News and notes from Reston (tm).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reston's Tallest Building Impresses Washington Post, Worries Others

Tall building.jpeg

Lookit this fancy mauvescraper reaching to the sky! That's basically the tack the Washington Post "news paper" took on the long-standing proposal for a 23-story mixed use office building that would replace the existing Town Center Office Building on Reston Parkway, ignoring concerns raised by two Reston groups who say the project is too big for a location too far away from the future Reston Town Center Metro station.
Though the overall project still requires review by the Reston Association of homeowners and the Fairfax County Planning Commission, RTC already has approval for a 418,000-square-foot office and retail building. Richard Whealen, managing partner of the ownership group, said the building’s distinctiveness should set it apart from other offices nearby, some starving for tenants.

“Despite the fact that office vacancies are relatively high along the Dulles Toll Road corridor, the time is right for a high-end office tower in Reston,” Whealen said in a press release.

The plans have attracted increased attention because of the property’s prominent location on Reston Parkway at Bowman Towne Drive, where Fairfax County planners have called for a signature office structure. The building’s design, by Reston-based Polleo Group, is more contemporary than many other Reston buildings.

Polleo has designed residential projects such as the mixed-use Spectrum development in Reston and Kennedy Row, a multifamily residential project on East Capitol Street in the District.
It's not bad looking, and we definitely find it encouraging that the same design firm is apparently working on the surrounding Macaroni Grill-razing Spectrum redevelopment. In a perfect world, both designs will integrate with each other for some awesome bollardy goodness and sidewalks and whatnot.
The first five floors would consist of retail and parking, with offices on the 18 stories above. On the sixth floor, the developers plan an outdoor 38,000-square-foot terrace (and green roof) that they envision featuring outdoor seating from a restaurant on that floor.

“Hopefully these features will attract a high-end restaurant that could have both indoor and outdoor seating with a striking view of the Reston Town Center and surrounding properties,” Whealen said.
** cough cough cough Macaroni Grill cough cough **
Whealen and his partners have not announced any financing or tenants for the building or a firm construction timeline, although RTC holds termination options for many of the leases in the existing building, giving the company flexibility to begin demolition.
That could be a challenge, given the region's slowing demand for commercial space. Developers like to talk about attracting a global headquarters, but Accenture's decision to move from Reston to smaller space on a former car lot in Arlington suggests that grandiose trophy headquarters buildings may not be the wave of the future. Soon, CEOs could be sharing a windowless cube with their one remaining non-outsourced worker ("Earl," the guy who changes the light bulbs and can knock loose stuck candy bars in the snack machine in the breakroom). Then there are the homegrown companies like LightSquared... which at the moment doesn't need a lot of office space... or a corner office for its CEO. Um, oops.

Joking aside, we believe a shiny building like this probably would attract a big-name tenant. But what would that do to proposed development closer to the Metro station? That's one of the arguments that the Alliance of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH) is making in urging the county to "insist that this application be reshaped to reflect a better residential: office balance for the site."
We are very concerned that locating a major employment center more than a half-mile from the transit station will siphon office demand away from the immediate station area...[and] disincent owners of existing office buildings to... replace them with higher-density buildings that include significant residential space to better balance those parcels.
Our BFFs at Reston 2020 go so far to call it "the wrong building in the wrong place."
Some argue that this site was originally envisioned as a “gateway” to Town Center. With the advent of Metro, which will be at the center of the new Town Center, this is an antiquated concept.
Which makes sense in a way, given that the project was essentially approved back in 1978, before the idea of the Silver Line was a gleam in anyone's eye. Let's just hope that the resulting trophy building doesn't become a white elephant that impedes growth elsewhere in Reston.

Update: A Confidential Restonian Operative reminds us that "rail to Dulles" has always been in the plans. It seems a lot more real now than it probably did in 1978 -- notwithstanding the continuing efforts of the usual suspects from keeping it from making it anywhere past Wiehle.


  1. What are all those other buildings in the picture? Are they supposed to make the blue building look less tall?

  2. Think they're shaded because they're part of the Spectrum redevelopment that is also in the works, not part of this project. So much for Best Buy and Barnes & Noble!

  3. Wait, that's not one big Macaroni Grill?

  4. Nice to see that O'Connell can cut and paste a press release from Polleo beneath his by-line.

    But Mr. O'Connell exactly what is the Reston Association of Homeowners? A new group to add to the mix mash of alphabet soup here in town?

    What approvals from the County does this building already have?

    If it already has County approvals, why is it going before the County Planning Commission?

    I'm so confused.

  5. This proposal puts the lie in any residual belief that developers in Reston are seeking what's best for Reston. The proposal is disproportionate in size, will generate huge traffic increases (with its 1,500+ parking places), defies TOD and Reston planning principles (as stated by ARCH, RCA, & the Town Center Committee of the RTF; RA is apparently too busy counting your assessments to contribute), and is an insult to the community. Its construction will ensure congestion, further environmental damage, and costlier transportation infrastructure improvements (you know, with big money from the BOS and Richmond--like we always get).

  6. nice building, but needs to go south of the Towne Center near the toll road.

  7. Polleo, eh?

    Where the heck is Jonas Salk when you need him?

    No Growth is Smart Growth

  8. If only Metro had seen fit to run a loop (above or below ground)through the middle of Reston Town Center, many problems would be solved...current buildings would fill up, new development could surround the existing center instead of floating in the middle of the toll road...they did it for Tyson's to increase ridership...oh well...

  9. Soulless, Humorless, AntMarch 7, 2012 at 12:33 AM

    “Despite the fact that office vacancies are relatively high along the Dulles Toll Road corridor, the time is right for a high-end office tower in Reston,”


  10. Razing the spectrum is a dumb idea. Enough high-rises already. They also plan on razing the village center in favor of such follies.

  11. The Spectrum's big box format may be a dying breed. I's rather see the hi-rise built.


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