News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Why Reston's Hot": A Brief But Informative Essay Courtesy Of Your Friendly Neighborhood Developers

Have you heard? Reston is hot! And we're not just talking about the exciting possibility of ironic hipster bowling, silly rabbits!

With the Silver Line extension and expanding national tenants like Fannie Mae and Bechtel, Reston Town Center is surging in NoVa.
Hold up a second now. We need to grab our sunglasses.

And who better to tell you that you're in the epicenter of excessive heat than your friendly local developer? Let's get some good blockquote hotness, BFFs from Bisnow, who are hosting some kind of revenue-generating event seminar about Reston on June 9:

Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh's Andrew Painter, our zoning guru moderator, tells us he thinks Reston is at a pivotal time in its history and that the demand to live in Reston—and rent and lease rates—have never been higher. "We're already seeing positive effects from the Silver Line," he says, noting that Reston has enough unique attributes to allow it to effectively compete with Tysons.
Being competitive with a collection of car dealerships, generic office buildings, and shopping malls? HOT. Even though we're still way behind in the critical cornhole and table tennis space.

You know what else is hawt? Mauvescrapers that were opposed by virtually every community organization!

Akridge VP David Toney, also a speaker at our event, says his firm and RTC partnered to develop 1760 Reston Pkwy, a $210M, 420k SF trophy-class office tower that will change the local landscape. It'll be the tallest building at 330 feet, 115 feet higher than the next tallest in the Town Center. (You'll see the building from Toll Road, and it will of course have stellar views.)
Stellar views are hot! Stellar views of an empty, once beloved midscale chain eatery a little less so, but still. Hot!

And there's more! Bechtel and Fannie Mae are expanding their respective footprints in our epicenter of hotness!

Bechtel principal Charlene Wheeless tells us her firm (which moved 625 employees from Maryland to Reston in 2012) is expanding its current footprint here by 175k SF at Boston Properties locations. ​“Reston is about more than just a place,” Charlene says. “It has a strong sense of ​community, and ​a​ vibrancy that meshes well with the fast-paced business culture." As part of the move, the engineering giant will relocate 700 jobs from its Fredrick, MD, operations, according to the Fairfax County EDA.

Also taking more space is Fannie Mae, which is leasing all of 12000 Sunrise Valley Dr (near the planned Silver Line station) from Brookfield. According to Reis, Reston's Q1 office vacancy rate clocked in at 12%, compared with 17.8% for the region.

Mathematical proof that we're 5.8 percent hotter than the region as a whole. Scorching!

With all this excitement, we think it may be time to change our anthemic Reston tune -- the one we roll down the windows and crank up while sitting in stalled traffic on Wiehle cruisin' from this classic to something more, um... what's the word?

Oh, yeah. That's it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

We're #16! Reston Ranked Top 'Creative-Class City', Herndon Ranked Perfectly Fine Milquetoast Suburb

HipsterificIt was only a matter of time after the food trucks started circling: Reston has been named one of the top "creative class" cities in the country. So says the Washington Post "news paper", which points out that the D.C. region has the largest concentration of annoying hipsters "creative class" workers, which "includes not only artists, but also scientists and other highly educated professionals."

Topping the list is Cupertino, California, where they make those, whazzitcalled, iPods. Tysons (or McLean) ranked #3, probably because of all the cornhole and table tennis. Also on the list are Bethesda, Potomac, Arlington, and North Bethesda.

Our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, gloats: "Between all those bomb-strapped dolphins and Reston: The Opera, how could we not have made this list?"

Meanwhile, in our neighbors to the west, they're bragging about being ranked the third-best Virginia suburb -- you know, one of those bland, boring places where nothing ever happens. Also on the list are Falls Church (zzzz), Vienna (zzzz), Leesburg (zzzz), Williamsburg (which was last lively around 1776), Manassas Park (whose charms we've documented before)... and the list goes on, but honestly our eyes glazed over once we got to Chesapeake.

But don't worry: Our neighbors aren't jealous of our creative-class ways. In a recent article about plans for a fancy downtown redevelopment (maybe yet another expansion of Jimmy's Old Town Tavern?), town officials the article flatly declared: "There is no threat of Herndon morphing into another Reston."

Ain't that the truth.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Caddyshackpocalypse Now: Basically Everyone Is Appealing The BZA Ruling, Except Maybe The BZA

Nothing and Like It
In the wake of that convoluted \_(ツ)_/¯ ruling from the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals on whether Northwestern Mutual can convert the Reston National Golf Course into zillions of dollars' worth of midrise condo goodness, because property rights and freedom, basically everybody except the BZA, and maybe Northwestern Mutual, is appealing the ruling.

Even Fairfax County is appealing its own board. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at the Washington Post "news paper":

Fairfax County’s board of supervisors Tuesday voted to fight a county board of zoning appeals decision that would allow the owners of a publicly available golf course in Reston to build homes there.

The unanimous decision takes into the county Circuit Court a battle between local residents and an ownership group that wants to develop homes on the Reston National Golf Course — a popular spot for joggers and nature enthusiasts that sits a short walk from a new Silver Line train station.

“The Board is appealing the decision because the BZA erred as a matter of law when it did not uphold all of the Zoning Administrator’s correct decisions regarding the zoning regulations,” county spokesman Tony Castrilli said in an e-mailed statement. “The Board further authorized an appeal due to its objection to specific findings of fact incorporated into the BZA’s decision, as well as the BZA’s disregard for the Reston Master Plan and the approved development plans governing the golf course property.”
Given the supervisors' historic love of development, it's encouraging to see the decision was unanimous.

The Reston Association, too, has opted to appeal, as well as to generate some blockquote:
The decision reflects RA’s position that any redevelopment of PRC zoned land within Reston, including the Reston National Golf Course, must be reviewed and compared to the existing zoning development plans, and any proffers or conditions attached to the development plans. This review and comparison is mandated under Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance Section 16-202 with the purpose of protecting the Reston community from unplanned changes to the development pattern previously approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. If the redevelopment is not in substantial conformance with the approved development plan, then a development plan amendment must be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
Bo-ring. If only there was a plot twist akin to a 1970s children's cartoon featuring a jive-talking dog!
In the Reston National Golf Course situation, county staff did not find copies of the three development plans, which include the Reston National Golf Course and surrounding residential communities. A zoning determination for the golf course was issued in June 2012 without these three development plans being available. Because they were unavailable at that time, the golf course owner appealed to the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), seeking a “blank check” for residential redevelopment of the golf course.

While the BZA did not provide a “blank check” to the landowner in its decision on April 15, 2015, it also did not confirm that the three development plans later found by county staff in the zoning archives are, in fact, the approved development plans. As such, RA will be appealing the BZA decision.
You can read the RA's appeal here.

Rounding out the triumverate are our BFFs at Rescue Reston, which is also appealing the BZA ruling in circuit court. Rescue Reston is holding a webcast tonight to discuss the appeal and where things go from here; details are available here.

As long suspected, this process will be a long, dragged out one. But it's encouraging to see the county, the RA, and the community remaining on the same page. It's a good precedent, and one we hope continues.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Reston Gets Historical Marker, Transformation Into Theme Park Continues Apace

Historical Marker
If you're one of those people who instinctively slam on the brakes and back up when they see a tiny roadside marker commemorating the site where Col. Jeb "Goober" Josephat stopped to recharge his cellphone on the way to the Battle of Spittle Hill, you're in luck! Turns out our plastic fantastic planned community is getting its own historical marker, which will be planted near the entrance to Lake Anne Village Center. Here's the text, which in our minds we envision scrolling down a dark movie screen, Star Wars style:

In 1961, Robert E. Simon Jr. began developing 6,750 acres of Sunset Hills Farm as a community open to all races, ages, and incomes. Simon engaged the architectural firm of Whittlesey & Conklin, who designed a "New Town." Construction of Lake Anne Village, its lake, central plaza, stores, and townhouses began in 1963. With innovative zoning, Reston became one of the first master-planned communities in the United States, with residential clusters, mixed-use development, landscape conservation, ample recreational space, walking and biking trails, and public art. Reston received the American Institute of Certified Planners' National Landmark Award in 2002.
Very cool. It's another sign that our little Reston is All Grown Up. We can't wait for scads of tour buses to begin disgorging tourists in the center of Lake Anne Plaza, cameras in hand. We already have a two-part walking tour (part 1/part 2) set up and ready to wow 'em!

But we'll need to help create the verisimilitude today's discerning tourist demands from their historical destinations. (That, plus outlet malls.) Whereas Colonial Williamsburg is full of people wearing Old Timey colonial garb doing things like churning butter, we all need to dig into the back of our parents' closets and put on the most plastic polyester clothing we can find. Imagine the squeals of joy as tourists walk by carefully trained reenactors reading scripted conversations about watching the latest episode of Dragnet on their new 14-inch television:

The new sign will be dedicated at 5:30pm May 29. If you're into planned communities and sign dedications, mark your calendars.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

PSA: Things Are Rotten in the State of Reston

A tale of deceit, double-crossing, and duplicitous behavior playing itself out across the street from the TetraReston AssociationComstock Wedding Reception Center and Funtime Emporium on the shores of Lake Newport? Now that the referendum's over, we can relax with something a little less convoluted and dramatic. Like, say, Hamlet.

That's right, it's a free outdoor performance of everyone's favorite play, Saturday and Sunday at that park you didn't know had a name but has the volleyball court and weird spray fountain thingy. It's a much-needed break from all the drama of late, the end.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Talloakspocalypse Now: Online Petition Calls for More Retail, Open Space

Tall Oaks
Turns out it's not just Bob Simon who is calling the proposal to redevelop the Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland Village Center a "missed opportunity." Now an online petition is circulating asking county and RA officials to demand that Tall Oaks remain a village center.

Give us the requisite blockquote, anonymous Concerned Residents of Tall Oaks:

WE ALL WANT DEVELOPMENT at Tall Oaks, but it needs to be SMART and BALANCED. The current plan for the re-development of Tall Oaks is to basically create a new cluster... Tall Oaks community needs and deserves a Village Center with retail that we can walk to and green space where the community can gather.  A balance of residential and retail in a plaza-like setting would be a good compromise.
You mean 5,000 square feet of open space isn't enough? That's 300 square feet more than a single regulation basketball court (of which there will be none). Plenty of room to shoot hoops rub shoulders!

In similar fashion, the planned 8,500 square feet of retail sounds pretty good -- at least until you realize that the handful of remaining businesses in the virtually empty stucco strip mall occupy more than twice that amount--nearly 20,000 square feet, according to the group, which cited occupancy figures from the center's new owner, Jefferson Apartment Group.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 50 people had signed the petition, which is directed at Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and RA CEO Cate Fulkerton.

With even Simon agreeing that Reston doesn't need all its current village centers, we're pretty sure we've seen our last grocery store in Tall Oaks. Pretty much anything would be an improvement over empty stucco and a deserted parking lot. But perhaps the developer, the RA, and county officials can work together to come up with a plan that's a little less cluster-like, a little more open to the larger community, and a little more Reston-y. Crazier things have happened!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Anyone Know A Good Roofer? Tetra Referendum Passes Narrowly

RoofingAfter arguably the most contentious Reston Association referenda in recent memory -- one which put those overheated Lake Anne residents and their underpowered jet-age air conditioning to shame -- we all are proud owners of a unique lakefront fixer-upper with some cosmetic repair needs. Anyone good with a hammer, and maybe HVAC ductwork and some load-bearing external trusses?

Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

There was both a high turnout and a narrow margin of passage in the Reston Association referendum to purchase the Tetra building.

The referendum passed, RA announced Monday night, and the association will now move forward to close on the purchase by late July.

According to RA’s official vote tally, 5,676 ballots were returned out of a possible 17,511 eligible households. There were 2,926 votes in favor of the purchase (52.9 percent). That’s just 323 votes more than the 2,603 that cast a “no” vote. There were 147 abstentions, which did not count in the vote tally.

The nearly 33-percent turnout was actually quite large for a RA vote.
The high turnout is surprising, but somewhat reassuring. We ultimately fell into the "reluctant yes" category -- concerned about the high cost (which the Washington Post "news-paper" finally got around to reporting the day before the referendum closed), but at least partially convinced that the bigger-than-needed contributions from Comstock and the concessions by the developer moved it from the "blatant ripoff" category to somewhere in the "considerably overpriced" category. More important, we were skeptical that any existing rules would actually prevent additional development. As recent events have shown us, this is Virginia, by gum, and no gumbmint is going to tell people wealthy developers what they can do with their property! (That's the HOA's job.) And we hope this policy of going to great lengths to preserve open space by the RA board continues (at least until it/we run out of money).

Speaking of which, along with an aging lakefront building, we're all also soon to be owners of a 10-year mortgage, the cost of which will be reduced by whatever revenue the RA can squeeze out of its new event space. Worried about what the extra costs of carrying that mortgage will do to your assessment? You might want to talk up the building as an ideal place for a wedding reception among your friends. Or if you really love Reston, maybe get divorced and hastily remarry so you can have your own reception there. Is that too much to ask?