News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wiehle Avenue Metro: First Major Redevelopment Goes Before Reston P&Z Next Week

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We love a good artist's rendering of tall bland office buildings as much as the next guy or gal, so here are some lovely drawrings of Comstock's proposed mixed-use development on the site of the current Wiehle Avenue kiss and ride. Note the large above-ground parking garage -- which is largely underground but at least partially visible from most angles --- and the tiny bit of open space -- supposedly the size of Lake Anne Plaza, minus the tubercular fountain.

Also, it's tall! Someone used one of those fancy 3-D modeling programs (MS Paint) to give a sense of how tall the proposed buildings would be:

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Those tiny specs are people. At the same time, the only thing that's guaranteed to be built as a result of the $90 million $110 million deal between Comstock and Fairfax County is the garage itself; the rest of the project, including even more stuff to the west of this block, will be developed as "market conditions dictate." Frankly, we'd rather have bland tall buildings than a free-standing parking garage surrounded by mud and construction tranches, but that's just us.

Reston 2020's Terry Maynard was so moved by these stirring images that he wrote a fancy 12-page document criticizing the Whiele Avenue development. The highlights:
• The design is conventional and bland, like many other such commercial development blocks in the Washington area. It is not innovative or world-class.

• The TOD mixed-use development of the site is entirely appropriate, but it appears to exceed its authorized FAR 2.5 density, probably in the range of FAR 4 to FAR 5 , when the nearly million square feet of above ground parking is counted.

• In no serious sense does the proposal meet the county’s requirement of 20% open space—much less Restonians’ demands for 25% or higher—other than pavement and parking lots along with an undeveloped ravine. It does not meet Restonians’ needs for open space and natural areas.

• The transportation impact analysis shows that, even with full implementation of the required improvements and Comstock’s additional offers and traffic demand management (TDM) program, traffic will worsen at the corner of Wiehle and Sunset Hills. This is inconsistent with Restonians’ needs for the concurrent or prior development of infrastructure to maintain or improve public services.

• Comstock limits its commitment to environmental sensitivity to meeting only LEED Silver or LEED Certified environmental standards in its development, and offers a financial arrangement as an alternative to meeting those requirements. Restonians demand a minimum LEED Silver standard, and prefer going for the Gold.

• The proposal covers only the two blocks owned by Comstock. The dozen other property owners in this quadrant near the Metro station could each propose their own isolated, incompatible development plan in the absence of a comprehensive approach to Reston planning. As a planned community, Reston’s development and re-development planning should reflect a holistic approach to its impact on Reston’s quality of life.

We can hope the Reston Association P&Z Committee—which has limited authority in the approval process—and the County considers these shortcomings as the application moves through the review process. Moreover, we can hope that the lessons from this development proposal will temper the drive for increasing density (FAR, DUAs, etc.) in Reston development; strengthen standards for infrastructure, open space, and sustainable development; and lead to a more thoughtful community-wide approach to development planning and implementation. That hope rests in the hands of the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task Force.

Reston’s citizens must work to see that their clear and consistent principles are established and implemented. Otherwise, the quality of life reflected in Reston’s innovative architecture, integration of extensive open space and natural areas, provision of park and recreational amenities, sensitivity to environmental impact, and other unique and attractive characteristics will erode block by block, development by development, neighborhood by neighborhood over the next generation.
You had us at "conventional and bland."

Reston P&Z will review this fancy plan during a meeting next week. As the proposal wends its way through the Reston and county planning process, it, along with the Fairway redevelopment proposal submitted by JBG, represent the first serious tests of what high-density, mixed-use development will look like in Reston going forward. Both have the ugly above-ground parking garages in common. At least Comstock's proposal is in the right spot--adjacent to the Metro station and in an area nowhere near existing residential neighborhoods. Even so, issues with pedestrian and vehicular traffic need to be examined closely.

Also, we recommend spicing up the design a bit. Maybe Comstock can borrow some cues from the rad '80s art planned for the Metro station next door.


  1. I should point out that 1,000 to over 1,300 people eventually will be living at Comstock Wiehle Station. There is inadequate open space for those residents in this proposal. People living in high-density developments still need open space.

  2. World-class architecture at its best!

  3. Isn't the name Reston Station Boulevard confusing? Considering there will be a station at Reston Parkway/Reston Town Center I think they could have a better name. Maybe Wiehle Station Boulevard if they still want to keep their bland aesthetic?

  4. I think they should rename Wiehle to Freetown. Appoint a fancy commission to come up with new street names for the other place with the bad stigma and the proliferation of peeps.

  5. wow, that's heinously ugly. Would that little plaza get any sun at all (except at high noon) with those enormous buildings looming up right over it on all sides?

    How many parking spaces are there in that huge garage? One of my hopes was that they would limit parking at the station to force people to use mass transit to get there, minimizing the impact on out traffic. Is it even going to be possible to use Wiehle in the mornings anymore? What about the people who need to commute on the Toll Road?

  6. The little Plaza will be in deep shade all year, except during the time of the summer equinox, at noon.

    Patti Nicoson, President of Dulles Corridor Rail Association was asked the last two questions you ask last winter at an ARCH meeting and answered, "In the future, more people will be walking."

    The only way this level of development proposed at Wiehle (and the entire RCIG which is Sunset Hills to Sunrise Valley) can possibly work, is if we all refrain from using our cars.

    Will the Silver Line get you to work?

    And I agree. It's ugly. This is to be the gateway to Reston?

  7. I will likely get a Smart Car as I work In Reston, but many of my appointments are downtown... I use metro extensively once i'm there... the Silver line will make my day...

  8. Since when has ARCH done anything....

  9. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonFebruary 4, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    That hideous design almost makes 1970s Rosslyn look like an architectural masterpiece by comparison.

  10. With all the onsite amenites for shopping and services designed into that project NOT, it looks like they may need a Crystal Underground under the Dulles Access Road.

  11. I'm planning on buying a used Toyota which will allow me a non-stop commute into downtown.

  12. I used to work in Crystal City -- I loved the Underground...

  13. "Drawrings."

    LOL. Restonian rocks so hard.

  14. We actually live VERY close to this intersection and the proposed structures and metro station, so I'm probably going to be driving past it daily. I can only imagine how an 8-minute trip to Wholefoods will now take 20!

    Yes, these drawrings are hideous. Was the artist an intern? Sure-fire way to get your proposals nixed. Is it that hard to make an illustration that looks really good? Of course doesn't mean it will need to translate into reality, just get people excited so that you get the go-ahead, and then you can figure out the details later, right?

    I'm definitely excited about getting a metro stop I can walk to and take it all the way into DC - or heck to Greenbelt for that matter (that'll be a nice 2-hour trip, huh?), but not so much these huge monstrosities or the traffic that will go along with all of this stuff. I also wonder who would want to live right on top of a metro station, which seem to attract sketchy characters sometimes, as well as actual crime.

    I'm starting to wonder why they wouldn't build this stuff on the other side of Whiele - the Sunset Hills Side. I am correct that this is on the Sunrise Valley side, right? The Sunset Hills side seems to have a lot more space, way fewer large structures to tear down (although I wouldn't mind seeing The Melting Pot go!), and most importantly it's further away from our house! ;-)

  15. DVDmon - the current Wiehle park and ride lot (which this is supposed to fill) is on the Sunset Hills side.

    This is really ugly and too dense. On the other hand, your comment about the intern drawing is on point. Perhaps the intern is really 'one of us' and is TRYING to get the project axed. One can only hope.

    This is mind-boggling. A) There's already a traffic problem. B) They're adding garage space. C) They're adding more potential drivers (office, residential) than garage space. So they're not solving any problem except making making their land more profitable for them only.

  16. Please note: Comstock isn't making THEIR land more profitable. The land belongs to US, it's county land, our land. Comstock will benefit more from the development than the community will. Is this an appropriate use of public land?

  17. All this talk of the Metro station- what of Wiehle Ave?
    The added traffic on the under-designed road between Baron Cameron and Sunset Hills will become HELL ON EARTH for us who live, walk, bike and play by Lake Anne! Has anyone done an envrionmental study of running all that additional traffic at the end of Lake Anne? Should we expect sound barriers? A wider side walk? A dedicated bike lane?
    Just more typical cart before the horse nonsense.

  18. Your base are belong to us

  19. So, like what happened to the DENSITY CAP?
    I moved to Reston for the quality of life- not quantity of life!
    I wonder if our Reston leaders will sell out to the corporate special interests like our so called "leaders" on Capitol Hill?

  20. What do you mean "will sell out?" We have been sold out.

  21. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)February 7, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    1.) This design is HIDEOUS. Disgusting. How can the most educated area of the country produce architects and engineers with such little talent or flair?

    2.) There should be NO above-grade parking in ANY proposed mixed-use project. What a waste of open space. Look at Reston Town Center with its embarrassingly huge surface parking lots and low-rise parking garages. Those parking areas could have been moved undergroud with attractive mixed-use buildings atop.

    3.) With all due respect while I appreciate Reston 2020's effort to help Reston have a voice is it really necessary for them to keep saying "Restonians need this...", "Restonians demand that...", "Restonians would like this...", etc. I'm a Restonian, and I don't recall ever being queried to confirm that I'm in conformity with all of Reston 2020's beliefs. Since when did we all come to a consensus upon "ideal" density? Since when did we all come to a consensus upon maximum building height? Since when did we all come to a consensus upon specific percentage of land set aside for open space? They speak on behalf of SOME Restonians---not all. I HATE this particular proposal and hope it fails, but I also hope Reston 2020 isn't just merely opposed to density in general because, gasp, more peopl might move here. Getting people to eschew their cars and take transit IS key to reducing Reston's current rush-hour congestion crisis. I look forward to walking to a train station and commuting to my office in the future, taking one more car off of Route 7. If people are going to be continuing to be in a panic over the impending arrival of the Silver Line then I don't want to see them reaping profits as their homes' resale values skyrocket once the line is operational.

  22. Bico, people only reap the profits from their home's resale values if they SELL. I am looking forward to the metro coming (though I am terrified of the current proposal, since it is obviously awful). However, I do lay awake at night and wonder how I will pay my property taxes after the metro gets here. I hope we can afford to stay.

  23. BiCO,

    Reston 2020 is a committee of the Reston Citizens Association. All the board members are elected by a vote of the community and all Restonians are members of RCA and can vote. Our Reston 2020 Committee meetings are open to the public. Times and locations of meetings are posted on the Reston 2020 blog.

    ARCH, Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners, also wrote a Planning Principles paper.

    Very many days and hours were put in to this effort by individuals in both community groups.

    Guy Rando and I wrote our paper at the Nature House Library.

    All three documents were carefully considered, discussed, and rewritten multiple times.

    ARCHs paper, an Issues Bulletin, was unanimously approved by the board.

    We are still waiting for Reston Association to produce their own Planning Principles document.

    Kathy Kaplan

  24. the Melting Pot? You don't like the Melting Pot?

    And please tell me where the "embarassingly huge surface parking lots" at Town Center are. I can't find them anymore and I miss them.

    But I agree, this is ugly.

  25. "Comstock isn't making THEIR land more profitable. The land belongs to US, it's county land, our land."

    Terry Maynard says, "The proposal covers only the two blocks owned by Comstock."

    So which is it? Does Comstock own it, or not?

  26. If you want to see bland architecture, one need only to look at Isaac Newton Square and most of the other buildings currently in the nearby vicinity of this site.

    From my perspective, it seems nice to see a proposal for a relatively dense mixed use development around metro. In an earlier drawing, I saw a huge above ground parking garage essentially surrounded by parking lots (similar to what is at the Vienna-Fairfax metro station). Compared to that original drawing, this development (with a largely underground garage, and a mix of office and residential), certainly looks like an improvement. The key is connecting this with other nearby developments so there will be an interconnected network of streets and sidewalks. There also need to be some traffic studies to make sure traffic will be able to move. It seems likely there ought to be some other streets that cross over the Dulles Toll Road at some point, so not all of the traffic is channeled onto Wiehle Avenue.

  27. If I'm not 5'8", can I still walk in the shadows of those VAB-like monoliths? Are they going to build mauve-colored space shuttles in there?

  28. I agree...The design is UUUGLLLY!


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