News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, April 22, 2016

Reston Not Hip Hotspot, Like Crystal City, But We're Holding Our Own

RTCWe are shocked, just shocked we tell you, that Reston was somehow overlooked in Washingtonian's list of the five hottest neighborhoods in Washington. You'd think when a godforsaken concrete hellhole like Crystal City is being touted as the next Brooklyn by no less of an expert than the New York Times, we'd have a pretty good shot at making that list.

But there is good news after all. We may not be hip, but our home values are "holding steady", as illustrated by this colorful cartoony map that must be giving the folks at the DRB night terrors even as we speak. Never mind that we all thought they'd double or quintuple or whatever after the Metro showed up -- and maybe they would have if Metro hadn't disintegrated into a non-functioning assortment of single-tracking trains and acrid, smoke-filled tunnels at the exact same instant that the Silver Line went into service. But we digress! Stable home values. Yay! Tell us why "we'll love it," listicle generators at Washingtonian:

You’ll Love It If: A planned community with lots of outdoor recreation sounds ideal.
Go on....
It’s hard to think of a better spot for playing outside with your kids, and for many families who live there, this is the factor that makes the so-called Reston covenants—which govern all design, landscaping, and renovation decisions—worth the hassle....

No one worries about “being better than the Joneses,” says resident Ken Knueven (though they do worry about the type of fence you want to build).

Ha ha ha SICK BURN U Street garden apartment-dwelling writer. We've seen your type 'round these here parts before.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lake Anne's Trojan Horse Returns

Trojan Horse

This wooden interloper mysteriously appeared at Lake Anne Plaza a week or so back, as if it fell from outer space. With its wooden construction and natural finish designed to blend into its DRB-enforced surroundings, it's a lovely addition to the concrete skull-crackin' fun available for kids of all ages at the Plaza. Or is it?

They (and we all know who they are) would have us believe that this play statue, the product of artist Marco Rando, is a tribute to an original wooden horse created by sculptor Gonzalo Fonseca, a picture of which is depicted below.

Original horse

Awww, cute. Of course, that's what they (and we all know that they have been around since the dawn of time, not just the creation of a milquetoast planned community in the 1960s) would have wanted people to believe back then too. What is the real meaning of this structure? Was the original horse, long lost to time, discarded after it succeeded in sneaking a bushel's worth of Gulf Oil executives into Reston under the cover of darkness to depose of its once and future leader, as has been immortalized in song? And if so, what is the meaning of its mysterious reappearance, decades later, seemingly slouching towards Bethlehem the new brew pub?

For now, we may never know. But the Trojan Horse stands sentinel, watching over us all. Or at least Heron House.

Trojan2

The truth is out there.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Least Surprising Survey Results of All Time (Updated)

From our BFFs at the Reston Association:

Poll

No word on whether the "yes" responses all came from people at JBG, Boston Properties and Northwestern Mutual frantically mashing the reload buttons on their browsers.

This is all part of a push by Fairfax County to figure out how to pay for all the roads and much-delayed bridges and never-to-be-built bridges and whatnot needed to support all the sweeeeet sweeeet bollardy goodness that's popping up around the Metro stations. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

At a meeting in February, county officials said Reston is going to need more than $2.6 billion in transportation improvements to keep up with development and population growth in the next 40 years.

High on the priority list are an urban-style street grid around transit stations and additional spots to cross the Dulles Toll Road, according to the advisory group. At that meeting, the possibility of a special tax district was first discussed. Tysons has a special tax district in place since 2013. Businesses and residents of Tysons are taxed in order to help raise about $810 million of the estimated $3.1 billion necessary for longterm changes.

The Tysons Special Tax for FY2016 is $0.05 per $100 of assessed real estate value.

Which is funny, because RA also asked the people willing to pay this special assessment how much they'd be willing to pay. The "suggested minimum," as charities like to put it, was less than half that amount, but then again, Reston ain't Paris:

Poll2

Again, not exactly a shocker how people voted. That 2 cents/$100, BTW, adds up to an additional $120 a year in property taxes on a $600,000 house.

Bear in mind the RA really has no say in this. The county's Board of Supervisors does, and they can basically impose the special tax district by fiat. And we already have one for the Reston Community Center, which subsidizes the building and various cultural events, while most of the rest of the county's rec centers are funded by the entire county.

And that's the rub. It's kind of galling that Fairfax sees Tysons and Reston as the future of the tax base that supports the entire county, yet is asking those of us who already live here, and not so much the developers, to foot the bill to grow that tax base responsibly, in a way that doesn't lead to utter gridlock. Virginia just enacted a law that makes these kinds of developer proffers tougher to do, but still. If what's good for Reston and Tysons is also good for the rest of the county and its deteriorating basketball courts, then shouldn't we all foot the bill?

Even if you live in Springfield and would never dream of paying to park at our elite chain retail emporium, the sweeeeet taxes from all Reston's vowel-free development should (in theory) pay for upkeep of your sprawling suburban street network. Right?

Want to take the poll yourself? Apparently you have to be signed up for the RA's fancy "news letter" to get a personal link, which already kinda sorta favors the folks most likely to be willing to cough up extra money be involved in community affairs -- which makes the 70 percent "no" vote to date even more clear. There was talk of sending it to everyone, so we'll see if that happens. Or if county officials listen to what we're saying. There's a first time for everything!

Update: You can apparently vote by following this link to the newsletter and following the instructions. Unlike Chicago in the 1960s, apparently this system allows only one vote per (living) person.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hot Take: County's Infrastructure Woes Just the Beginning Of Our Worries

A fancy Washington Post "news paper" article about Fairfax County's aging, increasingly neglected infrastructure has led to a lot of handwringing of late, if by "handwringing" you mean "people going out with their cellular telephones and posting photos of broken things to Twitter." And even our plastic fantastic planned community has its share of warts:

Crumbling 3

Crumbling 2

Crumbling 1

To be fair, the last one got fixed almost immediately after this picture was posted. But the safety cones are still sitting on top of the grate. Guess there wasn't enough money in the budget to send Elmer over with the truck to pick them up. Maybe in FY17!

It's always fun to partake in a little schatzenfreude with some of the quotes in the article:

“There is a tipping point, and I think we’re reaching it,” said Jane K. Strauss (Dranesville), a school board member since the early 1990s who chairs the panel’s budget committee. “You don’t collapse overnight. It’s a little cut here, a little here, a little here, and, then, people start to walk away.”

“A lot of people still think Fairfax County is wealthy, and maybe it is, compared to Oklahoma or someplace,” Tammi DeVan said. “But it’s not what it was.”

We're not Oklahoma, that's for sure. If we were, all those fancypants vowel-free signs around Reston would be riddled with bullet holes.

But we digress. Cracks in the pavement are never great. But there's something that's more troubling.

Yesterday, we learned that the approval process for the awesome redevelopment project of the Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland Village Center into something decidedly less Village Center-y has been postponed at the request of the developers. Seems like they want to do a "market study," but that comes after the collapse of the much more Reston-friendly Lake Anne redevelopment, a longstanding lull in the commercial real estate market, "elite" areas notwithstanding, a sudden lack of interest in pursuing legal options by a certain bollard-hungry golf course owner with infinitely deep pockets, and a more general lack of progress on projects more than spittin' distance from the new Metro stations. If we were a county official looking at the bill for that fancy Silver Line and thinking about where all those new tax revenues are going to come from, we might be getting a tad nervous just about now.

That's a problem when Reston is dependent on county officials and our elected supervisors making deliberate decisions not to approve projects which don't make sense -- and those officials become more focused on shoring up the tax base to avert utter fiscal collapse keep Prince William from suddenly looking pretty good by comparison.

If county officials are already kinda sorta bending the rules slightly on requirements to build workforce housing - something they've made a fist about in the past -- what's keeping them from ignoring the millions of dollars of road improvements needed just to keep up with the development already in the pipeline for Reston? Or even just fixing exposed, leaking pipes full of raw sewage, for that matter?

If market conditions really do go south, then suddenly go north, a cash-strapped county could wind up allowing 99-story condos on the golf course after all, the end.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Partial List Of The Things That Took Less Time To Build Than The W&OD Wiehle Avenue Bridge

Wihele bridge

Spandex-clad bikers, have you set your watches daybooks multi-year calendars to Winter 2021? That's when the impressive structure you see above will gracefully sweep above Wiehle Avenue and the gridlocked traffic below it, allowing you to continue your Herndon-Vienna sprints along the W&OD unimpeded at Mach 2.

Never mind that this really should have been built 20 years ago. Now that the county approved its construction back in ought-twelve, things are really cranking on this project! You may wonder, silly rabbits, why it would take five-plus years to build a bridge. But look at the shoddy, substandard dreck you get when you try to rush things:

Unknown

This is what happens when you try to finish something in just over one year. Total garbage. Besides, You can't ride a bike up 100 flights of stairs.

NewImage

Okay, so maybe you can build the world's largest shopping mall in three years. But is it elite? We thought not. Last we heard, parking's free there. Enjoy your Sbarros, rubes!

Unknown 1

Here's another, almost as impressive bridge that took under five years to build. Why would ours take longer?

Medallions

AWWWWWW YEAH, substructure medallions! Bet the Chinese didn't think about that when they were rushing to build that aesthetically inferior, substructure medallion-free eyesore in Aizhai. Though in honor of our careful, responsible construction timetables, we'd suggest this medallion logo instead:

Turtle

Our BFFs at Reston Now point out that the $10 million overpass will take longer to build than usual because a bunch of utility poles need to be relocated. Still, given that approval for the project came in 2012, that means a nine-year wait for an overpass that was sorely needed even before the arrival of Metro made Wiehle uncrossable during rush hours (except when traffic is completely stopped).

Crooked bridge

All that, for a bridge that won't even be level, maybe, the end.

Friday, April 1, 2016

BREAKING: Reston Town Center Apparently Too Elite For The Town It's In, Move to 'Great' Falls Likely Imminent

RTC Leet

Why will our beloved fake downtown gritty urban core soon require intrepid urban explorers seeking an undiscovered bohemian chain retail experience to pay for parking? Because it's good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like it!

Haha, April Fool's! Give us the real reason, BFFs at Reston Now, ideally in some infuriating blockquote:

“We are an elite destination location,” RTCA Executive Director Robert Goudie said, reiterating that Boston Properties is “not a non profit location.”
That's shocking. Driving by, you'd think RTC was pretty hard up for cash and all.

So why is RTC so LEET (or L33T, depending on your level of nerdiness), as the kids haven't said in a few years? Sometimes you see cops on horses there, or even a spontaneous flash mob or two. That's kind of elite. It's inspired some fairly elit(ist) think pieces. Some of the "guests" are pretty elite, especially during holidays. Like Halloween, for instance:

Leet crime

Charcoal-on-paper sketch artists at festive gatherings? ELITE.

Our favorite correspondent, The Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, also points out that this filthy "web log" may have been the first to associate the term "elite" with RTC. So we only have ourselves to blame, it seems. Besides, paid parking will help keep the loitering teens riffraff out.

To be fair, RTC management also made some decent points about residents abusing the garages and whatnot, and said something about "transportation demand procedures" being included in the original development proffer. But the bottom line: paid parking is a done deal, peasants, so deal with it.

In conclusion, quit your whining, peons! Or don't be surprised if you see a long line of 18-wheelers packing RTC up and hauling it to somewhere that deserves it, like "Great" Falls or Paris the Next Great American City.

We just hope we get to keep the Triffids.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Flashback Monday: RTC as Brutalist Wonderland

RTC original vision

This lovely rendering of what appears to be an Aztec ritual beheading multiplex on steroids is, in fact, the earliest vision of what our fake downtown gritty urban core might have looked like. We've seen an earlier model that doubled down on the craptastic late 80s Tysons approach to development, indifferently placed trees and all, but this... wow. This is something.

It's as though someone took the sharp angles and edifices designed to cover up rounding errors from Lake Anne, threw in some of the awnings from the old Hunters Woods, and put a giant, unforgiving concrete plaza between them, all the better to bake midscale chain shoppers in the relentless sun and wind.

Closeup2Though in retrospect, this structure at right bears an uncanny resemblance to another city's planned downtown. There are no words, the end.