News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Report: Reston To Triple in Size by 2050, Require Three Macaroni Grills To Feed Hungry Populace, As Task Force Recommends Higher Density

Reston could triple in size by 2050, according to a George Mason University growth forecast. The "good" news? Most of us will be dead by the time the biggest push happens.

Reston is predicted to triple in residential size by 2050, while employment is expected to almost double, according to a growth forecast created by George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis.

The forecast predicted that other areas in the county, such as Tysons Corner and south county, likely will see faster job growth between 2010 and 2020. Reston is predicted to see the bulk of its growth later, between 2030 and 2050.
This is where the Reston Master Plan Task Force with an Unpronounceable Acronym (~) comes in. And its job is tricky, because of what we'll call the earth-toned chicken-and-egg syndrome (tm): Does the task force accommodate growth at this scale as best it can because it's inevitable, or does it have the power to mitigate that growth through its actions? Based on its recent draft recommendations, it appears the former approach is the one that's currently favored:
Task force members are forming a recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors on what zoning changes to the Reston Master Plan need to be made to incorporate predicted new levels of density.

"It's become apparent to me that we're going to have to do away with the [Planning Residential Community zoning] that limits our growth to 13 persons per acre," said Gerald Volloy, representing the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners, an organization commonly known as ARCH.

Higher density has been favored by Reston founder Robert E. Simon, who also sits on the task force. Several task force members said they were skeptical of the reliability of the growth forecasts because of the distance of projection.

Simon agreed: "These forecasts were based on the location of these [Metro] stations. ... And I think that's a bit dangerous." He said the task force should look to village centers as destinations, not Metro stops, adding "community centers are divorced from Metro stations."
The Task Force's subcommittee draft reports for the areas around the Wiehle Avenue and Reston Town Center metro stations both call for dramatic increases in density, as measured by a formula called "FAR" (floor-to-area radio). Both proposals, at least as they are currently written, are suggesting FARs of up to 5.0 in the areas closest to the Metro stations, tapering down to less dense ratios as you move towards existing residential areas. (By contrast, our beloved Fake Downtown has a FAR of about 2.0, and Ballston has one of about 4.0.) Here's what that looks like:

Whiele FAR.jpg

Just as importantly, both proposals are calling for a strictly enforced mix of commercial and residential development and open space -- most notably a park extending through much of the current Spectrum Center near RTC. The RTC proposal also makes a case for development above the Toll Road, urging planners to preserve the air rights for when doing so becomes economically feasible.

RTC Strawman.jpg

One encouraging comment in the RTC draft proposal: "Let good projects, not FAR limits, drive decisions." We think that's something everyone can agree with.


  1. Population growth within our boundaries is NOT inevitable. Metro was supposed to fix our existing traffic problems; not create a new ToD gridlock.

    If you build it, they will come; if you don't build it, they can't come. And if you don't mess with the zoning and refuse to issue the permits, then they can't build it.

    In an over-built county, the only smart growth is zero growth.

  2. Considering that Reston is suburb, it is safe to say that many Reston residents enjoy suburb living. Had they wanted to live in urban area, they probably would have chosen to live in an urban area. Why then are our leaders trying to transition us to a way of life that most of have chosen to avoid?

  3. I am happy to say I will be long dead by 2050.

  4. So, they think that people will shoehorn themselves in - just so they can say they live in Reston.


  5. GMU-CRA is funded by NVAR. They always have rosey forecasts.

    The "encouraging" comment was actually a complaint about FAR limits.

  6. From the Uplands of RestonAugust 4, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    I sure don't remember voting for any of this. And I do not want to live next to an urban core. BTDT.

  7. Amongst the 'Hoods in Colvin WoodsAugust 4, 2010 at 11:21 PM

    Anonymous @ 3:18 PM: Actually, there is a large percentage of people who are living in Reston simply because the relatively low density of our metropolitan region's urban core has driven demand for housing so high that we can't AFFORD anything closer to the city, hence why we just settle for the gelatinous and fake-feeling community we all know and love as Reston. There simply isn't a high enough supply of housing closer to the city for the middle-class. I would love to live in a sustainable urban environment. I can't afford it. Most of my friends feel the same way and likewise dislike Reston. DC's housing prices rival that of NYC, yet I'd take Metro NYC ANYDAY over Metro DC. I really don't understand it. If you want generic suburbia then move to LoCo. Shouldn't Reston strive for better than a fake downtown, massive surface parking lots, hideous office buildings, etc.? I keep asking myself when Reston will start to feel "mature."

  8. Oh, please, BiCO. There's plenty of affordable housing on the East side of the Anacostia river. You would be just a few Metro stops away from your favorite stomping grounds. You can probably get a nice Condo for not much money within walking distance of the Minnesota Ave Metro Station.

    It's best to buy in now. Once the new DHS Puzzle Palace starts operation, real estate prices in SE are going to sky rocket.

    Or, if you're looking for Old World charm, a co-worker of mine was telling me that you can purchase a 2100 sq ft th on the outskirts of Bowie for about $275k. Since you don't have any kids (and not likely to have any soon), PG public schools shouldn't really be a factor in your decision.

  9. Where did those maps at the bottom come from?

  10. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonAugust 5, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    BiCO, you may prefer New York City, but on your salary you'd be living in a tenement building in the South Bronx or commuting in from your home state of Pennsylvania or from halfway to Albany. Just to keep "affordable housing" in perspective.

  11. Bob Simon's Metallic Alter EgoAugust 5, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    Some of this development could be "better than a fake downtown, massive surface parking lots, hideous office buildings, etc." But that's up to our elected officials -- now and over the next 30 years. Which is why it's important to set the stage for smart projects that work together in what will become, for better or for worse, a more urban core -- at least near the Metro stations.

  12. Someone needs to explain to the folks at the Airports Authority, MWAA, that the asphalt jungle the county wants to create at the station areas in Reston, will actually create such gridlock that people won't be able to reach the Dulles Toll Road to go to work. People will have to move somewhere else. The Silver Line will be mostly paid for by toll road user fees. What would a 5 to 10% decrease in their revenues do to their long term budget?

  13. Do you think Cathy Hudgins reads this rag? I would hope that the Master Plan task force would due to the coverage they receive . . . anyway, I'm writing letters, lots of letters . . . No development should go beyond the capacity of the local infrustructure, regardless. I can't imagine anyone having a logical arguement against this point . . . but who said we were logical.

    n the mean time . . . anyone for starting up another Reston in WV?

  14. BiCO is kinda right. I mean, we tried to move closer to the city (while staying in Virginia where we both work). But what was affordable to us was Reston. Though I do really enjoy it here.

  15. If you want to live in an urban environment or want to continue to promote urbanization in Reston, you're going to give up your distaste for ugly office buildings. You're like all the rest. People have a very different reaction when they have to live in a concrete canyon.

  16. "Both proposals, at least as they are currently written, are suggesting FARs of up to 5.0"

    And of cause, the county will demand so-called "affordable housing" in those. Because, you know, schools in Reston are too good.


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