News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Reston Master Plan: Redeveloped Village Centers With Central Plazas, More Density

As Phase II of the Reston Master Plan continues to wend its way through multiple tracked-version changes in Microsoft Word the public hearing process, county officials are holding the second of its community meetings on Saturday. The draft, or "strawman," as the kids development wonks like to say, language that would guide redevelopment of the existing village centers is here. While county planners are careful to say they're focused primarily on the shopping centers and not existing neighborhoods, they did add this weasel wording codicil:

From time to time, circumstances may arise that merit consideration of the redevelopment of an existing apartment community. Under such circumstances, the Board of Supervisors may consider proposals to amend the Comprehensive Plan and/or past zoning actions in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan to allow for the redevelopment of an apartment community if the criteria specified above are met and the additional criteria below are met.
We're already starting to see what this might look like.

The strawman text attempts to connect the vision for future development with the original plans for the village centers:
The village centers were conceived of as the places that would draw people together, with a public plaza for gatherings of all types, formal and informal, as well as a grocery store, churches or other community uses, restaurants and local services (e.g. dry cleaners, day care providers, etc.). Lake Anne and Hunters Woods Village Centers developed according to this model. However, over time retail trends changed and later village centers were designed in a more typical suburban fashion, with an emphasis on retail uses and restaurants, without community uses and the stores surrounding a large surface parking lot. This form reduced the ability of the later village centers to function as the community gathering places they were intended to be. In the future, the village centers should be encouraged to transform to include a central gathering space, preferably a plaza, a horizontal mix of uses, anchored by civic uses and ground floor retail, and some traditional main street elements such as wide sidewalks and shade trees.
These central places, the draft says, should be "neighborhood-scale gathering places," not like the Town Center or the "civic plaza" at the Wiehle Avenue Metro Station. In other words, don't expect to see a giant fountain topped with a statue of a Greek god in the middle of Tall Oaks' crumbling parking lot.

But the parking lots themselves should change as well, county officials say.
Use the parking area, either surface parking lots or parking structures, as a multi-use space for public events, recreation, and gathering through the inclusion of green roofs, temporary, creative paving materials, pavement markings and access control strategies.
"Access control strategies?" Hopefully they don't mean this:

Warning Tire Damage Occurs Sign K 8290
Other recommendations include "access and visibility from the roadway to the central space or commercial core" cough cough Tall Oaks and including "commercial, civic uses, and a variety of residential uses (single family attached and multifamily at medium to high densities)." Which, of course, is all part of the plan. But never fear, as developers will be encouraged to "utilize shifts in scale and massing to transition from existing uses to new higher density and intensity uses" and "create opportunities through the spatial arrangement of uses for users to interact and linger between the different uses." We can't wait for random people to "linger" in the spatial arrangement between our carport and our front door, particularly late at night.

There's other stuff about transportation and whatnot, but we know how well that's worked out so far.

Actually, the broad strokes of this make sense -- at this point, we wish the owners of Tall Oaks would just get on with developing something in the place of the increasingly empty stucco wasteland. But, as we like to say, the devil is in the details, or lack thereof, and we won't know those until specific proposals start wending their way through the pipeline.

The meeting will be at 8:45am at South Lakes High School.


  1. These people are morons. Haven't they learned that if people want a "village" experience they go to Vienna, the Mosaic District, Alexandria, Georgetown, or worst case if they have curious relatives visiting and transportation is a hassle the meat market at the RTC? People don't live in Reston for the "village" experience, they live here for the fokken trees, peace and quiet.

  2. So, basically the County wants the concrete areas for the retailers and the other "public" uses gets relegated to the asphalt. It's nice to know that the BoS has put needs of their voting constituents above the needs of the commercial campaign donors.

    Okay, BoS, could you folks at least do me this solid and ban those urchin panhandlers hawking their over-priced wares from within 100 yards of store entrances? I swear, if I get aggressively panhandled one more time by some munchkin in a uniform, I'm going to grab the munchkin's parent and throttle them.

  3. Does anyone know if there are redevelopment plans for Thoreau Place? It's a senior condominium building, originally a beautiful place, but currently in need of major repairs, according to the reserve study recently done by Mason and Mason for the building management company, Northern Virginia Management.
    These proposed repairs have been estimated to cost several million dollars, and could result in a major special assessment of thousands of dollars per unit.
    The unit owners are mainly elderly people 55 and over, most in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Many are retired and living on fixed incomes, including Social Security, and a number of them have major medical issues.
    A special assessment of thousands of dollars would cause major hardship for a lot of residents, and could cause some to lose their homes.
    The building's location is excellent, across the road from South Lakes Shopping Center, near Sunrise Valley Drive. There's excellent bus service to the new Silver Line Metro, and easy access to the Dulles Toll Road.
    An enterprising developer could offer buyouts to current unit owners before the proposed repairs begin, and redevelop and upgrade the building as the developer wishes, or possibly replace it with an entirely new building. It's an amazing opportunity for a good development company to make a whole lot of money and contribute to the community in positive ways.


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