News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, August 13, 2018

Flashback Monday: RELAC Comes to Reston

It seems only fitting during a sweltering week in August to set the controls of the Earth-Toned Wayback Machine to June 17, 1965, a momentous day when, with the flip of a switch, our burgeoning planned community entered the space jet age, as shown in this old-timey "news paper" photo of Bob Simon and 7-year-old Deborah Scurlock opening the literal floodgates of what would be known as the lake-cooled RELAC system, which has since brought members of the community together for decades. But back then, there was only the thrilling promise of a future of quiet, clean, water-cooled climate control that would keep the wall-to-wall shag carpeting in the sunken living room from getting musty on even the hottest days.

Give us some good blockquote, old-timey Washington Star "news paper":

The world's first 'community air conditioning system' was turned on yesterday at Reston's newly built Lake Anne Village.

Cooling of an entire community of townhouses, apartments, and stores from a central plant is a major advance in the science of climate control, according to Russell Gray, president of Carrier Air Conditioning Co., whose equipment is being used."

Hmmm. We actually didn't know that a major AC manufacturer was in on RELAC from the start; Carrier supposedly introduced the concept at the 1939-40 Worlds Fair in New York City, so it took them a while to find a guinea pig test site. Or did it? Much as the auto industry bought streetcar systems to hasten their obsolescence, did BIG AIR CONDITIONING deliberately hobble its would-be competitor to keep us all buying those loud, individual AC units that plague us with noise pollution and actually controlled climates?

Maybe not. Alls we know is back in 1965, the future looked bright:

There is no visible evidence of air conditioning outside the homes.
Flash forward a few decades, and there would be no visible evidence inside them, either. But back in 1965, the idea of 10,000 feet of buried pipe to connect Reston's 227 townhouse, 12 shops, and 15-story apartment building was a marvel beyond the imaginations of many.
Heat picked up by the water in cooling household air is removed by water pumped from nearby Lake Anne. The heated water is pumped back to the 30-acre manmade lake, which is large enough to absorb the heat without measurable temperature change.
The same couldn't always be said for the interiors of many homes in the years that followed, but that's a small price to pay for progress, the end.

Full article text below:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mauvescraperpocalypse Now: What's 10 Million Square Feet When You Get a Wegman's and Maybe a Bike Lane or Two?

In one fell swoop, earlier this week the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved three massive projects that together will bring nearly 10 million square feet of new development and more than 3,700 residential units to Reston in the coming year, including at least one 420-foot (blaze it) mauvescraper that could be 35 (or more) stories tall. If built, that would dwarf the long-approved, not-yet-built One Reston Town Center project on Reston Parkway that at one time held the mantle of the tallest planned building in Reston.

You can't tell your exciting mixed-use development projects without a scorecard, so here's the rundown:

Reston Gateway, the Boston Properties-developed project that essentially connects our fake downtown vibrant urban core to the Reston Town Center Metro station, includes 2.2 million square feet of office space (including Fannie Mae's future headquarters), 93,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, and more than 2,000 residential units, along with the (blaze it) 420-foot mauvescraper and its neighboring 380-foot buddy. No truth to the rumor the second building will be called "Lil' Shorty," but here's hoping!

Reston Crescent is on the other side of the Toll Road from Reston Gateway and will ultimately have 4.1 million square feet of mixed-use space, including its own hotel, more than 1,700 residential units, and a dog park, but who cares, because Wegmans.

• Finally, Core Site will build two massive data centers on its property across from USGS on Sunrise Valley Drive. We do appreciate that the project was described by county officials as a "high-end" data center, not one of those tacky low-class data centers you see out in Ashburn and whatnot. Only the finest spam e-mails and streaming teevee series will be allowed to sully our earth-toned community's fiber optics! And there's even more good news, according to our elected county representatives:

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the data center would also significantly reduce trip generation. “In some sense, that’s a good news piece,” she said.
Yep. Just like millennials and mixed-use development residents, binge-watched Netflix episodes don't drive cars.

To be fair, all three proposals are among the "danger zones" of approved developments within walking distance to Metro. It's hard to argue against concentrating new development there, and we still think it's better to live in a place that's growing than one that's stagnant. Plus, Wegmans!

What's bad, of course, is that there's still no actual funding allocated for virtually any of the many infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate all this awesome new development. And while each project requires the developer to put up some money for infrastructure, we're not talking about bridge-building money, and we're not exactly confident the county is willing to hold developers' feet to the fire.

Consider this statement about the Reston Gateway project, which our BFFs at Reston Now, in what might have been a Freudian slip, called a "mixed-up" project:

Part of the deal includes the conveyance of a 60,000-square-foot performing arts center planned in phase two of the development. The building would be conveyed to the county’s board or another entity. If the plan fails, Boston Properties will provide required contributions for an athletic field, according to Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter.
Hmm. So a company which doesn't exactly have the best track record of supporting the community has gotten the green light to opt out of building a (presumably expensive) performing arts center by throwing (presumably far less) money at relining a soccer field or two? We're no planning officials, but this strikes us as.... pretty weak sauce, as the kids might have said at one point.

Never fear, as the county has, as they say in the movies, a plan:

Hudgins also noted that the arrival of the Silver Line over the next two years would reduce the number of drivers on the road.

“This is a large transition as we see it,” she said.

Um, it's already here? Also, if this is such great news for Reston, why was the news of the approval of the projects listed below such vital pieces of community news as a volunteer fire commission award, a stream restoration project, and proposed ordinances governing fleet vehicles in Hudgins' latest email to constituents? (To be fair, they were listed above the 4-H Fair and Carnival, so there's that.)

Exactly one (1) person spoke about the proposals during the public hearing earlier this week, Reston resident Rob Whitfield. "It was abundantly clear that the Board does not give a flying fig about the adverse consequences of their action," Whitfield said in an email. "I suggested to the Board that "Reston is being treated like a bastard stepchild" and that the disparity between transportation project funding between the southern half of Fairfax County and the northern half is vast."

Looks like we can look forward to more out-of-the-box proposals like this going forward. And Wegmans, the end.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Marketing of Reston Mixed-Use Development: A Play in One Act


A series of EXECUTIVES are gathered around a table, anxiously awaiting what a MARKETING CONSULTANT has to say. The CONSULTANT stands and prepares to deliver a presentation.

Nice set of parallelograms you've got here. The neon is a nice touch. Dynamic! But to attract a virbant millennial market, you need something else. You need to be relatable, give 'em something they can put on their, whazzitcalled, Instagrams.
A hush falls over the room. The CONSULTANT walks over to a covered flip chart and unveils an image.

Hashtags, gentlemen, hashtags. Millennials love hashtags. And avocado toast.
Low voices can be heard among the EXECUTIVES. Finally, one raises his voice.
Promising. We like it! But millennials don't have the disposable income to drive our champagne wishes and caviar dreams of transit-oriented world domination. Besides, we don't want our subterranean parking lots filled with their Ford Focuses. I mean, gross.

We need something else. Something that captures the true spirit of mixed-use, transit-oriented development. Something that will finally silence all those nerds with their trivial complaints about "floor-area-ratios" and "infrastructure" and get them on board with the program.

One step ahead of you, gentlemen.
The CONSULTANT flips over another page on the flip chart to reveal a new image.

Silence for a long moment. Then the EXECUTIVES burst into applause.

... and scene.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Breaking News From Reston: The Magazine: PICKLEBALL HAS FINALLY MADE IT TO RESTON!

Over the years, we have often mocked Reston: The Magazine for its combination of subliminal messaging and confounding word finds. But the current issue of the magazine, which should have recently been delivered by uniformed federal agents to your attached or nonattached home, has what those of us in the business call a BIG SCOOP -- the kind of thing the so-called "lamestream media" wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. But don't take our word for it, check out this blaring headline, using a font size and punctuation usually reserved for the end of world wars or presidential resignations:

Heads. Will. Roll. Or maybe just pickles.

What is pickleball, you ask? So does Reston: The Magazine:

"Yikes, what a mess." We feel ya, Reston: The Magazine, we feel ya.

Anyhoo, pickleball is a tennis-like game that apparently The Olds enjoy, and anyone with "a current pool and tennis pass" can enjoy it as well! Skeptical? Well, Reston: The Magazine also ranked it as #5 of its "12 Terrific Staycation Ideas for Reston Families." For some perspective, they managed to get through items 1-7 before suggesting fleeing "hopping on the Metro to spend a day in D.C.," the end.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Flashback Monday: 10 Percent Down! (Appropriate Capitalization Extra)

Set the controls of the Earth-Toned Wayback Machine to the late 1960s, when this “news paper” ad encouraged people to take “any route to Tyson’s Corner” and then a very specific route to Reston to look at townhouses “with such large, spacious rooms that you won’t believe their size until you get inside.”

For $31,300, early would-be Restonians could live in Golf Course Island, surrounded by what was then called Reston’s North Golf Course, and enjoy a “dramatic sunken living room” (naturally). But why would anyone want to put a shocking 10 PERCENT DOWN ($3,130, which works out to 6,875,973 bitcoin in today’s dollars)? The answer is simple — plastics return on investment!

Well, that held true for close to five decades at least.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Once Again, Reston Goes Viral on Video, Once Again For All The Wrong Reasons

Man oh man, we love us some viral videos, and for the second year running, Reston doesn't disappoint. Unfortunately, for the second year running, it's not exactly a good viral video that's put our plastic fantastic planned community on the map yet again:

To be fair, the person in the video hasn't worked for the Reston Association for several years, the organization said in a statement posted on its home page. And until we build the Big Beautiful Earth-Toned Wall to keep undesirables from, say, shopping at Trader Joe's, we can't take responsibility for every bit of unpleasantness that happens in our community. But come on, folks! Doesn't anyone who lives in Reston have a video of a cat or dog who Thinks They're People?

Friday, June 29, 2018

What Do They Know That We Don't? Strap On Your Mauve Colored Tinfoil Hat

Earlier this month, construction began on the second, now shockingly rectilinear, office tower at Reston Station. It's unusual for buildings of this size to be constructed on spec (the mauvescraper that may someday be Reston's tallest has been approved for years but is awaiting a "trophy" tenant before breaking ground). Comstock may have been betting the first Reston Station parallelogram that has sat mostly vacant since it was completed was a shoe-in for Nestle's U.S. headquarters (which instead chose Urban Hellhole Reston Is Destined To Become Minus the Proximity to DC Arlington), but now they're going forward with a second massive building, estimated at $95 million, with no signed tenants?

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

[Comstock CEO and founder Christopher] Clemente admitted to being a little "crazy" to start the second building but was confident there will be strong demand once it is complete, due largely to the facility's location near Metro.

"There is no office building on the Silver Line that is closer to Metro than the one we are about to start," Clemente told me in an interview. "We're doing it based on demand we see in the market and the activity we see in the [Dulles] Toll Road corridor."

He noted that it will take some time to build the parking structure under the new building, giving the developer roughly a year before it must commit to vertical construction of the office building.

Okay, makes sense. But what to make of this TOTALLY UNRELATED STORY about the renovation of the Westin hotel across the Toll Road at Reston Heights?
Noble principal Ben Brunt said the acquisition was motivated by substantial growth and corporate relocations planned in Reston. (emphasis ours)
For some unknown reason, we're visualizing a fruit of some sort floating down a South American river, but maybe that's the long-expired sexist bread from the long-gone grocery store we ate last night talking.

So maybe not. Probably not. But... maybe?

Looking even further ahead, Comstock said it expects to begin construction next year on the third office building: a 250,000-square-foot tower called 1902 Reston Metro Plaza. The total price tag for that project is $125 million.

Now that we've entered tinfoil hat territory, let's check out another totally crazy conspiracy theory, which began with the "road to nowhere" across the never-to-be-redeveloped even though it was purchased by developers Hidden Creek Golf Course that the county refuses to delete from its maps. Now, our BFFs at Coalition for a Planned Reston point out, there's something else afoot:

The Road from Nowhere was slipped in to the Comprehensive Plan surreptitiously, and now we have learned that the County has been planning for years to take over a portion of the fourth hole of the course for a 1 to 4-acre storm water d retention “pond."
Nothing to see here, kids. Just an additional water feature to add a little challenge for those hordes of up-and-coming millennial golfers!

County officials planning for a golf course-free future while publicly professing the intent to keep it open space? Now that's crazy, the end.