News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Just In Time For The Weekend, The Thinkiest Possible Think Piece On Reston's Vibrant Urban Core

Screen Shot 2014 09 26 at 2 41 31 PMNo plans this weekend? Then gather your loved ones and your "web log" reading device around a roaring fireplace and read aloud from this lengthy "think piece," which might as well have been called "Reston: What Does It Mean, And Am I A Bad Person For Enjoying A Passable Thai Dinner at RTC?"

The piece begins -- if you can call a thesis statement several hundred words deep into an infinitely scrolling article the "beginning" -- with this provocative question:

We choose to live where we live because of what we like, but also what we don’t like. So what is it I think I don’t like about Reston?
PROVOCATIVE. Also, don't get the author wrong -- some of the his best friends in-laws have chosen to make Reston home. Also, foxes!
I’m starting to sound like a Reston-hater. I’m not. My wife’s parents live in a lovely house on a woody lot (which hosted a family of foxes not so long ago); they’re a short walk from a public lake and recreation area, and a short drive from a cluster of restaurants, and even a used-book store. (And for the record: They’re engaged and well-read people, nothing like the characters depicted by the Banality of New Canaan school.)
But the bottom line? Our vibrant urban core just isn't real enough:
In a quarter-century or so of life in classic urban neighborhoods I’ve witnessed more than a half-dozen arrests; a broad-daylight mugging; multiple fights, at least one quite serious; many obvious prostitutes, male and female; one dead body; countless homeless people sleeping on sidewalks; many instances of public urination; and a sex act (paid, I assume) in our driveway. I’ve been solicited by many drug dealers, some specifying that they had cocaine or hash on offer. I have been endlessly hit up for cigarettes or money, sometimes aggressively; heard proximate gunfire more than once; experienced five apartment or car break-ins; and on one memorable occasion been screamingly called a “fucking faggot” for smiling at some guy’s young son.

Could be worse. But let’s face it: None of this is desirable. And particularly in the years since I’ve been an urban property owner, I would prefer never to experience any of the above again.

Is this the price to be paid for the “authenticity” I find lacking in Town Center? Or is this the authenticity itself?

Fortunately, the author has a Modest Proposal:
It’s tempting to imagine some absurd, fanciful strategy for injecting city-style authenticity into a place like Town Center. Perhaps a subsidized program that would give a certain percentage of the real estate to the kind of idiosyncratic and hard-to-explain businesses that persist in long-lived communities: the multigenerational diner that isn’t very good but persists anyway, the fortune-teller with a hand-painted sign, the inexplicable combination car-wash/barbecue joint. Perhaps graffiti writers could be commissioned to despoil some pre-selected percentage of public surfaces. A few spaces could be designated for planned abandonment, creating a beautiful ruin or two. Possibly a formula could be arrived at for determining exactly how many and what sort of manifestations of the underclass might be deployed to add the proper frisson of thrilling risk? Or maybe just go full Disney and hire actors to portray such characters?
But by the time we get to the end of the essay, the author has learned a Valuable Lesson:
This place I’d shrugged off has an authenticity of its own. And my own theory of where to live and why has a huge flaw. We cannot accommodate an expanding population by building more 200-year-old cities.

Even here in Savannah, what I would think of as our “town center” (geographically, a northernmost point on the city map) was once upon a time a rigorously planned place: Modern tourists riding buses through the downtown historic district are giving appreciative witness to the highly specific vision of James Oglethorpe, who laid out our famously square-laced grid in the 18th century. They might also notice the occasional blighted property, panhandler, daylight crime, or other rough edge that comes with the passage of time.

I now admire the planning, the thought, the design, that has gone into Reston. I think E is right that — Apple stores and Thai restaurants aside — there’s a missing sense of what I’d think of as genuine historic character. But that’s because those things simply can’t be planned. Time has to pass. Plans have to go astray, or even awry. Designed visions have to be foiled by the way we really live.
Or massive infestations of rats. Either way.

The article actually isn't bad, especially if you like lots of words, the end.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Frankie Goes to the RA Board: RELAC (Don't Do It) May Go to Another Referendum

Reston's jet-age cooling system, which uses tepid lake water and a series of tubes to cool various neighborhoods around Lake Anne, may soon be coming to another referendum.

The RA Board will decide tonight if it will allow the referendum to take place. If it does, two-thirds of the 343 homes currently on the system will have to vote yes for the referendum, which would allow them to switch to boring old regular air conditioning units or stay on RELAC, to pass.

Referendum talk has been kicked around for ages, and an actual vote was narrowly defeated back in ought-five. But a hefty rate increase followed by plans to tighten the rules around medical exemptions floated by the RA at the end of last year seem to have fanned the flames to the point that no jet-age cooling system could tamp them down. A fancy "web site,", named after the section of the RA covenants that mandate the use of RELAC, was launched, complete with helpful articles like "Does RELAC Help or Hurt the Value of Your Property?" (spoiler alert: in their minds, it doesn't help.)

According to FreeFrom15, RA staff has recommended that the RA Board move forward with the referendum process. If it votes to do so tonight, two public hearings will be held in October and November, followed by a mail-in referendum in January.

For all the grousing about RELAC, the last referendum was close, and the argument against allowing people to choose is that doing so would imperil the newly independent company. Also, condos served by RELAC wouldn't have a vote, since their associations can vote to secede from the cooling system any time they like. Plus, if the referendum is held in January, the top floors of most of the houses will have finally cooled down to a comfortable 78 degrees, the end.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

They Had Us At 'Beige'

Restonian book sale
Courtesy of the Twitters, this PSA from the Friends of the Reston Regional Library. Given recent events, they could probably use the help, the end.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We're #10! Or #5 If You're Rich and Single

Money 2014 best places to live 304xx2155 3225 148 0Once again, Reston has rightfully taken its place in Money Magazine's Best Nonthreatening, Not Quite Exurban Neighborhoods Your Insurance Salesman Might Live In Places to Live, rounding out the top 10... at #10. The last time our favorite earth-toned community made the list, back in ought-twelve, we were at #7. If only Kasey Kasem's dulcet tones were still with us to explain why we've fallen three notches. We have "woodsy villages," after all!

Reston was the first modern planned community in the country, and the vision of its founder (who still lives there) has held up beautifully. The city is made up of five woodsy “villages,” which encompass a range of lakes, pools, shopping areas, golf courses, and more. ­Fifty-five miles of paths wind through these communities, ensuring that most homes are within a half-mile walk of a village center. The city’s de facto downtown is the lively if generic Reston Town Center mall, which has the usual assortment of shops and eateries, plus a pavilion that hosts concerts and, in winter, ice-skating. The headquarters of ComScore and Rolls-Royce North America are also located in Town Center, along with a Google office. Traffic in the area can be brutal, but things are looking up for folks who don’t work in town: An extension of the D.C. ­Metro opened in July, and it whisks Restonians to the center of Washington in a speedy 40 minutes.
And your car can then whisk you the mile and a half from the Metro station to North Reston in another 40 minutes. Fortunately, the photo accompanying Money's writeup suggests another speedy transportation option:

201410 bpl 10reston
Even though Reston was bested -- again! -- by our Satanic Maryland doppelganger, Columbia (ranked #6), we knocked Vienna -- which usurped Reston's place last year -- out of the Top 10. SUCK IT, chumps -- your all-brown business district is no match for our rainbow palette of earth tones!

And there's more good news, at least for those of us awash in that sweeeeeeeeet web logging "cheddar," as the kids haven't said probably since 1974: #10 might be good enough for most of us, but if you're rich and unattached, we're actually five better. That's right, Reston is the fifth-best place for the affluent and single (which apparently includes 31 percent of us):
Because the city was designed around its five residential “villages,” it doesn’t have a traditional downtown, but that’s not so say that there’s nowhere for singles to mingle. Reston Town Center is the city’s main gathering spot, and offers socializing opportunities ranging from evening painting classes and classic film screenings to running workshops and wine tastings. Lake Anne Plaza is another popular spot for shopping, snacking or just hanging out by the lake enjoying the free Wi-Fi.
By way of illustration, Money used this photo to illustrate the swinging singles scene:

2014 bpl richsingle 05reston
MY GOD. It's like a photo of Tinder come to life. WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN

Monday, September 22, 2014

Flashback Monday: A Requiem for One of Reston's First Businesses

Today's the day that Lakeside Pharmacy closes for good, after its new owner and its long-time operator were unable to find another pharmacist willing to take on the business.

With it goes the last of Reston's very first businesses, as seen in this fancy map we've written about at length before:

Here's a 1964 article celebrating the arrival of the pharmacy.

Now Lakeside Pharmacy joins the ranks of Meenehans Hardware, the Quay Club, whatever that was, the Safeway, and a whole host of other Lake Anne businesses that have closed their doors in more recent years. And Larry Cohn, who has owned the pharmacy for 44 of its 49 years, gets a well-deserved break.

Good luck, Larry. You'll be missed.

Update: Twitter person "Reston" shared this Twitter photo of the now-closed post office at the back of the pharmacy.

No more mail
Fun fact: When the pharmacy first opened, a first-class stamp would set you back five cents.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Two Restons, Still Chafing Under the Yoke

While our BFFs in Reston's doppelganger across the pond failed to throw off the yoke of British oppression a strong currency and universal healthcare at the polls last night, we're sure they can find some solace that we fellow Restonians continue to chafe under the yoke of oppressive county masters with their master plans and "transit-oriented development" and oppressively bleak "downtown" and good schools, and... um.... give us a minute.

Our favorite correspondent, the always-practical Peasant From Less Sought-After South Reston, posed an important question:

Will this referendum inspire those Restonians living on Scotch Bonnet Court to likewise secede so that they are no longer associated with those who llive on Olde English Drive?


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Yet Another Consequence of the Silver Line: Bloody Fistfights, Or At Least Altercations

Reston North ParkingNow that the Silver Line has been up and running for some time, we've had some exciting things to see and do while we wait for our home to double in value (just checked; any day now!). We've gotten to see traffic not move, dogs and cats living together a near-biblical influx of rodents and hipsters, and, if one reporter is right, rampant fistfights in the formerly docile surface parking lots of our fair community. Wait, what?

In an article with the completely non-sensational headline "Battleground Reston," we are treated to this harrowing first-person account:

Mary Czernowski takes the 599 to the Pentagon.

"The parking lot is full and there are altercations between people. I've seen it a few times already," Czernowski says.

The showdowns happen at the Reston North Park and Ride, where 338 free parking spots are just a short walking distance from the Wiehle-Reston East station.

Silver Line riders who don't want to pay $4.85 to park at the 2,300-space garage at the Wiehle station will park at the Park and Ride, then cross over to the station.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says that before the Silver Line, the lot was usually between 70 percent to 80 percent full. Now, it's full before 7 a.m.
Okay, so maybe these "showdowns," in true Northern Virginia fashion, aren't knock-down, drag-out fights. We're guessing they're more along the lines of carefully timed glares, along with mental notes to write a STRONGLY WORDED LETTER to county transportation officials, with a goldenrod copy sent off to various elected officials. But still! See how the Silver Line cut-through Loudoun commuters are ripping the fabric of our community apart?