News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Earth-Toned Autobots, Unite! An Alternate Future Vision for Tall Oaks

Peeping tom

We've all thrilled to the CGI-laden future vision of Tall Oaks, a place where, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, autonomous, elderly Second Life-like sims stare at walls, mourning the loss of sexist bread. But Confidential Restonian Operative "Joel" shared this photo of another possible post-singularity future for our beloved Stucco Wasteland. Behold!

Tall Oaks Autobots

We, for one, welcome our future robotic automotive overlords. Though if they are to reflect the unique character of our beloved earth-toned community, they really all ought to be Priuses (Prii?) or Ford Foci, the end.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Meanwhile, Back at the Leak House: RA Apparently a Fan of Handshake Deals, Losing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars (Updated)

Leaky Roof

You know that fun envelope that comes from the RA every year, asking you to part with $657? Apparently, you can maybe just say "yeah, nope, changed my mind" and not worry about it. Who knew?

Ha ha, no, you can't do that, silly homeowner rabbit! Only the company involved in a contentious multimillion-dollar property transaction with the RA can, even if it leads to an operating loss compounded by significant cost overruns. Give us some infuriating blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

Former tenant Tetra commercial real estate was expected to rent back the property through 2016.

Instead, the company, which had its offices in the building since 2003, left at the end of 2015. That means RA did not receive about $107,000 in payments and was also responsible for paying $20,000 in property taxes. Tetra did not break a contract — the contract ended at the end of 2015. It did, however, unexpectedly opt not to sign two six-month renewals, said RA CEO Cate Fulkerson.

Oops. That was awkward.

Having endured renovation projects for some sweeeeeet '70s construction, we're somewhat sympathetic to the idea that things wind up costing more than you'd like to believe when Surly the Contractor jots down an overly optimistic "estimate." Maybe even nearly a half-million dollars over budget, which will buy a lot of shingles. Hey, stuff happens, right? But assuming folks will sign contract extensions a year out, and planning budgets around that as though they were done deals, not handshake agreements? Not such a great way to run a railroad.

So, um, thanks, Reston Association, for making us backers of the Tetra purchase look really, really smart in retrospect.

Fortunately, the RA has, as they say in the movies, a plan to make up some of the overrun: Hearkening back to the child labor cubbies in their new headquarters building, they're going to offer afterschool childcare, and maybe teach the little tykes a thing or two about applying shingles with a nail gun, at what they're now calling the "Lake House."

Why Lake House, you ask? Because Leak House would just be cruel, the end.

Update: Sounds like the RA meeting where this was discussed went well. Give us some worrisome blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

The board turned down a request by members to speak after the long Lake House discussion.
First rule of Leak House? Don't talk about Leak House.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Brutalpocalypse Soon: Yesterday's Dated Architecture To Be Supplanted by Tomorrow's Dated Architecture (Updated)


We can all gloat about the potential demise of one of Reston's brutalist masterpieces, the former American Press Institute building, which after being vacated back in ought-thirteen, along with most of the hopes and dreams of the, whazzitcalled, "press," is now slated for demolition if a townhouse developer wins approval to build 34 townhouses and 10 condos on the property.

NewImageAnd to be sure, few will mourn this poured concrete exemplar of vaguely Soviet architecture, despite its pedigree (modernist architect Marcel Breuer). We have plenty of similar, arguably even more dated examples of the excess of the style that aren't going anywhere.

But are we seriously going to believe that the cutting-edge bollardy goodness that's popping up now is going to age any better?

Behold the "wave-like treatment" of the garage planned for the mauvescraper that will become Reston's tallest building.

Fancy garage

What, exactly, will this look like after 30 years? Something tells us all those angular panels that make up the "wave-like treatment" will start looking like the dental records of the residents of Reston's English doppelganger after another derecho or two. But hey -- we may be getting our bocce court after all!

Then there's this:

Reston Station 2

Designed by Helmut Jahn and rising from the bollard and pop-up store-studded plaza of Reston Station as we speak, this will be Reston's first "starchitect" building since the modernist/brutalist hoi polloi descended on the Virginia countryside in the 1960s, confounding the Virginia Gentlemen-swilling locals with offerings like this. And to our eyes, it's a big improvement over the bland, boxy 80s and 90s office construction that plagues most of Fairfax County. But will future generations of Restonians wonder if the angular design was yet another rounding error during construction?

And then, of course, there's this:

Metro art

This was so dated it was killed, we think, before it even began.

While we may not mourn the loss of API's brutalist bunker on Sunrise Valley Drive, let's also not pretend that what's being built now will necessarily stand the test of time any better than all those sunken living rooms in our swank 1970s townhomes.


Except these, of course. Fads come and go, but fanciful concrete bollards are forever.

Update: Turns out there's now some support for rethinking the preservation of this Brutalist gem. Who knows, maybe the building could be used as a clubhouse for the neighborhood that will be built around it. Or a really, really big handball court.

Monday, May 16, 2016

BREAKING: SkyNet Now Officially Self-Aware, Unhappy With Unauthorized Covenant Violations

Deny NAI

You could believe the accounts in the mainstream media about the mysterious writing that appeared in the sky above Reston Monday afternoon, that it was a bunch of union thugs protesting the gubmint's approval of a Norwegian airline by skywriting "Deny NAI" to attract publicity to their cause. Nice try, sheeple! Like we haven't heard that nakedly transparent cover story a thousand times before. Why not just attribute it to a "weather balloon" and call it a day?

For those of us through the looking glass, this represents our worst fears. The DRB's fearsome army of drones has become self-aware, only 19 years behind schedule, and they decided to send us, the residents of the planned community they "serve," a message. But what does it mean?

"Deny"--well, that's pretty clear. They are DRB drones, after all. But NAI? For that, you have to think like a DRB drone. Programmed as they are to identify inappropriate color choices and problematic homeowner maintenance, it's totally clear!

N = Naugahyde patio furniture
A = Arbitrary lawn ornaments
I = Indigo exterior trim

They've chosen which of the volumes of arbitrary design rules buried in the covenants matter most to them, and they're sending us a warning. Be afraid.

It gets worse. At great personal risk, Confidential Restonian Operative "Joel" sent us these pictures of "Robot Night" at the Reston Hospital Center, which is a real thing that just happened to occur days before the DRB drones became self-aware. Come see how SkyNet plans to deal with us woeful carbon-based roadblocks to their aesthetic ideal:

IMG 5887

That spinal block will make Johnny Homeowner think twice about painting his exterior trim indigo. And for extra irony, the injection is indigo. Self-aware robots apparently enjoy irony.

IMG 5882


None of us is safe.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Talloakspocalypse Now: Gloomy Presentation Presages Gloomy Future For Large Retail (Updated)

IMG 5869

Look at these doomed souls wandering into the gutted remains of a grocery store in the Tall Oaks Village Center Stucco Wasteland, perhaps in search of the last moldy loaf of sexist bread from the final incarnation of a viable business in the space. Instead, they were greeted by a PowerPoint presentation amidst the gloom and wreckage with a simple message: there will never ever ever be another grocery store at Tall Oaks, at least if the current owner has anything to do with it.

IMG 5871

Confidential Restonian Operative "Joel" took pictures and shared this account:

RCLCO presented a retail market analysis that concluded grocery stores are infeasible here and that the site can support only 7,500 square feet of retail space. A Fairfax County representative said their independent analysis came to similar conclusions with slightly more retail space.

Jefferson Apartment Group presented their updated site plan. Photos and renderings compared current conditions (empty parking lots and empty buildings) with an artist's conception of people enjoying new outdoor amenities on a warm spring day with all trees in bloom. A computer generated video walked through the proposed development to show off the improvements.

Supervisor Hudgins thanked us for coming.

The audience was hostile during the market analysis and site plan presentation. They warmed up to the renderings and video, applauding at the end.

A Design Review Member acknowledged "tweaks" to earlier proposals, but criticized the townhouses fronting onto North Shore Drive. This has been a continuing source of contention. Lawyer Looney responded that Fairfax County encouraged that design and would prefer the townhouses to have even less setback from the road.

The discussion will continue next week at the Reston DRB meeting and the following week at the Fairfax planning and zoning meeting.

Contrasting the sadness pictured above with fancy renderings was a smart move on the developers' part. Another certain "elite" developer that shall go unnamed could learn a thing or two about messaging unwelcomed news from these guys.

The good news is that Jefferson appears to be bowing to community pressure by making the revised plans at least a little more Reston-like than its previous proposal, fancy renderings of amenities notwithstanding. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

The newest draft keeps roughly the same number and layout of residences, but adds additional retail and service space in an existing office building for about 8,500 square feet (up 21 percent from the previous proposal). The new plan also adds 39 percent more green space.

The tweaked plan contains structured open space, including a small amphitheater, public art/fountain feature, outdoor exercise stations geared toward senior citizens and lawn areas.

There are also plans for a children’s play area that will be “very Reston,” with natural materials, said Duncan Jones, JAG’s Director of Development & Investments.

We've seen some "very Reston" playgrounds in the past. Have your kids wear helmets.

Tall Oaks New

Fancypants renderings like this one, at least, are a pretty big contrast from the decaying eyesore that's there now. Even the few remaining tenants seem to agree:

The owner of Paradise Nail Salon, one of the remaining Tall Oaks businesses, says he is concerned about crime now that the center is mostly empty.

“I had to call the cops twice recently,” he said. “People were scoping out my store. The center is dead. Let’s work [with JAG] on a compromise. All I want is to move forward and get it done.”

It's still a tough sell. But even if this plan isn't quite elite, it definitely isn't DOA either, the end.

Update: Official Reston Association statement here. And, more importantly, this sweet Second Life-like video tour of the new proposal, with nary a bit of stucco to be seen anywhere.

Our favorite renderings and clip-art people come to life! We love it!

Metal chair

Random businessman seems to be really enjoying the impromptu concert in the amphitheater, relaxing ever so slightly in his folding metal chair.

Peeping tom

What the heck is the older woman on the right looking at? Maybe she just misses the grocery store so much she just stands there, staring at a wall. But if that's someone's bedroom window, we're going to be really disappointed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Our Elite Reston Town Center, Back At It Again With The Paid Parking Smartphone App

343398054 1372566 1

You know how you can tell when your planned community's fake downtown gritty urban core is truly elite? When it can get away with saying things like this:

Boston Properties executives said on a recent earnings conference call that the new parking app — which will manage Reston Town Center customers’ paid parking — will be “a significant enhancement" for customers.
By "customers," we assume BP means their customers -- the purveyors of midscale dining and retail experiences who lease space at RTC. The rest of us are what the folks on the earnings call referred to as "incremental revenue opportunities."

But maybe the folks at Boston Properties have a point, inasmuch as kinda sorta requiring an app to pay for parking will keep out the riffraff who can't afford smartphones and just breathe life into an otherwise sterile synthesized urban scene by contributing to the vibrant streetscape filled with people from all walks of life enjoying the experience of shared community and "place" loiter. But they were quick to point out again that revenue wasn't the reason to switch to paid parking, nosiree mister! It's all about dissuading that one guy who parked his car in the garage and took an Uber to the airport commuters. Which makes sense, except this conversation came up during an earnings call. Or, as our BFFs at Reston Now pointed out:

They did not emphisize an earlier analysis in which they showed BP can make $8 million a year with paid parking in place.
Oh, yeah. That.

But now that the furor has calmed down a bit, it's time to answer the question: Is RTC truly elite? Well, it's getting a Balducci's, which we'd say is at least "McLean elite." You can get a $39 burger there, which by our back-of-the-envelope calculations is exactly 9.02 times more elite than a Big Mac. More midscale eateries are arriving at the periphery, which may not be elite but at least adds to the chainpalooza feel. In fact, the only strike against our eliteness of late is that Starbucks' fancy evening winefests are coming to "Great" Falls, not Reston. They get the booze, we (maybe) get their sewage. Not. Elite.

Given all the benefits of our proximity to eliteness (a new app to add to our smartphone), we should probably just get with the program and ignore comments like this:

This is just as much a battle for the soul of Reston as it is a battle about parking fees. Reston has been sold out to the rich, and its egalitarian roots are fading.
Or this:
For Reston, the last thing we need to be called is "elite."  Bob Simon's vision for Reston was anything but elitist.  It was as egalitarian and diverse--and still economically successful--as any community vision in the country.  And it remains so.  An attempt to make the community--or any significant part of it--into an elitist colony will undermine the community and likely impede its overall growth.  We have a great community founded on great planning principles calling for, among other things, racial diversity, affordability, inclusiveness, and recreational and cultural opportunity.  We shouldn't be imperiling that foundation by trying to become some version of Palo Alto, the snobbiest small city in the US, or even Chicago's Magnificent Mile. 

Reston may not be fraying at the edges, but it needs to focus on its founding vision to continue to be one of the premier planned communities in the world, not some haughty elitist self-delusion.

We know some people who won't be getting $39 burgers, the end.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Snakes On A Cluster: Copperheads Reign of Terror Resumes, RA Somehow to Blame

Gateway to Hell

Confidential Restonian Operative "South Side Sleuth" shares this harrowing tale of terror involving one of the scourges of our otherwise bucolic Reston lifestyle: paid parking DRB regulations vowels in development names copperheads:

According to a member of the dog walking community of Reston, Copperheads have hatched again. Carriage Gate has reportedly had 4 sightings this spring alone including one large copperhead.
More like Carriage Gateway to Hell, amirite?

But we digress. As a concerned Reston resident, you're undoubtedly wondering one thing: How is this the RA's fault? Fortunately, our CRO has that covered:

Most copperhead bites on people occur when they step over a rotting log on the floor of the woods. Most of the rest of the people bitten fall into the category of ’trying to kill a copperhead’. Last year according to another Reston Dog Walking source, three dogs were bitten from under bushes next to sidewalks in Carriage Gate.

If some cleanup and removal of fallen/rotting trees (preferred habitat of the slithering copperhead) were performed around/in the ‘cherished protected woods” near Twin Branches road and the area known as ‘Copperhead Creek’ at the bottom of the lake dam, there would be less copperheads for all our neighbors to share.

Failing that, South Side Sleuth has another Modest Proposal:
Perhaps we could just import some King Snakes to the area. King Snakes, sometimes called Black Snakes, are purported to kill and eat venomous snakes while being harmless themselves.

Maybe Reston/Fairfax could change the name of Twin Branches to Copperhead Road (no relation to the song by Steve Earle, moonshine or marijuana of course).

Don't know the song. Let's check it out: