News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Hats Off For a Real One: Reston Trash Founder Passes Away

Longtime Reston Trash Service owner/operator John Hasle, who retired in 2015 for health reasons after four decades of serving neighborhoods in South Reston, passed away last week, according to family members.

Reston Trash was one of the last truly mom and pop businesses serving Reston, and customers and well-wishers raised nearly $6,000 to help with his medical expenses.

Confidential Restonian Operative “Elizabeth” shared the news, adding:

From his retirement party, I have an email list of his many customers, most of them longtime Restonians. One wrote back and said “Part of the funkiness and authenticity of "old" Reston slipping away.”
“He was one in a million,” CRO “Elizabeth” writes, and we agree.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Flashback Monday: An Old School Newcomers Guide For Reston, Complete With Ski Slope. Wait, What?


Not according to Fairfax County it isn't!

Set the controls of the Earth Toned Wayback Machine to 1975, when Reston was a well-established Fairfax County community, considered a desirable place to live. But according to a fancypants "newcomers guide," which was kind of like a printout of Nextdoor entries without the ads for $10 sofas and panicked messages about kids ringing doorbells, Reston also had a full-service ski slope. Wait, what?

Our favorite correspondent, the Peasant from Less Sought After South Reston, has the details:

Whilst recently rummaging through the packrattery in his packratorium, The Peasant stumbled across a long-forgotten “Newcomer’s Guide to Metropolitan Washington” that he received when first going over to the dark side as a member of the Deep State decades ago. Published in 1975 by Washingtonian Magazine, the guide helped newbies navigate the Capital Region, aka the swamp, with scads of practical information.

Imagine our delight upon perusing this publication to find that, even in the primordial days of the 1970s – “the decade that taste forgot and time cannot improve” – Reston was one of the few Fairfax County communities deemed worthy of mention in this esteemed publication. After speaking of “vaguely Victorian” Clifton, “still fairly rural” Herndon, “classic middle class suburb” Vienna, and “pleasant little, rapidly subdivided” Centreville, we are told that Reston is “a new town of more modest goals than its sister town, Columbia, in Maryland.” Although not amused by such a slanderous comparison with our evil satanic twin in Howard County, we are at least mollified to learn that “Reston seems to work, and its wide variety of housing is much in demand.”

Further on, in the list of community specific profiles, we engage the Wayback Machine to learn that in the halcyon (if tasteless) days of the mid-1970s, the “Reston Homeowners Association” assessment was $60 per year, 48 express buses ran to and from Washington, monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $230 and up, and single family houses ranged in price from $42,500 to $105,000. One puzzle: fire and rescue comes from Fairfax County “with support from private firefighters supplied by Reston”. We wonder whether those private firefighters used tastefully taupe toned engines.

But most puzzling, what’s with the mention of a “ski slope with tow” in the list of recreational facilities? Were we once known as the Aspen of the East? Was the Macaroni Grill or its spiritual predecessor the center of hot apr├Ęs-ski nightlife, with bellbottom pants swaying and disco music blaring? Was Reston thus the actual inspiration for The Village People to compose their hit song Y.M.C.A. – “I said, young man, ‘cause you’re in a new town…”

So many questions. So few answers.

Our favorite part is when the guide started talking about the then-brand spanking new developments in Prince William and Loudoun that "make commuting a true test of endurance," ultimately concluding that Sterling Park was, if not at the westernmost edge of what most scientists at the time believed was a Flat Virginia where you'd fall off and land in, say, Kentucky, then way too far away for ordinary mortals to navigate to their bomb-strapping-to-dolphins gig:

How little they knew about the gravitational pull of three-sided-brick facades and X-rated parks, the end.

Monday, March 11, 2019

"Book Me The Scalene Suite!" Four-Star Marriott Renaissance Hotel, More Irregular Angles Coming to Reston Station

One day in the near future, after you've had one too many Farmers Smashes at Reston Station's signature eatery, you'll be able to book a hotel room right there, with the breathtaking view of the irregular polygons right outside your window guaranteed to keep your head spinning well into the next day. Give us some why-doesn't-my-magnetic-key-swipe blockquote, BFFs at the Washington Business Journal:

Comstock Holdings Cos. Inc. has closed a franchise agreement with Marriott International Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR) to bring a Renaissance hotel to Reston Station.

The 250-key Renaissance Reston Station will be a part of Reston Station Promenade, an extension of the original Reston Station project that sits atop the Wiehle-Reston East Metro. The hotel building, to be topped by 80 luxury condominium units, is expected to deliver in 2022 on a site bounded by Reston Station Boulevard, Wiehle Avenue and Sunset Hills Road. It is being designed by Nunzio Marc DeSantis Architects.

“It fulfills a requirement that we’ve heard from our current and future office tenants, and our neighbors such as General Dynamics, and fills a need in the community for additional, quality hotel, events and meeting space,” Christopher Clemente, Comstock CEO, said in a statement.

According to Comstock, this will be the first full-service hotel to deliver in Reston since 2008. The property, to be managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts Management Co., will include ballroom space and meeting rooms.

It's an exciting time at Reston Station, what with a quick DuckDuckGo search confirming that Google is, as long anticipated but until now only officially hinted at through subtle neon clues, moving to the Ur-Polygon across the street from the planned hotel.

What's interesting (or "interesting") is that the hotel won't be piled atop the aforementioned Founding Farmers, as originally planned. Instead, it will be across the street in the woonerfy 1.35 million square foot Promenade at Reston Station development. But never fear, silly rabbits, we're ultimately getting not one, but two fancypants hotels!

Comstock’s design team is putting the finishing touches on plans for two remarkable hotel offerings that will raise the bar for business and extended stay hotels. With more than 400 rooms, the two hotel towers coming to Reston Station offer unrivaled amenities including multiple ballrooms, meeting rooms and community spaces, fitness and spa facilities, upscale retail, and world-class restaurants, all towering above Reston Station’s Central Park and within a few steps of the on-site Metro Station. These iconic hotels will be the most exciting places to meet, dine, entertain, and relax in the Dulles Corridor.
Apparently, the Renaissance is the "luxury hotel," and the second hotel will be a "boutique extended stay" kind of joint, "the first of its kind on the Silver Line" with "all the luxuries and conveniences of home."

The mind boggles about all the possible luxuries and conveniences, like:

  • The Bing.com Google View suite
  • The Kiss and Ride Breakfast Buffet, where long lines of patrons weave endlessly through a gantlet of confusing signs and narrow pillars to collect their food, narrowly avoiding bumping into each other and dropping their bacon scramble
  • Free Metro shuttle (time to cross the street: 2 hours)
  • The Not An Opportunity For Public Input Conference Center, complete with soundproofing and non-functional microphones
  • The (RA) Presidential Suite, available only to elected officials who run unopposed
  • Easy to understand yet cutting-edge online booking, borrowed from a neighbor
  • Ghost town tours
  • Resort fee covering 16 holes of golf, or maybe chair rental and towel at South Lakes Village Center
  • High-density PRC suites (shared with 14 other people)
  • State-of-the-art fireproofing borrowed from yet another neighbor
In lieu of an onsite casino, hotel patrons will be invited to attempt to cross Wiehle Avenue against the light.

So book now! We'll leave the woonerf on for you.

Monday, March 4, 2019

BREAKING: Reston Rezoning Amendment to Be Tabled Indefinitely, Sources Say (Updated: It Was)

After we went to all the trouble of laundering our yellow t-shirts, several Reston groups have confirmed that Hunter Mill Superintendent Cathy Hudgins, the biggest proponent of the controversial Reston zoning amendment, now plans to make a motion to indefinitely defer the proposal and cancel Tuesday's planned public hearing on the matter. Give us some good Roberts Rules of Order blockquote, BFFs at the Coalition for a Planned Reston:

If this motion is made and passed, the Amendment essentially will be killed, but we cannot be sure at this time.

This motion is expected to occur during the Board Matters portion of the meeting, usually late morning. All meetings are televised on Channel 16, streamed live online and available to view on demand following the meeting.

CPR will communicate with the community about the final status of the zoning amendment as soon as the Board of Supervisors votes on the motion to defer.

If things go as we hope, the community can cancel their plans to attend the Public Hearing.

The proposal, which would allow denser development beyond Reston's Metro stations, was recommended for denial by the Fairfax County Planning Commission a few weeks back, and Fairfax County Chair Sharon Bulova said she planned to support that recommendation. If the proposal is actually tabled as expected, this would represent a dramatic shift from the county's approach to the process to date, which has been characterized by limited public input, vague threats of eliminating Reston's entire unique zoning designation, barely concealed frustration about questions being asked, and accusations of NIMBYism. So good on them!

Next steps would presumably follow the planning commission's recommendations: Having staff develop an actual amendment to the comprehensive plan and "establish a task force with representatives from the community and industry to work on recommending a plan amendment to the board and planning commission." We'd humbly argue that the order of those two steps should probably be flipped, but that's probably just being "rude."

No one is suggesting that growth will stop -- or that a moratorium on growth would be good for Reston in the long run. But hopefully this pause will result in better planning and better relationships between our plastic fantastic planned community and county officials. And let the record show that Hudgins, who has been reviled in comment boards for her stance on this and other Reston development-related issues, may have taken the first step in that direction.

Update: It's official.

Reston Now:

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ motion to “indefinitely defer” the consideration of a proposed zoning amendment.

“There are those in the community who do not support this change to the PRC density because they do not support redevelopment of the village centers and are concerned about future growth in Reston,” Hudgins told the board before the vote. “There is also concern that this PRC amendment will somehow support residential development on one or both of the two golf courses in Reston.”

Hudgins also said that misinformation has plagued the push to update the zoning ordinance and thanked the staff for their work educating the community.

“I had hoped that we could have found a way to provide the necessary zoning tool to implement the adopted Reston Plan,” Hudgins said.

Hudgins said that she will work with staff and community representatives to outline a process and timeframe to reexamine the plan for the village centers before reconsidering the PRC amendment — the Planning Commission’s suggested solution.

[snip]

Chairman Sharon Bulova told Hudgins that she understands the PRC amendment has been difficult for her and the Reston community.

“This is not easy, and I know that folks have asked for the opportunity to maybe step back and try to revisit the process that will allow things to move forward in a way that has more community engagement and more community support for a path forward,” she said.

Reston 20/20:

At 12:02 PM, March 5, 2019, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved unanimously a motion by Supervisor Cathy Hudgins to postpone indefinitely consideration of her proposal to increase the authorized density in Reston’s PRC zoned areas from 13 to 15 people per acre.

The Board’s vote ends a 22-month saga (starting May 3, 2017) in which the Supervisor Hudgins, county staff, and Reston organizations worked to understand the implications of the proposed amendment for Reston and reasons for its alleged necessity. Throughout the time frame, it became increasingly obvious that the people of Reston, all directly affected by the proposed amendment, broadly opposed adoption of the zoning amendment. This opposition peaked at a community meeting arranged by Supervisor Hudgins in October 2017 at South Lakes High School attended by more than 900 Restonians. More than 100 people stood to comment in opposition to the proposal.

Follow-up small group discussions in 2018 between community representatives and county staff failed to close the gaps in justifying the zoning proposal. In fact, county staff failed to answer questions laid out by community representatives until a week before Supervisor Hudgins was scheduled to propose the advertisement of the zoning amendment proposal. The answers were pro forma and failed to add significant information to that which was already known. Nonetheless, and despite her commitment to the contrary in the absence of substantive responses to the community’s concerns, Supervisor Hudgins moved forward with her proposal to advertise the PRC zoning ordinance amendment proposal—the first legislative step in approving zoning ordinance amendment—on December 4, 2018.

Thereafter, with the widespread participation of Restonians, community representatives from the Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) and Reston Association (RA) pressed hard to inform the community, the Planning Commission, and members of the Board of Supervisors of the issues with the proposed zoning amendment. Hundreds of Restonians wearing yellow shirts showed up at the Planning Commission hearing and more than a dozen testified in opposition to the proposed amendment. In its decision, the Planning Commission recommended against adoption of the zoning ordinance amendment and called for a revamped Reston Master Plan tied concurrently to a new zoning ordinance approval.

As a result, Supervisor Hudgins decided to request that the Board of Supervisors defer indefinitely its consideration of the PRC zoning ordinance amendment. Her motion to do so was passed unanimously by the Board on March 5, 2019.

It is not clear when the county will follow through on the Planning Commission’s recommendations, but it is not likely to occur until next year when a new Board of Supervisors is in place.

We commend--and thank--all Restonians who participated in any way in stopping this ill-considered zoning amendment. It was absolutely essential to the preservation of Reston as a planned community. While we have achieved a major victory in sustaining the vision laid out by Reston’s founder, Robert E. Simon, our reward will be to have to tackle the planning and zoning issue once again after the decade of effort that got us here. We will continue to keep the community advised of the planning and zoning issues in Reston as they arise.

Friday, March 1, 2019

After Planning Commission Recommends Denial, Fairfax County Supervisors to Act on Reston Rezoning, Maybe

Fans of yellow t-shirts and land use hearings will enjoy next week. The rest of us, not so much.

Next Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold its long-anticipated public hearing on the proposed Reston rezoning proposal, which would essentially allow denser, more bollard-laden development beyond Reston's present and future Metro stations, including the existing village centers, and ultimately push Reston into the six-figure population range.

There was a glimmer of hope that the proposal might be tabled after the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted to recommend that county Supervisors reject the proposal and basically direct county staff to reconvene another community task force on the matter, using terms like "highly problematic" and "pushback" in describing the proposal.

However, the Board of Supervisors doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to listening to its staff and subordinate boards, particularly when it comes to Reston and building up that sweeeeeet sweeeet tax base. So it -- and the accompanying public hearing -- are officially on the agenda for the March 5 meeting.

"While we believe the Supervisors should accept the Commissioners' recommendations, they have no obligation to do so," the Coalition for a Planned Reston said in a statement.

Already this particular proposal has generated a lot of "greatest hits" from county staff and board members, including:

"This is not an opportunity for public input."

"We can't stop development waiting for roads to be built."

It’s rude to claim that nothing is being done."

"Yes, there are some questions that people have. Those questions have been answered before or are not relevant to this.

And our representative on the board, Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, has been a vocal proponent of the zoning change, against the opposition of virtually every organized Reston group (except for the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, whose president spoke in favor of the proposal at a Planning Commission meeting and many of whose members could probably use the added foot traffic from new development). She's also retiring this year and has lumped critics of the proposals together as a bunch of unwelcoming NIMBYs, so we think we have a pretty good idea of how she's going to vote, Planning Commission recommendation be damned. Those NIMBY... um, planners, not wanting to, um, plan things!

Board Chair Sharon Bulova, however, said in a message to Rescue Reston that she supports the Planning Commission recommendation to pull back on the rezoning and reconvene a community-based task force as a next step.

We're all for growth in our plastic fantastic planned community, but we think the county has really fallen down on planning the needed infrastructure to go along with it. There's been a lot of talk of late about the Dillon Rule, which supposedly completely ties the county's hands and keeps it from building the fancy and expensive 93-lane roads and pony-laden parks and whatnot it really wants to in Reston, like, yesterday, though promises of infrastructure improvements ahead of development seem okey-dokey just a few miles away in another Dillon-constrained county. All we're saying is if it takes nearly a decade to build a bike bridge that's been needed since the late 1980s, we're not exactly confident. Sorry if that makes us "rude."

The public hearing is scheduled for 4:30pm on Tuesday, March 5 at the Fairfax County Government Center. We're guessing there will be a fair amount of yellow in the audience.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Hey Siri, Bing "When Is Google Moving To Reston Station?" And Ask Jeeves If Amazon Wants To Move NYC's 0.5 HQ Units Here Too And Shuffle My "Transit-Oriented Development (Very) Slow Jams" Playlist Please

The Google-colored neon disappeared from our favorite parallelogram almost immediately after our RESTONIAN WORLD EXCLUSIVE about its significance, leading us to lose countless nights of sleep over a speculative filthy "web log" post possibly souring what is undoubtedly a multi-million-dollar real estate deal between two wealthy companies, all for a few pennies of clickbait ad revenue.

Turns out, we needn't have worried. On the heels of Google's announcement earlier this week that it is doubling the size of its Virginia workforce, we've gotten yet another confirmation that execs at the Internet giant really have been Asking Jeeves "How do I hang pictures on a wall with a 45-degree angle?"

Give us some good CRE blockquote, BFFs at the Washington Business Journal:

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) plans to nearly double its footprint in Reston as part of a much larger expansion its chief executive announced Wednesday.

The Mountain View, California-based company is close to announcing plans to move from Reston Town Center to 1900 Reston Metro Plaza, the trophy office building Comstock Holding Cos. Inc. (NASDAQ: CHCH) developed speculatively at the foot of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, said two sources familiar with the situation but not authorized to comment publicly.

More bad news for parking-plagued Reston Town Center, it seems. Even as we speak, the RTC crisis management team must be frantically churning out another press release calling its new anchor tenant the "Google of nail salons."

But we digress. There are already a lot of sweeeeeeeeeeet Google jobs posted for Reston (we're personally holding out for that plum Chief Web Log Officer position), so go for it if your dream board for 2020 includes working in a neon-bedecked glass trapezoid within walking distance of a Starbucks and some impressive An Arts.

Meanwhile, it looks like the 0.5 units of the much sought after Amazon HQ2 that wound up in New York City instead of Crystal City National Landing are coming to Virginia after all. And the photo accompanying a story in the (Failing) New York Times makes it perfectly clear why. After all, why should a company with virtually unlimited resources that could convince potential employees to move anywhere (and Crystal City National Landing is a good test of that theory) have to put up with a view like this:

When it could have this?

Let's enjoy a little bit of schadenfreude on behalf of the fancypants Big Apple, courtesy of Arlington County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey:

Mr. Dorsey said he couldn’t speak directly to New York’s possible fumblings. “I can’t speculate what went wrong, and I don’t really care to think about it much,” he said.

But he discussed how his area had done a better job of planning for Amazon, convincing the company to come and then rolling out an infrastructure and development plan to make its arrival possible.

But if Amazon wants to see what things look like when companies are enticed to move somewhere without an accompanying "infrastructure and development plan," there's a slightly more rectalinear building right next to their Internet rival they could look into on this side of town, the end.

Friday, February 8, 2019

We Welcome Our Automated Wegmans-Adjacent Overlords: Self-Driving Vehicles To Aid In Carrying Prepared Foods To Regular, Non-Self-Driving Vehicles

Enormously huge news for fans of Black Mirror-like dystopian futures, prepared foods, and planned real estate developments: Turns out our plastic fantastic planned community will be among the first to have self-driving cars zipping around, in an endless Wegmans-to-parking-garage-and-back-to-Wegmans loop in the fun new 4 million square-foot Reston Crescent development that's now apparently called Halley Rise, enabling hungry Restonians to make their rotisserie chicken runs at speeds approaching Mach 3. Sweet! Give us some futuristic blockquote, BFFs at the Verge:

Boston-based self-driving startup Optimus Ride said on Thursday that it will provide rides in its golf cart-sized vehicles to tenants of a $1.4 billion mixed-use development project in Reston, Virginia, starting later this year. It will be a very modest deployment of the technology — three vehicles on a fixed loop to and from the parking facility — but it underscores the need for self-driving car operators to rein in their ambitions before going public.
HOGWASH. It actually underscores the need to get those Wegmans prepackaged food containers back to the car before they get cold.
An MIT spinoff, Optimus Ride said its vehicles would be confined to the private development site called Halley Rise, and it will be geofenced, meaning they can’t operate outside of a specific geographic area. Human safety drivers will be in each vehicle in case anything goes wrong, though the company claims its technology is Level 4 capable, or able to handle all of the driving duties within the geofence and under specific conditions.
When the vehicles reach Level 5 capability, they will be able to enslave humanity pick out the best sushi platters and pre-warmed samosas on their own.

So that's exciting! But maybe you're looking for a futuristic means of transportation beyond the friendly confines of Halley Rise (BTW, does "rise" refer to our grocery bills, congestion along Sunrise Valley, or both?).

But we digress. Might we suggest the other futuristic, next-generation innovation in transportation -- the electric scooter? Already annoying and endangering people available in Arlington and D.C. proper, imagine our surprise when we opened our flip phone and saw one lonely Bird Scooter, apparently abandoned at the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station and pinging for help.

Awww, poor 'lil guy! Let's just hope this Bird has a better fate than the ones here: