News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, September 19, 2016

We're #28! 'Hunter Mill,' Which Is A Place, Loses Big to Ashburn and Columbia, Despite Prominent Barn in Photo

Barn

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Just four short years ago, our beloved earth-toned community was ranked the 7th best place to live in the nation by listicle-generating sweatshop Money magazine. Someone defrost Kasey Kasem's cryogenically frozen skull, as we're now TUMBLING DOWN THE CHARTS. This year, we're ranked 28th -- and lumped in with Herndon, Vienna, Paris Tysons, and all the McMansions connecting them like a stucco-and-Klonopin-filled lymphatic system. Give us some good blockquote, Listicle McListicleface:

Hunter Mill isn’t a traditional town—it encompasses parts of several Fairfax County communities, including Reston, Herndon, Vienna, and Tysons Corner. But that special blend gives the Hunter Mill District many qualities that make is a great place to raise a family. Residents here have access to government jobs in Washington, D.C., retail jobs at Tysons Corner Center (the largest shopping mall in the state), and the tech jobs at AOL, Microsoft, and Accenture in the Dulles Technology Corridor. Indeed, Hunter Mill’s unemployment rate is just 3.2%, well below the national average.

In addition, Civil War history buffs revel in Hunter Mill’s past. Because the area was split between Northern and Southern sympathizers, Hunter Mill Road, which runs through the area, supported encampments of both Union and Confederate armies. Meanwhile, present-day Hunter Mill plays host to annual events such as the two-day Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, ukulele and jazz festivals, and Taste of Reston Food Festival. That strong community spirit can also be found at Frying Pan Farm Park—the site for the Hunter Mill Melodies summer-long concert series. Still, Hunter Mill suffers from two common Northern Virginia problems: bad traffic (one study found that three of the nation’s worst bottlenecks are in Northern Virginia), and expensive housing (the typical home sold for $502,000 through July of 2016).

THAT BARN THOUGH. We don't know if the stress-addled listicle-monkeys at Money did a quick Google search for "Metro station Hunter Mill" and this was the first result that popped up, or if they think that we collectively spend every weekend at Frying Pan park, pretending to be farmers instead of, whazzitcalled, "service providers" for the gubmint.

But the hits keep coming! Reston's doppelganger Columbia ranked FIRST, for reasons that seem oddly familiar to the original planned community:

Columbia also owes its success to an idea—or maybe it’s an ideal. Founded in the late ’60s, the town made the concept of community building part of the master plan. Each of the 10 bucolically named villages (Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills) includes a mix of residences— apartments, townhomes, and single-family houses—to promote socioeconomic diversity. Individual homes don’t have mailboxes; they’re collected in groups on each cul-de-sac or block to encourage neighborly mixing. Some people worship at a church or synagogue, but others prefer an “interfaith center,” where the faiths rotate through a communal space.

The master plan guides economic development as well. Offices and retail centers are sprinkled strategically around the villages. Mid-rise office buildings are clustered downtown between the Columbia Mall and Lake Kittamaqundi, which is surrounded by an exercise path, restaurants, and the town’s celebratory symbol of inclusiveness: the 35-foot-high metal sculpture The People Tree.

"The People's Tree." Listicle ranking or not, our kickass Triffids would devour that hunk of metal in no time. And there's this:
“I sometimes tell people this is a little bit like the Land of Oz,” says Gary Ahrens, a retired high school teacher and counselor who sells real estate for Keller Williams.
Right down to the demonic undertones.

But we digress! It's one thing to be beat out by a clone. It's another to be beat out by an anxiety attack made solely out of particleboard and a Quizno's. That's right, Ashburn ranked six places higher, at #22. Accompanied by a lovely photo of the bread lines that invariably will pop up once gas goes up to $13 a gallon and people realize there's no mass transit, the Ashburn writeup focuses largely on one thing:

At the town’s epicenter is One Loudoun, a community that blends offices, shops, restaurants, entertainment, condominiums, and hotels where people gather for outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets, 5K races, and the December tree lighting ceremony.
That's right, their Fake Fake Downtown. Where, by the way, parking is still free. As it is at Columbia's mall-anchored downtown. What is it they say again about two being a coincidence, but three is a trend?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bye, Bye, API: It's Too Late For Reston's Brutalist Masterpiece, But Maybe We Can Still Save This Nearby '80s "Gem"

Bye Bye API 2

Pour one out, as the kids no longer say, for the Marcel Breuer-designed brutalist bunker that was the American Press Institute headquarters. After winning approval to demolish the legitimately recognized architectural masterpiece in late July, the developer wasted no time getting the ball rolling on the long and arduous process of tearing the API building down, scattering pulverized bits of shredded concrete and god knows what other bits of 1970s goodness to the winds. Demolition started earlier this week, and the last brutalist chunks should be gone by the end of the month.

And yet, Tall Oaks still stands. There is no justice.

While a last-ditch effort to preserve the API building on its historical merits failed, fear not! We have a chance to redeem ourselves, as an equally architecturally significant property right next door is also slated for demolition. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

RP 11720, LLC, part of Rooney Properties (which also owns the API building), plans to tear down a 30-year old office building at Sunrise Valley Drive and Roland Clarke Place to build the urban-style homes.

The parcel is at 11720 Sunrise Valley Dr., just west of the Mercer Condos, (part of JBG’s Reston Heights) and right across Roland Clarke Place from the American Press Institute property, where 34 townhouses and 10 condominiums are planned.

The property also sits across from Reston National Golf Course, which has fended off redevelopment for now.

Heh.

You may be thinking to yourself, "I don't remember an architecturally significant building along that stretch of Sunrise Valley." Well, silly rabbits, let us refresh your memory:

80s gem

We can say with the full authority of our certificate of completion in architecture from one of the Caribbean's most prestigious correspondence schools that this is one of the finest examples of an architectural style that is unique to Fairfax County. Namely, the F--k It, Just Hurry Up Already And Put Up A Nondescript Office Building And Sell It Before The Office Space Boom Ends and We Wind Up Holding The Bag With Tens Of Thousands Of Vacant Square Feet Of Commercial Space We Can't Give Away school of architecture that characterized Fairfax County in the go-go 1980s and early 1990s. If anything, it's almost too nice -- many of the buildings of this era featured appealing rectangular shapes, often adorned with fake pointy roofs to hide the air conditioning. Your Restonian went to at least a dozen unrewarding temp jobs in office buildings that looked exactly like this one, including a stint rejecting low-dollar-value credit applications for a mall jewelry chain, which wasn't as depressing as it sounds. It was worse. Far, far worse.

But we digress. It's only because Restonians had this crazy idea that low-slung concrete monstrosities from the 1970s still represented a viable environment for office space (we're looking at you, Issac Newton Square) that we don't have more of these gems.

So before this proposal goes back before county planners later this month, we should start a petition, or something, to preserve this bit of Fairfax County hubris rampant development greed history. You could call this architectural monument to a lost era "dated," and not in keeping with the styles of today, but the one thing we've all learned in recent years is that greed never goes out of style, the end.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Reston Buyers Guide: What To Do With The $2 An Hour You Won't Have To Pay To Park At RTC Until January, Maybe, Or Whenever

So the notion of paid parking is going so well at Reston Town Center that the crisis management team concerned property owners have delayed it until January, after the holiday season, so as to "educate" us uninformed, non-elite knuckle-dragging Restonians exactly what a "smart cellular telephone" is, and why using one won't steal our souls—just our personally identifiable information, maybe, who knows, that's a lot of words to read for a Friday afternoon.

We could ponder just what prompted the change in plans (cough cough roughly 8,000 signatures to a fancy online petition) or read the only piece kinda sorta defending paid parking in the history of English literature. (Chaucer's immortal When that Aprille with his shoures soot/My illegally parked horst got the boot" doesn't count, as it's in Middle English).

Or we could figure out what to do with that extra $2 that's burning a hole in our pockets! Fortunately, Restonian is On Your Side(tm), ready to help. A few modest suggestions:

  • Buy 1/396th of a share of stock in RTC tenant Google from the newest cool RTC retailer where all the kids are spending their lunch money.

  • Spend 15 minutes at the nearest cybercafe (assuming they still exist) writing rave reviews of the ParkRTC app under the pen name "Don'tWorkForBoston NoSireeNotMe"

  • Retain a "crisis management firm" for approximately 22 seconds.

  • Realize that "punt" isn't bad advice for 2 lousy bucks.

  • Buy a one-way Metro ticket from Wiehle to Spring Hill. Walk back in half the time.

  • Trade it in for a $2 bill--the only truly elite currency except the $1,000 bill.

  • Finally learn to read so you can prepare to "educate yourself" about the glorious benefits of paid parking and an app that will tell you when your shopping spree might be interrupted by rain

  • Purchase a soon-to-be-collector's-item piece of concrete rubble from a legitimate architectural masterpiece

  • Buy a cup of coffee anywhere except RTC mainstay Starbucks

  • Save up for the $7 round trip to Tysons Corner to buy random midscale consumer goods there, the end.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Stay Classy, Reston! San Diego TV News Helicopter Falls Through Wormhole, Materializes Over 13th Hole of Reston National Golf Course

Chopper

Someone get Ron Burgundy on the phone. We found Chopper Dave.

Confidential Restonian Operative "Mary Anne" forwarded this photo of a helicopter that was hovering over the 13th hole of Reston National Golf Course for most of the day on Tuesday. A little Internet sleuthing confirmed that it was this helicopter, bearing the markings of a news chopper from this teevee station in San Diego where Regis Philbin once worked.

Wikipedia

Now, most teevee Action McNews stations don't own their own copters -- they lease them from helicopter companies. And this particular helicopter is owned by one such company based in New Jersey. And it's been flying around the D.C. area recently, landing and taking off from a general aviation airport near... Fort Meade.

Is this getting weird yet?

The mind boggles. Is Anchorman 3: Anchor Harder going to be filmed on location in Reston? Are RNGC's owners, having withdrawn plans to create a bollardy wonderland of mixed-use development, secretly plotting the transformation of the golf course into a helodrome out of spite? Or has the RA given up on its clandestine DRB drone development program and opted instead to use manned aircraft to spot unpainted party walls and other affronts from the sky?

Your wild conspiracy theories guesses are as good as ours. Unfortunately, Reston's own "Ron Burgundy" was unavailable for comment, so the mystery remains.

Anchorman chopper

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Our Brand Is Crisis: Elite RTC Rollout of Elite Paid Parking Going So Well They Hired An Elite Crisis Management Firm

RTC Park 2

RTC LeetSo it's been a quiet few months for our favorite elite plastic fantastic fake downtown. Aside from the community outcry about the shift to planned parking, a few worrisome app privacy issues, and the (now-fixed) creepy ability to access pictures of people coming and going to their cars in the Reston Town Center parking garages from anywhere in the world, we'd say the transition is going just swimmingly. We'd expect nothing less from an elite destination. Just ask Reston Town Center spokespeople Kathy Walsh and Rob Weinhold. Rob?

Rob Weinhold, another RTC parking spokesman, said user security is “critically important to both Passport Inc and RTC, and we take our responsibility to protect that information very seriously.”
But as one clever Internet sleuth figured out, Rob and Kathy aren't employed by Reston Town Center. Instead, they work for the Fallston Group, "a firm that specializes in crisis and issue management consulting." Give us some jargon-laden blockquote, Fallston Group:
Fallston Group, LLC is a highly trusted, executive advisory firm focused on building, strengthening and defending reputations. We operate where leadership, strategy and communications intersect. Reputations are both positively and negatively impacted by many variables. Whether working with clients in a proactive or reactive sense, we engage with velocity and vision while turning adversity into advantage. Fallston Group knows what it takes to get a client into or out of the news, and we are committed to strengthening and protecting our clients’ brands through the development and distribution of core messages that support the story they want told. This gives our clients the confidence and persuasive power to shape stakeholder opinion. Fallston Group team members provide a blend of both executive and operational services to help leaders prepare for, navigate through and recover from issues of adversity and crisis. Many leaders refer to Fallston Group as their “Chief Reputation Officer."
They must get paid by the word.

The company's case studies page includes stories about data breaches, partnership conflicts, and perhaps most troubling of all, the hiring of Jose Canseco by a minor league baseball team. "Paid parking" seems fairly low on the list of corporate crises -- but hey, it's August.

As our Favorite Correspondent, the Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, points out: "Bottom line seems to be that, by hiring this firm, Boston Properties realizes it has an epic PR disaster of titanic proportions on its hands."

The switch to paid parking is scheduled for September 12.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

With Arrival of Clinton Campaign Office, Reston Becomes The Key Swing Planned Community in Election '16

2016 08 20 10 40 50

A Confidential Restonian Political Operative forwarded this cellular telephone photo of Hillary Clinton's fancy new Lake Anne field office, which opens tonight. Clearly the Clinton campaign "gets it"--as Lake Anne goes, so goes Reston, and as goes Reston, so goes Columbia, and the Woodlands, and all the other plastic fantastic planned communities nationwide. Forget Soccer Moms and NASCAR Dads -- HOA Homebodies are the swing demographic this fall.

But is there more than meets the eye here? Let's take a look:

Professional

Nowhere is the corrupting influence of money on politics more starkly visible than in this campaign's signage. Also, nice Ikea cabinet. Wonder what's inside? OMGZ WE FOUND THE EMAIL SERVER BENGHA$I NEVER FORGET

Then there's this:

Chair of Power

The Off Brand Office Chair of Privilege. Most likely a donation from the 1 Percent, which tossed it out after their secretary's personal assistant's dog walker's secretary reported it wasn't "bejeweled enough." BERNIE WAS RIGHT.

Of course, Clinton's rival has yet to set up field offices in Reston (or pretty much anywhere). But after poring through FEC documents for hours, we've made a shocking discovery: He's definitely planning on Making Reston Great Again:

T  Helipad

Can't wait for the Trump Steaks pop-up next door, the end.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Flashback Monday: The Kids Are Alright

Pregnant Ad

Set the controls of the Earth-Toned Wayback Machine to September 17, 1971, when this ad appeared in the Washington Star, which was what people used to refer to as a "news paper."

"Young people are pregnant," the ad declares, and at first glance it looks like a come-on for a dodgy pregnancy help center. But no, it's worse. Far worse.

Pregnant1

We missed the episode of Mad Men where Don Draper made this presentation to a bunch of Gulf Reston executives, complete with an evocative slideshow of pictures of passersby on the Van Gogh bridge, and then drank an entire fifth of something akin to jet fuel to live with the guilt.

But we digress. Let's get to what advertisers call "the close!"

Pregnant2

Digging the haiku-like ending there. And $200 a month in 1971 dollars ($373,950) was a small price to pay for a whopping thirteen black-and-white teevee channels back in the day. So where does the ad veer into outright comedy?

Pregnancy ad 3

Ten minutes? You're killing us, random Reston ad, the end.

(From the Facebook group Reston, Remember When).