News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

We're #10, Again! Yet Another List Places Reston Among Fastest-Growing Cities in Virginia

UrlLook out Merrifield, Kingstown, Waynesboro, Short Pump, and Marumsco (wherever that is) -- Reston is on the move! In yet another one of the listicles that are akin to catnip for "web loggers," some website ranked Reston as the tenth-fastest-growing city in Virginia. Despite all its awesome, Tysons only ranked 15th. Excelsior!

Nerdwallet's "City on the Rise" rankings were based on population growth, employment growth, and income growth. According to the website, Reston's "Census Designated Place" -- since we all know that Reston is most certainly Not a City -- working-age population increased 7.6 percent between 2010 and 2012, while employment growth rose a modest 0.8 percent. But all that strapping bombs to dolphins sweeeeeeeet contracting work from Uncle Sugar paid off, as median incomes in Reston grew 8.7 percent to $78,642 -- the equivalent of clicking the "who's your baby's daddy" ad on the top of this "web log" approximately 4.7 billion times.

Between this heady news and our recent ascension to near the very top of the best places for rich singles, no wonder Jackson's is one of the top grossing restaurants in the country. Add a couple of bocce courts and a Cheesecake Factory, and we'll be golden!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Flashback Monday: A Model Movie House, Showcasing Less Than Model Behavior

Movie theater model
We've written before about the multitude of cinema options available to the earliest Restonians, thanks to the Reston International Center multiplex showing such hit movies as "1" and "2" (presumably the sequel to "1".) The building is now a Chili's, but we can look back at the day when it wasn't even a two-screen movie theater, but a balsawood model painted white to reflect all that would be pure and stucco-y and surrounded by oddly proportioned trees in the future Reston.

But let's look closer at one of the Potemkin posters. What kinds of movies did Reston's planners expect to pack in the crowds?

Movie Closeup
OOOH LA LA. One of those "new wave" French movies, no doubt. That two-piece would have been tres scandaleuse in the mid-1960s, especially in the conservative Virginia countryside. Good thing the folks over in Herndon didn't catch wind of this, else'n there might have been a good ole' fashioned barn moviehouse burning!

Flasher
Which such a salacious display of the human form all part of the Reston plan, no wonder the model felt compelled to add a flasher to the scale model. Why leave all the fun to places like Times Square, after all?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reston Master Plan: Redeveloped Village Centers With Central Plazas, More Density

As Phase II of the Reston Master Plan continues to wend its way through multiple tracked-version changes in Microsoft Word the public hearing process, county officials are holding the second of its community meetings on Saturday. The draft, or "strawman," as the kids development wonks like to say, language that would guide redevelopment of the existing village centers is here. While county planners are careful to say they're focused primarily on the shopping centers and not existing neighborhoods, they did add this weasel wording codicil:

From time to time, circumstances may arise that merit consideration of the redevelopment of an existing apartment community. Under such circumstances, the Board of Supervisors may consider proposals to amend the Comprehensive Plan and/or past zoning actions in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan to allow for the redevelopment of an apartment community if the criteria specified above are met and the additional criteria below are met.
We're already starting to see what this might look like.

The strawman text attempts to connect the vision for future development with the original plans for the village centers:
The village centers were conceived of as the places that would draw people together, with a public plaza for gatherings of all types, formal and informal, as well as a grocery store, churches or other community uses, restaurants and local services (e.g. dry cleaners, day care providers, etc.). Lake Anne and Hunters Woods Village Centers developed according to this model. However, over time retail trends changed and later village centers were designed in a more typical suburban fashion, with an emphasis on retail uses and restaurants, without community uses and the stores surrounding a large surface parking lot. This form reduced the ability of the later village centers to function as the community gathering places they were intended to be. In the future, the village centers should be encouraged to transform to include a central gathering space, preferably a plaza, a horizontal mix of uses, anchored by civic uses and ground floor retail, and some traditional main street elements such as wide sidewalks and shade trees.
These central places, the draft says, should be "neighborhood-scale gathering places," not like the Town Center or the "civic plaza" at the Wiehle Avenue Metro Station. In other words, don't expect to see a giant fountain topped with a statue of a Greek god in the middle of Tall Oaks' crumbling parking lot.

But the parking lots themselves should change as well, county officials say.
Use the parking area, either surface parking lots or parking structures, as a multi-use space for public events, recreation, and gathering through the inclusion of green roofs, temporary, creative paving materials, pavement markings and access control strategies.
"Access control strategies?" Hopefully they don't mean this:

Warning Tire Damage Occurs Sign K 8290
Other recommendations include "access and visibility from the roadway to the central space or commercial core" cough cough Tall Oaks and including "commercial, civic uses, and a variety of residential uses (single family attached and multifamily at medium to high densities)." Which, of course, is all part of the plan. But never fear, as developers will be encouraged to "utilize shifts in scale and massing to transition from existing uses to new higher density and intensity uses" and "create opportunities through the spatial arrangement of uses for users to interact and linger between the different uses." We can't wait for random people to "linger" in the spatial arrangement between our carport and our front door, particularly late at night.

There's other stuff about transportation and whatnot, but we know how well that's worked out so far.

Actually, the broad strokes of this make sense -- at this point, we wish the owners of Tall Oaks would just get on with developing something in the place of the increasingly empty stucco wasteland. But, as we like to say, the devil is in the details, or lack thereof, and we won't know those until specific proposals start wending their way through the pipeline.

The meeting will be at 8:45am at South Lakes High School.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Forget Paris Again: Tysons Now A Combination of Venice, Central Park, and St. Louis

Now that Tysons has been transformed overnight from a car-clogged hellscape combining the worst of the suburban and urban experience into an exemplar of future cities, only with better retail, it's time to reset our expectations for "Fairfax County's Downtown."

In a simpler, less aware time, planners were quick to compare Tysons with Paris and the Emerald City -- with straight faces, even.

But now that we've seen the wonders of Tysons from a cracked lot of asphalt and the elevated vantage point of the Silver Line, we know that these ideas were wrong -- all wrong. Let the person fawning articles describe as the architect of the 'New Tysons' explain to us how it's all kinds of awesome places, rolled into one fantastic amalgamation of ugly office buildings and chain retail 21st century city!

Caplin describes the Tysons of tomorrow with a romantic fervor. In his telling, the new plaza being built near Tysons Corner Station is the Piazza San Marco. The slope he’s pegged for winter sledding will rival Pilgrim Hill in Central Park. The gigantic trestles shouldering the Metro, if decorated, might become as iconic as St. Louis’s Gateway Arch. One member of the partnership recently gave Caplin a painting of what Tysons could someday look like: an elevated train glides away from an imposing crowd of skyscrapers, above an insignificant trickle of cars. “It shows the density and the vitality,” Caplin said. “That’s what it’s going to be. It’s not Manhattan, but it’s going to be a big deal.”
We all know that Tysons isn't going to be Manhattan. That distinction is reserved for us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Lake Anne Renderings Feature a Mew, Whatever THAT Is

As the awesome Lake Anne redevelopment plan begins to wend its way through the county approval process, the developers have put together a slick new brochure of architectural renderings. And Lake Anne folks, sit down: YOU'RE GETTING A MEW:

Mew
Apparently a mew is "a cage or building for trained hawks, especially while they are molting." But mews are "a row or street of houses or apartments that have been converted from stables or built to look like former stables" or "a group of stables, typically with rooms above, built around a yard or along an alley." Since these townhouses will be converted from subsidized housing, not genteel horse stables or a rookery, we can see why the developers went to the Olde English for their description.

Speaking of which, we get our first glimpse of the subsidized units that will be part of the development as part of the county-brokered deal that eliminates the existing Crescent Apartments.

Affordable housing
Not bad, actually, though they appear to have the only surface parking in the entire development. Guess they don't want the poors to park their dented imports next to the BMWsFord Foci. And here's what the non-affordable midrise will look like:

Not Affordable Housing
Apparently, paying market rates gets you two materials on the facade, plus garage parking.

Then there's the "active adult" building that makes up the other half of a circle with the subsidized housing. It looks... pretty big.

Massing
But these circular buildings will be bisected by a nice-looking "central park."

New park
Our BFFs at Reston 2020 point out that "the plan appears generally devoid of recreational facilities, which is not satisfactory."

Along North Shore, these apparently mewless townhouses look pretty nice:

Townhouses
Closer to the existing Plaza, we get to see what the mixed-use space that will fill the current parking lot will look like:

New buiilding
This is really nice, particularly in the way it mirrors the existing commercial plaza, with the notable exception of the child-free children's fountain. Thoughtfully, the developers point out the Farmer's Market will have space within the open pedestrian space:

Farmers market
Of course, we love the little details of these renderings, and we couldn't help but notice a recurrent theme in the little CGI people that were added on to give the renderings "warmth," as those of us who are not architects like to say:

Get a Room
GEEZ GUYS GET A ROOM WILL YOU. Here's hoping a hotel is part of the development's mixed-use amenities.

The redevelopment proposal goes before the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee on October 20, followed by the DRB the next day. Then the Fairfax County Planning Commission hearing is scheduled for December 10, followed by the county Board of Supervisors on Jan. 13. While it isn't perfect, the development is clearly Reston-like in a lot of good ways. Here's hoping it stays that way as it wends its way through the approval process and the subsequent construction.

Friday, October 10, 2014

All Hail the Pileated Woodpecker, The (Almost) Official Bird of Reston

Reston birdThe votes are in, and it looks like the official bird of our earth-toned community will have a decidedly DRB-unfriendly red streak. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Patch:

Friends of Reston has announced that out of five birds nominated to be the Official Bird of Reston, the Pileated Woodpecker has received the most votes... The Pileated Woodpecker received 632 votes (23%). In second place was the Eastern Bluebird with 597 votes (22%). In third to fifth place were the American Goldfinch with 514 votes (19%), the Barred Owl with 474 votes (17%), and the Great Blue Heron with 431 votes (16%). These close results validate the selection of nominated birds, which Reston naturalists chose for year-round presence, ease of recognition and beauty.

“There wasn’t a loser among them,” said Katie Shaw, Executive Director of Friends of Reston.
Except for the ones who, you know, lost. And sadly, none of our humble suggestions seemed to catch fire in a write-in landslide.

Incredibly, this election received more than 2,700 votes -- which isn't too far off from the turnout for non-avian elections 'round these here parts.

This contentious decision now goes to the RA Board for approval. Once it's approved -- we're not talking about goats, after all -- we can look forward to some more fun for the kids:
Friends of Reston will add the Pileated Woodpecker as one of Reston’s mascots, joining Earl the Squirrel and Myrtle the Turtle as a character at special events. So far, the favored name for the new mascot is Walker the Woodpecker.
Sounds... copyright-friendly!

So what can we learn about our new official leader? The Internets tell us this:
This beneficial, adaptable bird is Virginia’s largest woodpecker, as large as a crow, reaching a size of 16 – 19 inches long with a wing span of 26 – 30 inches across. They are mainly black with a prominent red crest and a white stripe along their throat. They are noted for their loud ‘laugh’ of a call and the drumming sound they make when pecking into wood to find insects, show off, and proclaim their territory.
Those of us lucky enough to have one of them near our homes know that sound all too well:


THANKS FOR THE NIGHTMARES OFFICIAL BIRD PLEASE MAKE IT STOP

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Aliens Among Us: Floating Objects In Lake Audobon May Or May Not Be Hell-Spawned Mutants, Are Definitely Disgusting

Slime creature 1
Confidential Restonian Operative "Constance" posted to the Facebooks these horrifying pictures of various organic objects that fell into Lake Audobon, presumably from outer space. "Animal, vegetable, or mineral?" she asks, to which we respond: Yes. Now please INCINERATE IT.

Slime creature 2
It's been suggested these are variants on this creepy critter. Be that as it may, much as with the mystery object recently discovered on the brick-lined shores of Lake Anne, it's only a matter of time until these things develop sentience, master the use of tools, and finally, create a series of detailed and overreaching covenants, color palettes, and design guidelines to serve in proxy of a social compact. Then, my friends, we're up a creek a manmade lake without a paddle.