News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, December 14, 2018

Hats Off For A Real (Brutalist) One: William Conklin Passes Away At 95

The last of the two architects that designed the earliest parts of Reston has passed away. From the New York Times:
William J. Conklin, a versatile architect who in the 1960s helped design the model community of Reston, Va., and oversaw the restoration of the Greek Revival temple that since 1848 has served as Brooklyn’s seat of government, died on Nov. 22 in Mitchellville, Md. He was 95.
Conklin's partner, James Rossant, passed away in 2009.
Mr. Conklin, an acolyte of the pioneering modernist architect Walter Gropius at Harvard and later a scholar of Incan textiles, worked mostly Mr. Rossant, and their influence extended well beyond individual buildings.

The two were recruited by the developer Robert E. Simon Jr. to plan Reston, the self-contained community for 75,000 people in suburban Fairfax County, about 20 miles west of Washington. Founded in 1964, Reston was the sort of “new town” evoked by Clarence Stein’s Sunnyside Gardens in Queens.

In Reston, Mr. Conklin and Mr. Rossant designed the core of Lake Anne Village Center, which, when it opened in 1965, was the first of the community’s hubs — a mix of high- and low-rise residential buildings and stores beside an artificial lake in what was viewed as an innovative response to humdrum suburban sprawl.


The paper of record, the (failing) New York Times, rightly credited his work in Reston ahead of Manhattan's Battery Park City and the U.S. Navy Memorial downtown. And while we may make fun of the J building, the rounding error, the concrete statuary and the rest of Lake Anne's brutalist excesses, the reality is that Conklin and Rossant created something enduring in the Virginia woods more than a half-century ago, and we're all the better for it. As one of our commenters said at the time of Rossant's passing:
Mid century modern architecture is likewise awesome. I'd much rather live in my Goodman designed house than a particleboard replica of a simulacrum of a copy of a bastardization of some colonial or cape house.
Pour one out for Conklin, Rossant, and all the others who made Reston what it is today.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suck It, Erie! Reston’s Future Population of Nearly 104,000 Puts It In Good Company

There’s no doubt that our plastic fantastic planned community is growing, and this week the county estimated that Reston’s population could — and given the attitude of our elected officials, almost undoubtedly will — nearly double in the coming years, reaching 103,989 by 2045. (Resident 103,990 must still be looking for change to get on the Toll Road, which will cost $245 each way by then.)

That’s right, we’re movin’ on up, baby, into the rarefied air of the 285 U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000. All we can say is Erie, Pennsylvania, whose population is somewhere in the 101,000 range, can suck it! So can Odessa, Texas, and Daly City, California. Reston soon will be bigger, badder, and beiger than all those so-called “cities.”

Let’s look at the rarefied air we’ll soon be sharing with the other cities which are closest in size to the future Reston of developers’ dreams. It’s an elite group, to be sure, so pack your bags and let’s go!


Wichita Falls, Texas (population 103,931)

What it’s like: The city’s “web site” calls Wichita Falls the “Gateway to Texas,” or more specifically “the north east corner of the Panhandle/Plains area of North Texas.” But if you’re not ready to move yet, brace yourself for this convincing selling point:
“By most accounts Wichita Falls can be summed up with two words, pleasant and comfortable.”
Sold!

Is there golf? Yep, plus a public disc golf course and an RV park, though we’ll just overlook that one very non-Reston bit of public infrastructure.

Fun fact: The city’s “Multipurpose Event Center” includes an “agriculture building.” It’s not clear if its roof leaks.



Antioch, California (population 104,044)

What it’s like: Just look at that picture. Might as well be Loudoun County. Though we’re pretty sure that green space is potentially developable land a golf course. 

Is there golf? We won’t dignify that question with a response.

Fun fact: The Los Angeles Times ran a story titled "Sex offenders move to Antioch area 'because they can'," according to Wikipedia, which also has a lengthy entry devoted to an “owl controversy.” 


Burbank, California (population 104,295) 

What it’s like: Burbank is blled as the “media capital of the world.” Do they have a filthy Burbankian "web log" though? 
 
Is there golf? Yes, the De Bell municipal golf course. Plus “the revitalized downtown Burbank provides an urban mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment,” and the city also offers “a modern urban village, with apartments above the mall.” It doesn't get more urban than that, folks!
 
Fun fact: The city was "named after David Burbank, a New Hampshire born dentist and entrepreneur who established a sheep ranch there in 1867." Our origin story is better. 
 


Centennial, Colorado (population 102,603) 
 
What it’s like: A picture’s worth a thousand words. This is exurban nirvana, right down to the cookie-cutter design language our soon-to-be similarly sized city enjoys. “Recognized as one of the best places to live in the U.S. by Money Magazine and USA Today, Centennial is a community that strives for excellence and innovation.” 
 
Is there golf? Two golf courses. Sound familiar? 

Fun fact: “The City was established in 2001 by dedicated citizens with the desire to enhance economic opportunities and have a say in their future.”

Maybe they’ve got the right idea after all, the end.

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 huntermill@fairfaxcounty.gov 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

Uhh
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.