News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, February 27, 2009

ARCH to Reston Association: No shiny new $25 million headquarters for you!

Oh boy! We got our referendum for the proposed awesome new $15 million Reston Association headquarters in the mail yesterday, but before we could grab a #2 pencil and vote "YES," we learned that some naysayers are less than thrilled about the whole thing. After raising a few nitpicky questions, like why they need so much space to hand out pool passes and where will this giant gilded floating palace be located, those buzzkills at the Reston Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH) now say they "believe that, as of the date of Issues Bulletin 2009-2, the Reston Association (RA) Board has not made the case for the new headquarters referendum." Ouch!

ARCH's site has a bunch of earnest-looking Word documents and spreadsheets and whatnot, which we at Restonian on Your Side (tm) decided to peruse so you don't have to. Among their key questions:

The RA Board maintains that the 2005 space assumptions do not meet the RA’s increased present and future needs, but it has been unable to provide the members with a space analysis because the Board believes that analysis is “confidential.” In addition, the incremental cost to members of buying (or leasing) compared to what they now spend for headquarters space has not been made clear.

We accept that buying under the right circumstances could be a worthwhile alternative to leasing and that the current office space may well need to be upgraded and perhaps increased (particularly to add additional conference and meeting space). But the RA Board has not made the case on:

• What will be the incremental cost to members in annual assessment increases of buying (exclusive of any building value or equity) or leasing 35,000 sq. ft. versus what members pay now for the existing space?

• Why 35,000 sq. ft. (a space analysis, which the RA Board says is “confidential,” has not been provided to members)?

• Why $15 million (and what are the likely sources of funding and the impact on the RA’s financial (cash) position)?

• Why is the Board not willing to require that any purchase be limited to a site in Reston?
A whole series of community meetings will be held to discuss the referendum, which we're sure will be tons of fun. We're sympathetic to the RA's plight -- after all, $5 million just doesn't go as far as it used to. Frankly, our main concern is that the new gilded fortress not be surrounded by red mulch or white stone, the end.


  1. I'm not just voting no, but HELL NO!

    Is the RA living in a parallel universe or what? Have they heard there is a serious economic crisis at the moment? As a rule, it of course makes sense to buy rather than to lease. If we were talking about an appropriately sized and priced building, I'd wholeheartedly support it, but RA's justification for spending $15 million for 35,000 square feet is ludicrous.

    Need a large meeting space for those infrequent events that draw a crowd several times a year? Rent space at the Reston Community Center or a local school as needed, which has to be more cost-effective than owning space that will probably be unused 350 days a year.

    And let me see if I get this straight -- 35,000 square feet are needed for 50 employees? 50? I'm involved at present in the move of two bureaus of a major U.S. Government department, and in the new location each GS-13 employee is getting exactly 75 square feet of cubicle space.

    RA, as usual, has failed to make a compelling case for spending our money. This is empire-building of the first magnitude.

    And yes, let's all look forward to the RA wasting another few thousand dollars of our assessment on the postage needed to mail us a reminder in a couple of weeks that we've received our ballots and should vote if we already haven't.

  2. I have done an analysis of the RA HQ proposal vs. continuing to rent 20,000 SF over the next ten years. Short answer:
    --Buying will cost $8.2 million more than renting.
    --That's an additional $31 to each Restonian's annual assessment fee (not counting the other usual additions).
    For those interested in more details, see this item in my modest blog:

    For those of you who like to wade through the data, please e-mail me at and I'll send you a copy of the spreadsheet.

  3. The vote should be NO!

    PA and in particular the DRB have done nothing to justify more money.

    This is based on my treatment by the DRB, my cluster's treatment by the DRB, and the poor treatment I observed of other's while waiting for my turn at a DRB meeting.

    One of my favorites is the owner who has an awning in place for over 30 years without complaint. He had to sell. The awning was not DRB approved.
    As part of the beat down of the owner, he had to remove the awning, and was told his biggest crime was abuse of the DRB.

  4. I have a feeling the referendum won't make it very far. I suppose buying near the bottom of a recession is better than buying when market prices go back up (though lord knows how long that'll take). But that is a lot of space and there hasn't been a compelling argument for having that amount of space. I have noticed that they have a lot of junk lying around their offices. Maybe if they got rid of some of it they would have enough room...

  5. Not only no, but: No you inefficient, outdated, Luddites!

    It is time we stop coddling these well-meaning folks and introduce them to the 21st century; they are the association administrators. They send out pool passes; manage contracts; hire staff for swimming pools; maintain grounds; facilitate meetings for the board; and, facilitate the activities of several important committees.

    Besides the important work of clearing paths from downed trees and snow, most of their work should be outsourced, post-haste. Let’s out-source most of the grounds maintenance and swimming pool management and let the remaining administrative staff move into the left-over space at the existing grounds facility.

    Modern systems management and analysis should be used to restructure association staff, their duties and streamline their work. Are they good people? Yes! Do they need to restructure and modernize? Yes!

    Can they relocate boxes and closets full of records to digital media that residents can access automatically? Yes! Digitization of records can be accomplished far more cheaply than a new headquarters. Let us know how much space has been allocated at the new headquarters for the storage of the outmoded, deteriorating, paper media.

    Everyone can see records over-flowing at the current headquarters. Records management seems an important first step to solving the current space problem. How much of the new headquarters budget will be dedicated to environment controls for these outdated records? Also, should the Association be an historical repository for the Reston dream or should those records be transferred to another facility?

    Do we need “media personalities” that create videos broadcasts on un-watched public video channels? No! The county and caring citizens can accomplish this just well as paid “personalities”. Remember, if we do not have to attract “media talent” a plush facility is becomes less important.

    Do we need to provide free services to business interests by providing “business outreach programs”? No! Reston is already served for this purpose by the Fairfax Economic Development Authority and the Community Centers. Does the Association really need to have an attractive facility to entertain business interests?

    Our goal as an association should be to first rationalize the functions of the Association administrative staff. Most likely, only half the current space will be required after a complete computerization and downsizing based on a rationalization of community needs.

    Fortunately, we do not have the “City Hall Mentality” at work here, where residents feel that a “City Hall” reflects the character and personality of the city with fluted columns and marble-floored entry spaces. We are and continue to be an association tasked to maintain the shared grounds and amenities of the community. The character of the “headquarters” should reflect that functional role.

  6. The other comment have very good points.

    However, we learned from the Bylaws referendum the RA will rewrite the rules until the plan RA wants wins.

    I don't think a lack of a quorum will stop this money & power grab. I believe that even a massive No vote could be miscounted as yes.

    Any ideas on how to make sure we don't spend more for a building we don't really need?

  7. is my blog cool ?

  8. life-long restonianite

  9. Cap'n,

    No your blog isn't cool. There are much better movie reviews out there written by professionals.

  10. So vote "no", and continue to have RA operate and lease in a building with no sprinkler system, no ramps, no elevators, and no meeting spaces?

    Get educated on the issue, people.

    The blog is funny. It's these stupid comments people post that get to me.

  11. Re the "stupid comments" that annoy the above poster: you're right that the current RA space probably leaves a lot to be desired. However, as the RA mentioned when it sent out the ballots, it is leaving its present location when its lease expires next year. So, the issues you raise about "continuing to operate and lease" in Isaac Newton Square are academic. I'm all for the RA having up to date, suitable space; it's just that I and a lot of other people question the cost and the amount of space proposed.

    So, perhaps us is educated on the issue after all!

  12. I'm with Phil. The RA has too much power and control and the last thing we need to do is give them their own building.

    We need to get rid of the RA or at least reduce the bureaucracy in that place. There must be empty Reston buildings where they could go.