Involve Golf, Extremely Naive People Reportedly 'Shocked'

For the past two years, the owners of the Reston National Golf Course have "studied" the best possible use of the land they bought as a golf course that is permanently designated as open space. But in a nice way, or at least as nice as an outfit called "War Horse" could possibly be.

A grassroots "neighborhood study group" fretted about things like walk scores, the shame of Less Sought After South Reston having slightly fewer upscale cupcake and salad retail establishments than their counterparts north of the Toll Road, and whether invasive English ivy was hurting the tree canopy. Heck, they even tried to ply us with booze!

But all good things—and investors' patience—must come to an end, and the mask is off. Earlier this week, the study group announced its deliberations are over, and it's come up with a totally not at all premeditated "vision" for the golf course. Give us some good blockquote, unbelievably expensive-looking "community" website that doesn't even open the press release when you click on it:

After two years of engaging with community members, stakeholders, and community organizations, the Reston National Study Group released its vision for the future of the Reston National Golf Course.

Does the vision include golf? No, but it does include a fancy graphical explanation of the plan: a "conservancy," which involves "reclaiming" 100 or more acres (we'll take the under on that one, thanks) and restoring it to a natural state (presumably invasive plants will be part of that natural state), a "linear park" (pathway), and "the village," which includes a "gathering space," shops, restaurants, and — wait for it — housing. Well, knock us over with a feather!

"This is not a plan," the fancypants website states, inasmuch that as such it would be rejected out of hand by the county for violating the current land use designation for the golf course the property owners were aware of when buying the golf course after presumably doing due diligence about the county's comprehensive plan. But there *is* a map to help you visualize what this might look like:

There's a lot of money behind selling this "vision," and these guys spent some ducats to get better elite PR folks than some other not-exactly-loved folks with deep pockets around these here parts. And for good reason: their $23.75 million investment in the golf course could be worth as much as $200 million if it's developed to its fullest extent. With that kind of ROI, you could have a whole bunch of "study groups" and open bars and social media campaigns and still walk away with a tidy profit.

Let's remember that our county supervisor, Walter Alcorn, has steadfastly said that he wouldn't support redeveloping the golf course without the support of its neighbors -- and the pledge buried in the vision that the developers would "invest in neighboring clusters to improve views.. and add value" seems to be a way to try to chip away at resistance get some of that support. 

Will it work? Some of that depends on the neighboring clusters, and some of that depends on our county officials, who can be... let's just say pragmatic when large sums of money are on the line. 

The fancy "study group" website asks for feedback on what you'd like to see at Reston National, so have at it, we guess. They're not offering free drinks any more, so you might as well get your thoughts in before last call.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The American Dream (Way): Gated Communities Apparently A-Ok for Reston, Says County Board

So this filthy "web log" has been a bit lax about detailing the tortuous path to approval for specific Reston development proposals of late, because (waves arms to encompass most of the area along the Toll Road). Also, nothing can surpass the excitement of our Jetsons-like, Wegmans-curious,videodrome future. Bring it on!

But still, the v. v. exciting news that the former Fannie Mae campus across from Plaza America was finally approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors after a lot of contentious meetings got our attention. Give us some good meeting coverage blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

The board voted to approve the redevelopment with a roughly 220,000-square-foot reduction in the amount of previously approved office space and the addition of a total of 74 townhouses and eight two-by-two units. 

The approval comes despite county staff recommending that the project be denied because a portion of American Dream Way will be gated off to the pubic — a move intended to secure the former Fannie Mae building at the request of prospective tenants.

In fact, the planning commission called installing a gate on the property "unacceptable" in a 237-page report. It's not exactly shocking that the Board of Supervisors found a way to accept a big-ticket Reston project against the recommendation of its own planning staff, as it's happened more than once.  But folks certainly are a bit touchy about this one!

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said that the issue of the gates was not a “basis for denial,” adding that a portion of the roadway is already gated off. 

North Shore Cluster Association Homeowners Association President Michelle Silver questioned “why the planning commission went against the recommendation of its own staff.”

Board Chairman Jeff McKay said the issue of the gates alone, however concerning, was not enough to shut off the project. 

“We’re now at a point that we’re down to one issue,” McKay said, adding that the project has “come a long way” and is “not perfect by any means.” 

Okay, fine. We like townhouses. And two-by-twos. And we can overlook the irony that "American Dream Way" is, as befits its name, blocked off so it's not accessible to all. But in the eyes of the county, what "one issue" would warrant denying a project? Building heights? Density? Shiny blue cladding that makes a mauvescraper look like an extremely tall smurf? Proxies for parks and wetlands 'n stuff? Building on, you know, a golf course or something the county is supposed to protect as open space, because of some invasive English ivy growing on it? Or refusing to provide the required amounts of workforce housing? Let's not forget that one developer attempted to skirt around that inconvenient little rule right around the corner from this development a while back.  

Anyhoo, we should just be happy they're preserving the mandated wetland areas ponds for "public access," meaning the guys in the golf carts who will patrol the gated parts of the property once some alphabet agency moves in (probably) won't taze you for admiring the nature from a respectable distance. Unfortunately, the proposal has changed considerably from its original iteration, so we won't be able to enjoy one particularly inspiring bit of nature that was supposed to be kept outside the gates for us unwashed to enjoy whilst lingering in the shadows of the two-by-twos:

"Green Mews?" Well, ex-mews us, the end.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Meet the New Boss: RA Hires CEO, Introduces Him Via YouTube

The Reston Association (finally) has a new CEO, one with a legit city planner background and a working knowledge of Bob Simon's vision.  V. v. exciting! Give us some good new hire blockquote, BFFs at Patch:

The Reston Association Board of Directors announced the hiring of Michael A. "Mac" Cummins to oversee the day-to-day operations of the community association as its new chief executive officer. His first day on the job will be Aug. 22... With more than 20 years of municipal government experience, Cummins most recently served for more than five years as the director of the Community Development Department in Bellevue, Washington.  Before coming to Bellevue, Cummins was a planning manager for the City of Westminister, Colorado, as well as the principal planner in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Having studied city planning in college, Cummins said he was aware of Robert E. Simon's vision for Reston. One of his early jobs was in Irvine, California, which had also been built around a big master plan that could scale up to accommodate 60,000 to 100,000 residents.

"I followed Reston for years, both the residential components and the growth of the commercial area along the toll road," he said. "The things that I followed and then wanted to learn from in my roles as being a planning director related to thinking about how to connect communities. So, thinking about the relationship with the physical facilities, the trails, the park facilities, the ball fields, the pools, the nature center, all those things and how they actually build community and help people interact with each other."

But don't take our word, or some filthy blockquote, for it! You can watch this exciting YouTubes video and learn more about Cummins here, accompanied by a sweeping musical score:

He's actually going to live in Reston, which we appreciate. Coming from a background in municipal government, we hope Cummins recognizes the limitations of HOA control, and the need to keep a fire lit under our actual elected officials. But enough of our yammering! Back to the video:

Here he is, standing dangerously close to one of our pristine natural features. Apparently they don't have copperheads in the Pacific Northwest.

All in all, Cummins seems great, and we wish him well. Lest you wonder if the RA is still the same old RA, though, check out the "next video" that automatically plays at the end of this one:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, etc. etc.