News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Reston Town Center of the Future: Bigger and Better -- or at Least More Dense

RTC Map.jpg
The hott mess pictured above illustrates the final recommendations of the Reston Town Center Committee of the Reston Master Plan Task Force We Won't Bother Attempting to Acronym Any More (RMPTFWWBAAAM). Like the Wiehle Avenue subcommittee, the group was tasked with providing a comprehensive vision for the area to reflect the coming of Metro, and their vision isn't an altogether bad one -- extending the Fake Downtown, creating a better mix of residential and commercial space, and ensuring open space throughout the area.
The Committee without exception believes the essential emphasis should be the creation of dynamic, mixed used, urban spaces that will make the Reston Town Center Metro Station (and we think that should be its name) a signature regional destination and origination station. Going forward, this will require a stronger emphasis on creating a healthier residential:non- residential balance consistent with transit-oriented development (TOD). Proper incentives will be needed to achieve these outcomes, particularly since much of this area is already built to or near existing density limits.
So yes, one of the group's recommendations is to rename the Reston Parkway Metro Station to the "Reston Town Center Metro Station," presumably because the "Long Walk Past Targetville and Classified Buildings to Eventually Get to The Reston Town Center Metro Station" wouldn't fit on the signs.

But the committee has another suggestion that might address the ungodly distance between the Metro station and the Fake Downtown -- namely, extending the "existing Town Center urban core," assuming you consider midscale retail either "urban" or a "core," all the way south to the Metro station. The key, the committee said, will be to create a "touchdown point" just north of the Metro station with an inviting urban plaza under which cars and busses and whatnot can disgorge themselves in a subterranean, Hobbit-like lair. It's an idea we agree with wholeheartedly, though we'd encourage a more generous and shadow-free approach than the other "civic plaza" currently on the books.

Likewise, as the Macaroni Grill's home, the Spectrum Center, is redeveloped, the committee calls for more dense mixed-use development organized around a "meaningful central green space or town green," as well as some consolidated government center to house the police station and other county offices. Can't say we disagree there; it's hard to imagine anything that would be worse than the area's current big-box incarnation.

Conversely, the committee was skeptical that the area adjoining the station south of the Toll Road will develop into an extension of the Fake Downtown, but still encourages a shift away from the "suburban office park paradigm" to something more dense and mixed-use-y.

The committee acknowledges that building all this won't be cheap and will require significant incentives for developers, but "feels the benefits to greater Reston of extending the urban core and creating this vibrant downtown... justify the approach we recommend."

And here's the part that will annoy some. The bribe incentive the committee recommends offering developers is increased FARs -- a fancy way of saying that more density would be allowed. The committee is recommending FARs of up to 5.0 -- which is a lot. (The Fake Downtown currently has a FAR of about 2.0, while the terrifying urban jungle mixed-use development around Ballston has one of 4.0.) The committee stresses that "good projects and not FAR limits should drive decisions," which we agree with completely. Unfortunately, there won't be one giant mega-proposal that will reshape the whole area in one fell swoop. And we've already seen how a developer can get away with less-than-optimal design when it has the county over a barrel, so it'll be a challenge to make sure that doesn't happen, over and over again, as this area gets built out, small project by small project, over the next 30 to 40 years. What could possibly go wrong?

Fortunately, Restonian Secret Operative "Seth," whose mad photoshopping skillz put our annotations to shame, has another way to address the distance between the Metro station and the Fake Downtown:
While some people are complaining that the Reston Parkway station is ill-conceived because of its lack of access to Starbucks and the Apple Store, I personally think this is a chance for Reston to once again be home to something famous. No, not a McTacoHut, the tripple crown of fast-food; we already have one of those thanks. I'm talking about something better than a bus from the metro to Reston Town Center that would only add to our congested roads. Seattle has its monorail. Venice has its gondolas and Falkirk has its wheel. What Reston needs is a sky tram! Imagine arriving in Reston via the metro and then being carried through the air with unspoiled views of Targetville, Lake Anne, and Plaza America before being deposited in Reston's Fake Downtown. After a day of shopping the tram could whisk passengers across New Dominion Parkway (effectively knocking down our "Berlin Wall") for fine dining with friends at the Macaroni Grill.

Without further ado, I present: The Mauve Line.

Mauve line.png

He had us at "mauve."


  1. If you remember I had previously suggested a sky link in my plan for the Wiehle Metro station. Don't have time to dig out the link but I agree it would offer an exciting linking in a increasingly urban environment. Imagine visitors from Burke or Mclean looking up at us as we zoom by on our way to the Macaroni grill. See you over at the Wednesday Farmers market?

  2. Two notes:
    1). This plan calls for flattening the (formerly) Inova Cameron Glen Care Center, where my mother resides. Hopefully, the plan to demolish this facility is realized only after she has passed. The other codgers, well, they can fend for themselves.

    BTW, this happens to be the only long-term skilled nursing facility in Reston. So, Reston is an equal opportunity Mecca unless you happen to have dementia. And don't even think of dying here. Not only do we lack a funeral home, we don't have a graveyard either. (Although, if you get cremated in Chantilly, we could spread your asses over Lake Audubon.)

    2). Why put up an expensive tram of any sort? Do like DC. Put up a couple of rent-a-bike stands by the Metro. For the bike-challenged, you could always get some of those quadracycles, like they have at Ocean City or Virginia Beach. Or, for some enterprising individual, you could set up one of those electric golf cart/Jeepney/Tuk-Tuk taxi services.

  3. I think if we add a Colossus of Reston (maybe Dear Leader in his little hat at maybe 300-400' tall) we'll be all set.

  4. At FAR of 5.0 and a residential/commercial ratio of 1:1, the proposal will have the potential for 80 million square feet of development. That's twice the amount approved for New Tysons. And that's just in the Reston Pkwy station and Town Center area.

  5. You people have no vision. Imagine an FAR of 5.0 filled with even more mall cops talking on walkie talkies, with even more teeny boppers with fake IDs trying to get a beer at a giant Pizzeria Unos, even more out-of-shape suburban dudes talking about their jobs at Jackson's. Although multiply the number of women under 50 there now by 10 and you still get a low number.

    But what's really being forgotten here is that at an FAR of 5.0, perhaps, perhaps, a Cheesecake Factory would move in. RTC would finally move from being just a Macaroni Grill sort-of-place, and could become a fine dining destination rivaled only by culinary capitals like Dulles Town Center and Tyson's 2.

  6. Sky trams? Bah, sky pedestrians, how pedestrian. What we need is a slidewalk. As Heinlein said, Roads Must Roll!

  7. Let them ride sky bikes, the google way. Check out the investment they made in shweeb - that would be perfect -

  8. I am so glad that we have some more visionary people in the world! otherwise beautiful cities like San Francisco, Homg Kog, Paris, new York would not exist and everything would look like Pleasentville! let the sky tram idea exist!


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