Tuesday, May 31, 2011
In response to a low-key neighborhood dispute involving the DRB, the Reston Association Board of Directors has sent its chair a fancy letter, written on official stationary and everything, outlining new guidelines for DRB members advising applicants or "any affected party."
* DRB members should disclose professional and business relationships with applicants or affected parties –which has been a long standing practice – the involved DRB member must also remove himself from discussions.Here's a more recent article about the Cutwater Court dispute, in case you're keeping score at home.
* During DRB discussions on the application, remove himself and only speak from the audience if directly asked a question by the DRB.
* Minutes of DRB meetings where members have a relationship with an applicant or affected party will now include the disclosure, recusal by the DRB member and record the vote of the presiding DRB members on the application.
The procedures will be in place until the RA Board adopts a formal resolution to replace them.
But the letter-writing smackdowns don't end there! Citing unresolved issues with the most recent Fairway Apartments proposal, the RA Board will also write another letter to Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, asking that the county defer a July planning commission meeting on the proposal until the DRB can get their hands on the plans. That's slightly less stringent than the Reston Citizens Association's flat-out opposition to the proposal, but in both cases, it's good to see the RA Board being proactive and -- dare we say it? -- responsive to legitimate concerns.
Friday, May 27, 2011
Twitter! What better place to sample the zeitgeist of our beloved community as we go into a long holiday weekend? Pretty much anywhere else, but the hour is late and we still need to pick up our pool passes. So here goes:
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Following in the footsteps of kids at other county schools, a "small group" of students at South Lakes High School started a food fight on Wednesday. In a letter to parents, Principal Bruce Butler warned that any student observed participating in a food fight will be "suspended for five days and, if possible, charged by the police" -- which is exactly what happened at Centreville High School earlier in the week.
From Butler's letter to parents:
Food fights are not a joke, they are incredibly dangerous events which endanger all students. Our children at the greatest risk are those with physical and intellectual disabilities. They may not, or in some cases cannot, move out of the way of hundreds of students who dash away from the flying food.Fairfax County schools have had an epidemic of food fights of late, and Butler's absolutely right that they're not harmless fun. But the last time we heard the term "morally corrupt" used to describe teenagers, it was in a 1980s movie about a town that outlawed dancing. Can we go with "boneheaded and thoughtless" instead?
This type of behavior is absolutely counter to both our school's and community's values. It also reflects a decadent indifference to the selfless dedication of our custodial staff and the importance of having food to eat when many do not.
Please take the time to discuss this issue with your child tonight. I realize that today's incident was the result of the actions of a small group of morally corrupt students. That said, I will not allow groups of student to jeopardize the safety of others.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Fairway to Heaven: Reston Citizens Association Opposes Apartment Redevelopment, Makes Us Hungry With 'Texas Doughnut' Reference
The Reston Citizens Association has issued a resolution urging county officials to reject the most recent Fairway Apartments redevelopment proposal, arguing that "the JBG proposal endorsed by Reston's Planning and Zoning Committee on strictly legalistic grounds offers less than either the County or the community expects for re-development in this residential neighborhood and in Reston generally."
In its resolution, RCA lists the following objections to the proposal:
- The increase from 342 to 804 units, which it argues goes against county staff recommendations and planning principles established for the Reston Master Plan Task Force that would "maintain the character of existing residential/suburban neighborhoods."
- Traffic congestion issues, given that the development isn't within an existing village center and more than a half-mile away from either future Metro station, making it "inconsistent with the adopted Reston planning principle calling for development to be phased in with infrastructure."
- Allocating only 87 units for workforce housing in a development that will replace an existing complex of affordable garden apartments.
- The overall design, including the proposed "500 foot unbroken facade design of the principal residential structure, the 'Texas donut' design of another residential structure, the 50-foot high three story townhouses in a neighborhood of two-story homes, and the overall density of the redevelopment proposal."
Which begs the question: What exactly is a Texas doughnut? In a nutshell, it's a complex that wraps a building around a parking structure -- which looks nice(r) from the outside, but probably isn't the most exciting view in the world if you've got one of the interior courtyard units. Here's an example of such a project in Florida, where they know good architecture or something:
You can read the full text of the RCA resolution, which basically says the same thing with a lot more "whereas"es, here.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
A redevelopment project waiting in the wings since 1978 is preparing to move forward, as developers seek county approval for a 23-story, 400,000 square foot office building with a green rooftop park at the site of the Town Center Office Building on 1760 Reston Parkway (pictured).
The applicant proposes to build a 400,000 square foot office building with a green roof top park. The first five levels of the structure will consist of retail space and structured parking. The remaining 18 levels will be designed for office use.Way back in 1978, Gulf Reston won approval for a development plan that called for "commercial retail and office uses with no height or intensity (FAR) restrictions." It's been three decades, but it looks like RTC Partnership LLC will take the county up on that.
The property is surrounded on three sides by Reston Spectrum, itself preparing to move forward with a massive redevelopment that promises to spell the end of our beloved Macaroni Grill and lots of less-beloved big-box schlock. Together, these proposals will extend the footprint of Reston Town Center north to Baron Cameron Avenue, which is exactly where that type of dense development should be concentrated.
The county planning commission has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal on October 6.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Courtesy of a promotional brochure about Reston from the early 1960s, please to be enjoying this idyllic series of artist renderings of what life in the New Town would look like. Here, a group of mothers watch as their kids frolic in a playground that appears to be made completely of discarded components from the statuary found on the paths near Lake Anne. Fun, and no pesky sharp edges to worry about!
We love the fashion choices selected for the mothers in this drawring. While the mother on the right appears to be wearing a sensible housedress (that thing tied around her waist may well be an apron), as though she was going to nonchalantly apply frosting to cupcakes while her daughter plays, her BFF in the snazzy blue cocktail dress waving to her appears to be ready to attend a post-playground soiree where Esquivel will be played on someone's "hi fi." If you squint, you can probably make out the pearls.
But where's dad, you might ask?
There he is, returning from a day of toil
Meanwhile, Dad almost seems to be beckoning for his pipe and pre-dinner martini with one hand as he clutches his
Friday, May 20, 2011
Under the not-at-all-sensational headline "Is the Reston Design Review Board For Hire?", a group of neighbors in a South Reston cul-de-sac have alleged in a letter to the editor published in the Fairfax Times and the Reston Connection that the DRB has greenlighted a teardown that would create what the neighbors call a substantially larger lakefront home on Lake Thoreau for which a member of the board allegedly served as a consultant.
A group of neighbors who have lived on the same cul-de-sac for 30 years are opposing a proposal to tear down an existing home and build an oversized replacement at 2004 Cutwater Court.Let's hope we're not moving into a glorious new era of unchecked infill redevelopment, which will be something there will be a lot more pressure to do as the Silver Line hawtness starts pushing attention and housing prices up in existing neighborhoods. Infill development is almost certainly inevitable and can be done well, but to get a sense of what it can look like when unchecked, wander through some of the 1940s and 1950s neighborhoods near the Metro stations in Arlington, where modest ranchers sit shoulder-to-shoulder with buildings three or four times their size, and often, their height.
We are not against the concept of a rebuild; we object to the size and mass of the rebuild proposed for this site. The proposed structure would be nearly twice as big as the current house, all above grade, on a small 11,000-square-foot lot. It seriously would infringe upon the privacy of close neighbors, as well as some neighbors across the inlet. Several huge trees will also be destroyed.
The proposal is out of scale and not in harmony with the neighborhood... Building "McMansions" on small lots is not in keeping with the character of Reston. It is precedent setting. It should be fully debated.
People worry about entire neighborhoods being bought out and redeveloped, but a 20-minute walk through a neighborhood like Westover is all it takes to show that piecemeal infill development can be far more devastating if it's not done in a way that respects the character of the existing buildings in the neighborhood. We don't know a lot about the "grammar" of architecture, but we do know an oversized building in an established neighborhood sticks out like a middle finger.
Then there's the whole conflict of interest thingy alleged in the letter to the editor:
On April 19, the third DRB meeting on this matter, Richard Newlon, one of nine listed DRB members, announced he now is advising the applicant, the owners at 2004 Cutwater Court, on their project and would therefore recuse himself from voting.Of course, letters to the editor are by their very nature one-sided, so we don't know all the facts. But this looks embarrassing.
We were shocked to hear this without any prior notification.
The architect for the 2004 Cutwater Court applicant then made his presentation before the DRB.
Newlon, from his DRB chair, spoke in support of revisions. He questioned an affected party when she voiced her concerns. Newlon sat like a DRB member, but he talked and acted like an advocate and lobbyist for the applicant.
When asked, DRB Chairwoman Barbara Byron said what Newlon is doing was something that was done all the time. She was dismissive about any possible unethical implications.
At one point, Newlon even left his seat with the other DRB members, moved around to the front of the table, presented arguments in favor of the applicant, and quipped that perhaps he belonged on this side. He then returned to his seat next to the other DRB members, engaged in discussion with the other members when the merits were deliberated, argued forcefully for the applicant, and recused himself only from the actual vote.
Although the DRB approved the size of the expansion, there is some "good" news for the property's neighbors:
The official DRB letter that followed said the owners of 2004 Cutwater Court now only need to make some architectural fixes on the proposed structure, and we, the affected parties, can no longer bring up the primary issue, which is the size and massing of the proposed structure.In other words, you can build a giant shiny McMansion by the lake, but by god, it had better not have snap-in munions in the windows.
Update: Richard Newlon responds to the letter to the editor, arguing that the property owner hired him because they "felt that having an architect more familiar with Reston’s Design Guidelines and contextual design in one of our most beautiful neighborhoods would be to everyone’s advantage," that his input resulted in a design that was more "responsive to the neighborhood," and that the DRB's architect members are frequently involved in similar roles:
Reston architects on the Design Review Board frequently have Reston clients that they represent at the DRB hearings. At the beginning of this meeting, I read my prepared statement that stated my involvement with the project and that I would recuse myself from the voting. I did make comments on the presentation and the design as the application was heard. This is all quite normal.Read the full text of his comments here.
I would suggest that the negative energy the neighbors have toward this project be re-directed toward the specific design, and not the venomous attacks they’ve directed at their neighbor, myself and the Design Review process.
Update #2: The property owners have written their own response to their neighbors' letter to the editor, arguing that their information about the project was misleading, defending the DRB as "an objective process that is designed to promote proper development" that required them to go through two costly redesigns, and calling their neighbors' objections "a reflection of their bias against long-established processes and policies that have worked against their desires and interests." (Read the full text of their comments here.) They conclude:
DRB Officials are correctly focused on what is fair and reasonable for residential redevelopment in Reston based on objective criteria that must not be influenced by a hypocritical and mean spirited cabal of neighbors even if they have lived in Reston for 30 years.And beyond the acrimony surrounding this one proposal, the DRB's role as redevelopment projects like this start popping up with increasing frequency in our aging neighborhoods is the real issue at stake here.
Update #3: The Reston Association has issued a statement about the issue.
Update #4: A commenter echoes our concerns about this issue in a much clearer way than we were able to:
This is perhaps a healthy opportunity to explore the larger issue of how a DRB can/should function in a future age of in-fill. "Conflict of Interest" issue aside, are total home rebuild/in-fill development scenarios "too big" for the DRB? Should another authoritative body within Reston have responsibility?Nicely put.
Choices in siding or roof colors are one thing, but entire homes rebuilt from scratch? Houses in the south of Reston are well past forty years old and are reasonable targets for in-fill, and our best answer might not be a volunteer board of skilled architects that reserve the right to consult on the in-fills in question. This is not to diminish the excellent work done by the DRB, but rather, it is simply to point out that the stakes are too high not to have greater accountability, transparency, and (unfortunately) hierarchy of review.
And so we can hope that this resolves itself in as amicable a manner as possible, but everyone is watching because precedent will be set with these early in-fill examples.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
After Monday's incident on the trails near Dogwood Elementary, one of the local teevee stations decided to send a camera crew to this "Reston" place a few days later because it took them that long to find it on a map, plus look under the sofa cushions to find some quarters to pay the tolls for the Action News Van.
Please to be enjoying what may be the most news-free news segment we've seen in a long time, with the exception of learning that Reston is "filled with bike paths." Who knew? Better yet, the written article accompanying this fancy video identifies Dogwood as "Woodson Elementary," so um, yay, Experienced Journalists, the end.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
While people often complain that Reston seems dead, it's famously known that plans for a cemetery were purposefully left out of our earth-toned community because Bob Simon was not a fan of the funeral industry. But we might get the next best thing: a shiny memorial garden.
One of the most intriguing elements of the Public Art Master Plan for Reston is the idea of creating "a place for quiet contemplation as well as small gatherings or memorial services." (The closest thing Reston currently has to such a space is Freedom Grove, which includes a memorial by Reston artist Kathy Kaplan.) IPAR, the group overseeing the public art initiative, has created a committee that's developing a scope for the project, and the RA may wind up helping identify possible sites for the garden. Community input will presumably be a big part of identifying the site, selecting an artist and approving the design.
It's a seriously good idea, but what would such a memorial space look like? We're not part of the IPAR committee, but with tongue planted firmly in cheek, we'll humbly share a few design possibilities, based on our years as an understudy to Frank Gehry:
(*bicycle access only)
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
First zombies, now this: a Confidential Restonian Operative sent us this highly credible cellular telephone photograph of the unspeakable horror lurking beneath the surface of Lake Anne. The so-called photographic "experts" we hired at great personal expense who suggested that this might be equipment involved with the ongoing dredging process at the lake have been summarily stripped of their photographic expert credentials and subjected to public humiliation because, really, what else could it be but a bloodthirsty yet appropriately earth-toned sea serpent, the end.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Another week, more weirdness on a Reston path: Two students at Dogwood Elementary School told police that a man on a path near the school showed them a gun on Monday.
Police were called to Dogwood Elementary School, located at 12300 Glade Drive on Monday, May 16 around 8:40 a.m. for a suspicious event. A 12-year-old student and an 11-year-old student reported that they encountered a suspicious man on a path near the school, who displayed a gun. The students reported this to school employees who summoned police. After an extensive search, police were unable to locate the man.Police say they have stepped up patrols near the school, and ask anyone with information about the man to contact the police or Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS/8477.
He is described as black, wearing black clothing with a white bandana.
Police are also seeking information about a traffic accident that killed a 19-year-old Herndon High School graduate on Rt. 7 on Sunday night.
Herndon man died after he was struck while standing outside of his car. Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, the man was driving a 1999 Mazda 626 east on Route 7. At the intersection of Dranesville Manor Drive, the car apparently experienced mechanical difficulties and stopped in the right travel lane. The driver activated the emergency flashers and got out of the car.Services for Rowley will be held on Friday.
A 39-year-old Alexandria-area man, driving a 2005 KIA AMANTI, was also traveling east on Route 7 and failed to stop before striking the rear of the Mazda. After striking the car, the KIA then struck the man standing outside the Mazda. 19-year-old Kyle Alec Rowley, of 1126 Stuart Hills Way in Herndon, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the KIA was flown to a local hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Neither speed nor alcohol appear to be a factor in this crash. Electronic sign boards are being put in place at the site of the crash asking witnesses to call police.
Set the wayback machine to the early '90s, an time marked by global conflict in a strange place called Iraq and the redefinition of the rock era in a place called Seattle, where a young lad by the name of Kurt Cobain was redefining the rock world and wearing lots of flannel. Meanwhile, here in Reston, folks were still apparently rocking the pastels and sweet aviator sunglasses. Paging Sonny Crockett!
This fancy real estate ad somehow manages to simultaneously steal and muddle the taglines from two major advertising campaigns of the era with its "The Heart of Reston" and "This is the Life!" taglines. "We've seen countless developers try to recreate our neighborhoods, but none of them compare to the beauty of Reston," the breathless advertising copy enthuses, a claim which would be easier to believe if the lovely homes pictured surrounding our pastel doppelgangers' lovely boat weren't among the blandest, least Reston-like structures in the new town's entire housing stock. But this was in the midst of the final hurrah of building out North Reston, so we guess that's just a given.
On the plus side, it's good to see that Rick Astley got work as a model in the early 90s.
If you noticed a couple of posts on this filthy "web log" disappear, then reappear out of order, then disappear again over the last few days, don't be alarmed -- you didn't drink some tepid lake water by accident. It turns out it was a problem with the fancy Googles all along. And we thought it was the Atari 800 that powers all "web logging" services at Restonian World Headquarters.
Things are more or less back to normal, but a whole bunch of comments people left, mostly on Thursday, are still somewhere out there in the ether. They will supposedly be restored at some point, but we're not holding our breath, which is why the folks at the Reston Museum really should be printing out a hard copy of this "web log" every day and putting it behind glass for future generations to enjoy, the end.
Friday, May 13, 2011
April showers bring May's installment of fancy video news from the Reston Association. Right off the bat, we're posed with a question that has vexed us for months: Now that Andy Sigle has taken his spot on the RA Board, will his dulcet tones return to these videos? Host Melissa Knueven is coy on the subject, merely saying she's "filling in" for Mssr. Sigle, leaving us to ponder this for the next five minutes and 33 seconds of earth-toned video action.
"Spring is in the air," Knueven notes, as B-roll footage shows someone skateboarding across a traffic-clogged Sunset Hills Road. We're already on the edge of our seats! Then there's talk about sustainability, including a helpful definition of what the term means from the United Nations (cough cough New World Order). Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins stands at Lake Anne Plaza to talk about a "new community-wide green initiative," which was kicked off on Founder's Day and will be discussed again at a community forum in October, assuming anyone can get there
Then we get hawtt shovel-in-dirt groundbreaking footage of the Reston Station development and some equally hawtt trees-in-dirt footage about Arbor Day, which we once again forgot to mark on our calendar. There's also talk about the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, because the kinds of idealistic folks who ventured out into the world in the 1960s were also the kinds of people who looked at this idealistic "new town" growing in the countryside outside of Washington and thought it might be a good place to settle down, which is actually kind of impressive, the end.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
A word of caution for the bespandexed long-distance cyclers among us: You may want to avoid taking the W&OD trail to Falls Church. Although if we’re talking about soulless creatures moving in lockstep in single-minded pursuit of
Posted by Restonian at 11:40 AM
Remember that time Soapstone Drive was going to get a fancy "road diet," allowing cyclists and walkers and whatnot to have free and unimpeded access to the precious bodily fluids available at the 7-11 as drivers happily zip by on a narrower road?
Yeah, that was awesome. Thanks to some good luck with VDOT's paving schedules, it turns out it's likely to happen this summer, with just one minor omission -- the sidewalks planned for the busiest stretch of the road, between Glade and South Lakes.
Hudgins said in October that proposed changes to the road could cost $3 million and that Fairfax County was unsure of how to pay for the project. By having VDOT make the changes as part of the scheduled repaving, that cost would be covered. The county will later pay for the $1.5 million sidewalk improvements, said Hudgins.Those fancy sidewalk improvements have been discussed for years, so we're not exactly holding our breath. But the reconfigured road will actually be widened slightly between Glade and South Lakes -- so it's less a "diet" and more an "extra order of fries" -- to provide room for a
VDOT says that the Lawyers Road "diet" has proven to be highly popular and helped reduce average speeds and crashes. For that reason, they argue that narrowing lanes will actually help improve traffic flow as Reston gets more crowded:
Our forecast shows 40-percent increase on Soapstone in 2030. If we keep the existing markings, the South Lakes intersection delays will go up as much as 5 to 10 seconds per vehicle.If we can keep the delay from "turn lane to Super Big Gulp in hand" to under 5 seconds, we'll be happy, the end.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Hey, Nice Package! RA Considering a $15.8 Million Bond Referendum for Indoor Tennis, Pools, Paths, Public Art, and Playgrounds
There now appears to be a way forward for the longstanding proposals for indoor tennis and swimming facilities in Reston. Thanks to several Confidential Restonian Operatives and our BFFs at Reston 2020, we now know that the Reston Association's Parks and Planning Commission has recommended that the RA Board combine "multiple park and recreation improvements into one referendum package" that would be financed by a fancy bond issue, presumably nice suitable-for-framing bonds with stock art of trains and Monopoly-style houses and hotels and whatnot along the margins.
Along with the $3.8 million indoor tennis facility that would be built at Lake Newport, the proposed projects that would be funded by the bond issue, which would top out at $15.8 million, include a range of other recreation and outdoorsy kinds of stuff:
- A 50-meter indoor pool to be built at an undisclosed location (but possibly at Lake Newport), and possibly in cooperation with the Reston Community Center
- Field upgrades at Brown's Chapel
- A turf soccer field at Hunters Woods Park
- Completing the "missing links" to Reston pathways
- Funding for the Reston Public Art Initiative
- Gateway and entry signs
- Drainage and stream work
- Upgrades to pool renovations
- An accessible "destination playground" with parking at Lake Fairfax Park, in partnership with Fairfax County.
The commission touts the benefits of this all-in-one approach as reducing the cost of conducting multiple referenda, and -- and this is probably just as important -- offering something for everyone, not just the small but vocal group of tennis players that have dominated parks and rec discussions of late. The recommendation also suggests that bonds represent a new funding approach for RA projects.
Especially given the high price tag, we're all in favor of putting something like this out for a referendum. The reality is that Reston is soon going to be home to a whole slew of new people, like it or not, and someone is going to have to provide additional recreation opportunities for those
The proposal will be discussed by the RA Board during its meeting on May 26.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
It's been a while since we've caught up on the criminal doings of Reston's shadowy underworld, or whatever, so let's flip the switch located in the bust of Bob Simon's head in Stately Restonian Manor and head down to the Batcave (actually our musty basement) to see what's been doing:
First, the series of suspicious white powder-bearing letters that inundated Washington, D.C., schools last week found their way to Reston. One was found yesterday at the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive.
Fairfax County officials say there was an envelope found with white powder on the outside. Fairfax County Police and Fire were called to the scene, and they report to 9NEWS NOW the white powder was not believed to be hazardous.Our theory? An overenthusiastic geologist found some really chalky limestone and wanted to send it in.
FBI spokeswoman Lindsey Godwin tells 9NEWS NOW the National Capitol response squad is also responding to this incident, but that their preliminary information is that this incident is believed to be 'unrelated' to the suspicious packages containing white powder that were delivered to a number of DC school locations last week.
Returning to the usual creepy stuff we're more accustomed to, a Reston woman woke up with a burglar next to her on the morning of May 1.
A man burglarized a home in the 2000 block of Royal Fern Court on Sunday, May 1. Around 5:50 a.m., a 49-year-old woman awoke to the suspect lying in bed next to her. She screamed and the suspect fled. An investigation determined the suspect entered through an unlocked door. The victim was not injured.Two men robbed another man out on a late-night stroll on a path near Lake Anne.
Two men robbed a 25-year-old man while walking on a path in the area of Moorings Drive and North Shore Drive around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 24. The victim declined treatment for his injuries.A Reston man lost his life after a fatal crash on the Fairfax County Parkway on April 24.
Around 1:50 a.m. police were called to the Fairfax County Parkway near West Ox Road for a reported crash. Officers located a 1988 Oldsmobile Bravada in the backyard of a home in the 13100 block of Lou Alice Way. An investigation determined the vehicle was traveling north on the Fairfax County Parkway, just past the intersection of West Ox Road, when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The Bravada went off the left side of the road and rotated counter-clockwise. It traveled across the grass median and the southbound lanes of the Parkway then began to roll as it reached the shoulder of the road. It continued up the embankment, took out some trees and crashed through a wooden fence. The Bravada came to rest on its roof in the backyard of the home. The driver, Arturo Cruz Zaldivar, 22, of Cocquina Drive in Reston, was pronounced dead at the scene. A 20-year-old male passenger was treated for minor injuries. Zaldivar was not wearing a seatbelt; the passenger was. This crash investigation is ongoing. Speed and alcohol appear to be factors.Two businesses -- one at North Point, the other at Fox Mill -- were robbed at gunpoint on April 18.
A male entered the Game Stop store at 1468 North Point Village Drive and robbed a 21-year-old woman working behind the counter around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, April 18. The suspect was armed with a gun and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash. He was described as white, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, between 16 and 25 years old, about 160 pounds, wearing a black mask, black shirt and black shorts with a yellow stripe. He had short, brown hair. The victim was not injured.Since the suspect was described as wearing black shorts with a yellow stripe in one robbery and blue pants with a yellow stripe in the other, there's no way they could be related. Either that, or there's someone out there with a more extensive wardrobe of striped pants than a middle school PE teacher. He really should have picked a more inconspicuous outfit.
A teenaged boy entered the Radio Shack at 2539 John Milton Drive and attempted to rob two employees working inside around 4:26 p.m. on Monday, April 18. The suspect pointed a gun at the victims but fled without taking anything. He was described as white, about 16 years old, between 5 feet 9 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall and 110 to 120 pounds. He was wearing a black hoodie, blue pants with yellow stripes and black skateboarding shoes with white socks; his face was covered with a mask but the suspect had short, dirty blonde hair.
Finally, two kittens were stolen from a home on North Shore Drive and an energy drink was stolen from business in the 2300 block of Soapstone Drive. There are no words.
This exciting teaser about Lake Anne Plaza was posted on "the Facebook," as the kids today don't call it, a week or so back. Turns out Alfredo & Rocio Melendez, who operated Cafe Lakeside at the Lake Anne Pharmacy before the space was taken by Roti Grill when it moved from the space currently occupied by Singh Thai, have returned. We liked Roti Grill and we liked Lakeside Cafe, so at least there's some good news.
In still more exciting news, Lake Anne will be home to the second annual Ukulele festival on July 9 and OH GOD NO MAKE THE TERRIBLE NOISES STOP
Monday, May 9, 2011
At great risk and personal expense, we have managed to obtain footage from the never-aired pilot of Mad Men, in which the focus was not on a New York City advertising agency, but a suburban Washington defense contractor. In this scene, Don Draper, Roger Sterling, and Sal Romano (portrayed here by their Captain Pike-like understudies) discuss whether it would be more lucrative to strap bombs to dolphins or infect monkeys with Ebola.
Oh, who are we kidding? Please to be enjoying this photograph from 1972 of "three businessmen strolling in front of the Reston International Center," which depicts three businessmen strolling in front of the Reston International Center, perhaps walking to Chilis or whatever good-time eatery existed in that space at that time, the end.
Friday, May 6, 2011
My, that is a professional looking document! Unveiled earlier this week, the final report of the Lake Anne Village Commercial Reinvestment Plan clocked in at a nearly Dickensian 130 pages. (Did the authors get paid by the word?) The bottom line is that the consultants hired by Fairfax County to develop the report are arguing that the best commercial concept is to market Lake Anne as a food and dining destination, and the best way to do that is to find a way to centralize the management of the plaza. Not exactly news to anyone who's followed Lake Anne's changing fortunes in recent years, but there are more specific action plans on how to do these things -- more than 45 pages of them, in fact -- than we've seen before.
It's taken us a while to read the 130-page report (and now our mouths hurt from all that moving our lips as we read). What does the darn thing say anyway?
First of all, the consultants were able to locate Lake Anne on a map. Good on them.
With that out of the way, the report has some good news! According to its authors, Lake Anne could support up to 9 new dining establishments, a small specialty food market, a wine shop or bakery, a modern full-size pharmacy, and a few personal service tenants such as a dry cleaner. Yeah, we're shocked, too, but there's a big "if."
All of this is based on what the report's authors call the "upside" scenario. (Translation: Keep clapping!) It touches briefly on the redevelopment plan for Lake Anne approved by Fairfax County in 2009. Those plans could ultimately lead to as many as 1,755 new residential units and nearly 250,000 square feet of new commercial space at Lake Anne, and that redevelopment is really the key to revitalizing Lake Anne. But more than two years later, there hasn't been a peep about any project more extensive than repainting at Lake Anne, thanks to
Bob Simon, bless his heart, said just as much when the report was unveiled.
Reston founder Robert E. Simon said the Lake Anne Merchants Association and LARCA are already doing almost everything the report discussed. He said the future lies in new ownership with money to spend.That's the truth.
"All of [the report] will not accomplsh what we need to have accomplished until a developer comes in here using comprehensive plan," said Simon. "Our real future really lies in a developer coming in when the market recovers."
But let's pretend that filthy "web loggers" get paid by the word (or at all) and dive a bit deeper into the report. The idea of focusing on creating a dining destination at Lake Anne is hardly a bold one, as restaurants have driven most of the retail growth throughout Reston in the past decade. Lookit this fancy chart:
We're guessing cupcakeries fall under "food services."
For those of you still awake, here's a smattering of other highlights from the report:
- The community's preference is for a "combination of concepts," but the food and dining destination ranked highest.
- The appeal and significance of the existing architecture at Lake Anne is "recognized by modernists, architects, planners and some segments of the general public." (The remaining segments of the general public tend to comment loudly and repeatedly on this "web log" whenever Lake Anne is as much as mentioned.)
- The April 2008 Wiehle Avenue/ Reston Parkway Station Access Management Plan shows the potential for a paved trail connection between the LAVC and the Wiehle Avenue Station. That was actually news to us.
- The LAVC will be eligible for designation in the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, when it turns 50. Maybe we should go for a Colonial Williamsburg approach, only with costumed interpreters wearing polyester and demonstrating how to properly burp a Tupperware container.
- Currently 13,844 square feet of the 73,471 square feet of Lake Anne's commercial space is vacant -- or 19 percent. That's not great, but it's better than a lot of shopping malls these days. (Have you been to Springfield Mall lately?)
- The economics of leasing and running retail space at Lake Anne are challenging, to say the least: "Many owners have a very low to almost zero return expectation, with some owners leasing their space at cost. This in turn creates a disincentive for tenants to maintain a competitive business with healthy sales volumes," the report states. And it gets worse: "Depending on their level of invested equity, a market driven commercial investor would have to charge an annual rent ranging from $24 PSF to $40 PSF+ in order realize a reasonable return. At the high end of this scale, rents would have to approach the rates achieved by the highest performing commercial spaces in Reston Town Center. Assuming industry standards for retail operating margins, this implies that the tenant would have to produce an annual sales volume of at least $335 PSF." That's not hard to do when you're selling iPads and whatnot, but a hell of a lot tougher for locally owned businesses.
- There are a mind-boggling 26 non‐residential property owners in the core Washington Plaza area, which does not include the owners of the ASBO building, the Washington Plaza Baptist Church, and the Lake Anne Professional Building. "The ownership structure of these individual commercial units does not lend itself readily to creating a retail merchandising strategy that will allow the diversity of retail types to enter the marketplace and create a balance of retail categories that is needed for the LAVC to be successful," the report (under)states.
- Newer Restonians may not feel the same about Lake Anne as long-timers, according to the report: "While many residents appreciate the national tenants located in Reston Town Center, they do not want to shift away from locally owned businesses in the LAVC," it states. "However, newer residents do not seem to have the same traditional connections to the scale, character and mix of the LAVC, with one interviewee saying that while Lake Anne Village is an important symbol, the passion to protect the LAVC from change is harder to understand, and considered the design qualities of the village to be 'an appreciation to be gained over time, but not something that is automatic for everyone.'"
The report has some value, but the reality, again, is that improving the fortunes of Reston's brutalist gem will depend largely on significant redevelopment -- something the Reston Association itself wasn't willing to do. Hopefully others will step in at some point sooner rather than later.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
What's the Difference Between an Above-Ground and Underground Metro Station at Dulles? 50 Cents a Trip on the Toll Road
Buried deep in a story about the newest projected toll increases on the Dulles Toll Road is a fun little tidbit: the difference between building an above ground and underground Metro station at Dulles Airport works out to 50 cents per trip on our fun-filled expressway to the wonders of Tysons.
Ultimately, the decision to go underground at the Airport could lead to a .50 cent difference in tolls on the toll road according to a report given to the board.We're going to use our fancy Fairfax County Public School math skills and assume they meant 50 cents and not one-half of one cent. Otherwise, if all that boring and tunneling and awesome miners helmets with the lights on them and whatnot is so cheap, they should just bury everything, including our beloved
But we digress. Overall, Metro construction costs will lead to a steady increase in Toll Road fares going forward, as construction (hopefully) continues on the Silver Line:
Toll rates on the Dulles Toll Road may have to jump to $5.50 by 2015 and $10.75 by 2020. Right now, the cost of a full trip on the toll road is $2.But fear not! The airport authority has, as they say in the movies, a plan:
"That's right. That's always been part of the plan -- a regular series of toll rate increases," says Bryan Grote, Financial Advisor to MWAA. "You do have these construction expenditures coming up over the next several years, and that's what has to be financed."
A group of financial advisors also urged the MWAA board to consider other tolling options on the toll road as a way to increase revenue. For example, charging more for drivers during peak hours, setting up a distance-based toll system and considering putting a toll on the Airport Access Road which is currently free.Whatever winds up coming of that, we'd better start looking under the couch cushions for quarters now.
The board has agreed to study a new transportation plan over the next six months. A better estimate for toll increases is expected after that time.
The bottom line is that the region needs the Silver Line, and the underground station is what makes the most sense as a long-term investment in an economy that's likely to be driven in large part by IAD. But someone's going to have to figure out a way to pay for this that doesn't just involve a whole pile of quarters, a couple of quarters at a time.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
On the YouTubes: A Month-Old Video of RA's Annual Meeting Will Take You Back to The Future, or Maybe Ahead to the Past
If you, like us, had a full plate of candystriping duties that kept you from attending April's Reston Association annual meeting, you're in luck. The RA has finished encoding the video -- given that it's been nearly a month since the annual meeting, they must have used a vintage Atari 800 -- and posted it on the Internets. So settle in with a big 'ol bucket of popcorn and get ready for 1 hour and 2 minutes of hardcore RA action!
Actually, Robert E. Simon's part, at about 7:20 in, is worth a listen. "Please do not think of density as evil," Simon told the assembled crowd. "Do not think of high rises as evil. You can certainly enjoy low density if you want, but let the other guys have theirs."
"There's no sense crying about the things we know are bad," Simon also said, which pretty much goes against everything ever posted on this filthy "web log," the end.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
This and That: A Fancy New Fountain, Funnel Cloud Over Reston, and RA Headquarters Bounces Back from Bankruptcy
- The fancy Lake Anne fountain, which makes our earth-toned community the "Geneva of Fairfax County," as people from far and near don't call it, is in the midst of being replaced with some fancy upgrades, assuming you consider electrical systems and dredging to be "fancy." The new fountain will be up and running by the end of May, according to the RA, "barring any unforeseen difficulties or scheduling conflicts." What could possibly go wrong?
- The storms that tore through much of the south last week generated a confirmed tornado touchdown in Reston, according to the National Weather Service. This won't surprise anyone who's seen the line of uprooted trees on both sides of Wiehle Avenue -- and the conspicuous lack of damage anywhere else. The NWS says the tornado was about 75 yards wide and was on the ground for 1.1 miles, from roughly the parking lot on Sunset Hills Drive to the Tall Oaks assisted living facility. (Here's the play by play, in case you're keeping score at home.) Considering the damage elsewhere even in Virginia, it's amazing it left only downed trees in its wake.
- It's shaping up to be a year of transition in Reston schools. Along with the midyear reassignments of Armstrong's two top administrators and Forest Edge Elementary's announcement that principal Frank Bensinger is retiring, new South Lakes football coach Andy Hill said he is resigning to take a job at his alma mater in Minnesota. Lake Anne Elementary principal Linda Hajj is also retiring in June.
- Good news for the Reston Association: Its landlord narrowly averted foreclosure on the RA headquarters building and has now emerged from bankruptcy court. Plus the owner has big plans!
Garrison is now looking to reposition the properties and market them to office tenants. It plans to add new conference and fitness facilities to add value to two of the buildings, 12001 and 12005 Sunrise Valley Dr., which total nearly 210,000 square feet near Reston Town Center. Known as Reston Corner I and II, the first building is about 30 percent leased and the second is emptyHuh. Does that mean the Reston Association is the only tenant in either building?
- Yay, the
fake downtowngritty urban core has a couple of new stores. We're sure White House/Black Market and Francesca's Collections are fine retail options, but we were secretly hoping for a bold new retail concept: a combination saladry/cupcakery called Dressings to Donuts (patent pending).
- Local mystery author Alan Orloff set his second book, Killer Routine, in Fairfax County and had this to say about our beloved beige community.
On his website, he describes Reston’s strict developmental guidelines and contrasts that to people’s messy lives.Uh-oh. Did we just out ourselves? Probably not, as no one's ever accused us of knowing how to write. Plus, we had to find a dictionary to figure out what "dichotomy" meant.
“You can’t always adhere to a rigid set of guidelines and still be happy," he says. “I enjoy the dichotomy between the perfect plastic exterior and the inner chaos.”
- Yay, Reston company Metron Scientific Solutions helped find the black box of downed Air France Flight 447. Beats our usual Reston business story involving strapping bombs to dolphins, etc., etc.
- The Washington Post "news-paper" ran an interesting article about a Reston woman who lost her job as a result of changes in Virginia's policies involving drivers licenses for legal immigrants with work permits.
Hirut Bekele had never heard of Carlos Martinelly-Montano, the undocumented Bolivian immigrant charged with killing a nun in a drunken-driving accident in August.Cue the sensitive and nuanced discussions of our nation's immigration policies in 3... 2...
But last month, their worlds collided when Bekele, an Ethiopian woman living in Reston, tried to get her driver’s license renewed in Virginia.
As she had done for years, Bekele, 32, took her work permit, which she is legally allowed to renew each year, to the Department of Motor Vehicles. In previous years, the DMV would issue her a new license based on the work permit. But last month, it said no.
Jorge E. Figueredo, director of racial justice and immigrants’ rights at the ACLU of Virginia, said he has come across dozens of recent cases of legal immigrants being denied driver’s licenses in Virginia, and two other cases of immigrants — one from Tunisia and the other from Pakistan — who were denied licenses on identical grounds as Bekele.
- Bummer: Dinner Zen in the South Lakes shopping center is closing, as did Books-a-Million in Plaza America.
- If weeks-old celebrity sightings are your cup of tea, you're in luck! Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was recently spotted at a screening of "The Conspirator" at the
Fake Downtowngritty urban core's cinemas. Get ready for some juicy, no-holds-barred gossip:
The Redskins coach had a large beverage, while his wife toted a tub of popcorn. Left before all the credits rolled.Good thing TMZ was staking out the theater from the Apple store across the street.
- Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the passing of Reston soccer coach Ty Lewis. The Reston Knights FC coach and South Lakes High School alum never stopped coaching during his three-plus year battle with colon cancer. "You just live each day like it's the last day of your life," he said in a February TV interview. "Play each game like it's the last you'll ever play." Words to live by, even on a stupid "web log."
Monday, May 2, 2011
Metro Silver Line: Phase 2 Woes Continue, With Lawsuit, Labor, Funding Threats, and Fancy Report (With Appendices!)
When three different governing bodies hastily hire a graphic designer to fashion a fancy bit of letterhead with all three of their logos on the top of the page, you know someone's going to the woodshed! But Virginia, Fairfax, and Loudoun's repeated refusal to fund the fancy new underground Dulles Airport Metro station is just the tip of the iceberg as far as headaches involving Phase 2 of the fancy Silver Line Metro extension goes.
Cost overruns are leading to calls for audits. And
Also, two Virginia men have filed a class action lawsuit against MWAA, saying it has no authority to set toll rates and asking for $130 million in refunded tolls from the rate hikes slated to pay for the Silver Line extension. Oops! It's far from the first lawsuit that's been filed against MWAA or Metro, but this one seems to be based on a premise slightly more compelling than "I don't want to carry a roll of quarters with me every time I want to drive to Tysons."
Finally, our BFFs at Reston 2020 put together their own fancy report, with tables and appendices and everything, that suggests that Toll Road users will pay the brunt of the extra costs -- $752 million of the $1 billion overall increase for Phase 2, concluding that:
The growing costs and delays in building the Silver Line are increasingly putting its full completion in doubt.It's telling that in this and in other commentaries, people are starting to suggest that Phase 2 might not actually happen. Let's just hope they manage to get the rail out to Wiehle before MWAA's problems take Metro down with them.
Frank Bensinger, who has been principal at Forest Edge Elementary for the past 21 years, has announced he will retire at the end of the school year.
"After a lot of discussion with my family and friends, I realize that it is time to close this fulfilling chapter in my life and move on to alternative ways to have a positive impact on others and the community," Bensinger wrote in a letter to the school community.
Bensinger has been a fixture at Forest Edge for generations of kids and set a highly student-centered tone. He'll definitely be missed.
(Shout out to several Confidential Restonian Operatives who brought this to our attention.)