News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, September 21, 2018

Caddyshackpocalypse Now: With Its 'Grand Park' Proposal, Wheelock Is Moving the Goalposts For Hidden Creek Golf Course

It's been a while since we've checked in with either of Reston's most primo parcels of sweeeeeeeeeeet Metro-proximate development-ready land golf courses. After holding a bunch of focus groups this summer, developers open-space aficionados Wheelock Communities, whose sister company happened to snap up neighboring Charter Oaks apartments for those sweet golf course views reasons, is preparing to make, as they say in the movies, an Offer Reston Can't Refuse. Give us some good blockquote, Wheelock's Dan Green:

The team presented a vision for a world-class, 100-acre Grand Park that the entire Reston community would be able to enjoy and shape. In creating this vision, our team examined other signature parks such as Merriweather Park in Columbia, Md., and Prospect Park in New York City. The vision presented included both passive and active recreational amenities, an indoor tennis facility, the Blue Trail and other trails providing community connectivity as well as cultural elements that adhere to Bob Simon’s Principals [sic] for Reston.

The Grand Park preserves more than 60 percent of the site as public open space. With additional trails and open spaces included within the development areas, as much as 75 percent could be open space. The remaining land would be planned for a variety of housing, some of which will help meet Reston’s needs for senior, workforce and affordable housing to continue Reston’s heritage of being an inclusive community. The exact number of homes has not been discussed as we are in a conceptual stage. However, we can say the housing, if approved, would be a mix of townhouses, single family and multi-family homes.

That proposal has been fine-tuned from this summer's focus group sessions, where Wheelock representatives talked about four different options:
  • Leaving the golf course as it is (hello, strawman)
  • A little bit of development with "lower public benefit" (described as "an alternative form of golf," like maybe the kind with frisbees?)
  • More development and some "medium public benefit" (like maybe a barbecue pit or something?)
  • High density development and "destination-worthy open-space amenities" (like, you know, a golf course, except not).

We've got to admit, the high-density, high-amenity option is appealing, and it does adhere to the principles set laid out by Bob Simon, who repeatedly said it was high density that made all of Reston's green space possible and would have had multiple Heron House-like high-rises ringing Lake Anne had the late 60s, free love version of NIMBYs not gotten in his way. And you've got to give Wheelock credit for putting time and effort into trying to engage with the community, unlike a certain insurance company that thought it could arrogantly bulldoze its way into building midrise woonerfy awesomeness without engaging anybody.

The only problem is that Reston's comprehensive plan stipulates the land cannot be used for anything but a golf course or open space. As our BFFs at Rescue Reston point out:

Reston homeowners must abide by the agreement that they made when buying here: to be Reston Association members, pay RA dues, and agree to the land-use rules that apply.

Purchasers of the golf courses in Reston should be equally bound. Wheelock knew—just as we homeowners did—that they were buying into a planned community with stipulated land-use rules that restrict what owners can do with their property. And the golf course land is NOT for housing.

The next step in the process? Wheelock is presenting its vision for the Grand Park to the Reston Association on September 27, followed by a presentation from Rescue Reston. Of course, the RA has no power over what happens; that's ultimately up to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which could entertain a rezoning proposal from Wheelock. We've said before the county hasn't exactly been a staunch defender of Reston's principles at all times, and a promise to build a sweeeeeeet Grand Park the county doesn't have to pay for itself would certainly be an attractive enticement for it to overlook some of those principles, just as county planners overlooked Hidden Creek in the first place when it stuck a proposed road across a couple of the fairways a while back.

(Oh, and in case if you're wondering if that "road to nowhere" that mysteriously appeared in county planning documents was some kind of wacky, sitcom-like mixup, we finally learned that the county has no plans to remove it, because reasons.) Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at Reston Now:

County officials say the road is entirely conceptual in nature, but could possibly be needed to improve connectivity if planned redevelopment happens in the Isaac Newtown Square area. The road could also relieve congestion at the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue by serving as an alternative route to Sunset Hills Road, according to Robin Geiger of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

“As with any new roadway design, the county will work to minimize negative impacts on existing uses and the environment. In staff’s view, the planned road being shown as part of the conceptual street network does not negatively affect the viability of the Hidden Creek Golf Course,” Geiger said.

All's we know is if we wind up getting a Grand Park, we want horse-drawn carriage rides down the "road to nowhere." If Reston is well on its way to becoming Manhattan, as some metric-challenged critics have argued, we want all the attendant perks.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Garbage Fire Provides Unironic Metaphor for Reston's Transit-Oriented Future, Nearly As Much Gridlock

Did you happen to smell something strange, perhaps more cloying than unpleasant, whilst sitting in traffic near the Toll Road this afternoon? That was the smell of success, baby!



It used to be only our hip urban core had the occasional garbage fire. Now with more and more development on its way, all of Reston is en fuego!


Truer words have never been said, Chris. Truer words.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Where Da Woonerf At? Reston Development Guidelines Offer A Tantalizing Photographic Glimpse Of Our Hellish, Mixed-Use Future

If you'd look at some of the stunning architecture going up around us, you would think that Fairfax County could give two whits about what Reston's sweeeeeeeeeeet revenue-generating transit-oriented development looks like, so long as it keeps the tax revenues flowing meets appropriate land use guidelines. You would think! But nothing could be further from the truth, silly rabbits, and as proof, the county has released an immense, nearly 200-page set of "Guidelines for Development" for the Reston Transit Station Areas. Shockingly, the word "woonerf" is used exactly one (1) time in the voluminous document.

Be warned, the PDF is huge -- especially for those of us still using 300 baud modems to connect Restonian World Enterprises to the outside world. Fortunately, it's mostly pictures, which gives us lazy "web loggers" with limited literacy skills the opportunity to look at what the county cares about, or at least professes to.

1. Trees, Randomly Spaced
We like trees, so that's great! But the guidelines talk about "randomly spaced street trees," which probably won't look like the schematic above.

2. Parks, Linear, Inexpensive
Linear parks are fun! Besides not putting developers on the hook for funding actual public amenities where people can gather without arbitrary restrictions, these privately owned parks also can serve as "open space connections," assuming there's open space between them instead of assortments of midrise mixed-use chain retail and "luxury" apartments for the car-free millennials, who, judging by this photo, apparently love playing table tennis outdoors on a school bus-colored table.

3. Boulevards, Grand
Without irony, the report says Sunrise Valley Drive should be treated as a "grand boulevard." Sounds great, but then they included this picture:

Oooh la la! Funny, we thought Tysons was supposed to be the Paris of Fairfax County.

4. Variation, Architectural (and no setbacks)
"Utilize a consistent build-to line or street edge that frames the public realm but also allows for architectural variation and interest." They used the Vy development as an example, but the first shot in the report (thankfully) shows it at a great distance.

Next time, let's try a vantage point of low earth orbit, kthx.

5. Bikes, Everywhere
People are losing their minds about the most recent restriping of South Lakes Drive, but as experience has borne out from a similar project on Personal Injury Lawyers Road, we'd argue it's still a tad safer than the illustration above.

6. Garages, Screened
Maybe it's us, but this seems to be throwing shade on the whole just-stick-a-couple-of-boards-on-the-massive-concrete-structure approach taken by a development that will go unnamed in this item (but not this "web log" post).

7. Blocks, Wooden, Uncomfortable
No idea, actually.

8. Steetscapes, Not Overwhelming
Nope, not claustrophobic at all.

9. Art, Public, Awesome
At least our existing An Arts don't look like this Minion on a norovirus-stricken Carnival cruise.

10. Bollards, Fanciful, Still
You can't fool us! A fanciful concrete bollard with some greenery growing out of it is still a fanciful concrete bollard.

This just scratches the surface of the guidelines, which we'll likely revisit as soon as the PDF finishes downloading, the end.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Reston Town Center Demonstrates Traffic Management, PR Skills For Which It Is Deservedly Famous

Even as its owner plans to expand our fake downtown gritty urban core to reach the future Metro station, Reston Town Center continues to demonstrate its expertise in two areas for which it has become deservedly famous: traffic management and public relations.

When the Action McNews On Your Side Working For You Keeping 'Em Honest Investigation Team came to RTC to do an EXPLOSIVE INVESTIGATION on stop signs blocked by festive hanging flowerpots, they were immediately stopped by the Director of First Impressions, as RTC security has been wont to do for years. Check out this BOMBSHELL VIDEO:


Mad props, as the kids haven't said in years, for the Action McNews reporter calling RTC security "mall security."

Fortunately for all involved, the flowerpots were removed almost as quickly as the offending Action McNews reporter and his camera. No truth to the rumor that RTC will now put a bucket of flags on each stop sign for pedestrians to wave down cars as they cross the street. Hahahaha, that would just be crazy, the end.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Flashback Monday: RELAC Comes to Reston

It seems only fitting during a sweltering week in August to set the controls of the Earth-Toned Wayback Machine to June 17, 1965, a momentous day when, with the flip of a switch, our burgeoning planned community entered the space jet age, as shown in this old-timey "news paper" photo of Bob Simon and 7-year-old Deborah Scurlock opening the literal floodgates of what would be known as the lake-cooled RELAC system, which has since brought members of the community together for decades. But back then, there was only the thrilling promise of a future of quiet, clean, water-cooled climate control that would keep the wall-to-wall shag carpeting in the sunken living room from getting musty on even the hottest days.

Give us some good blockquote, old-timey Washington Star "news paper":

The world's first 'community air conditioning system' was turned on yesterday at Reston's newly built Lake Anne Village.

Cooling of an entire community of townhouses, apartments, and stores from a central plant is a major advance in the science of climate control, according to Russell Gray, president of Carrier Air Conditioning Co., whose equipment is being used."

Hmmm. We actually didn't know that a major AC manufacturer was in on RELAC from the start; Carrier supposedly introduced the concept at the 1939-40 Worlds Fair in New York City, so it took them a while to find a guinea pig test site. Or did it? Much as the auto industry bought streetcar systems to hasten their obsolescence, did BIG AIR CONDITIONING deliberately hobble its would-be competitor to keep us all buying those loud, individual AC units that plague us with noise pollution and actually controlled climates?

Maybe not. Alls we know is back in 1965, the future looked bright:

There is no visible evidence of air conditioning outside the homes.
Flash forward a few decades, and there would be no visible evidence inside them, either. But back in 1965, the idea of 10,000 feet of buried pipe to connect Reston's 227 townhouse, 12 shops, and 15-story apartment building was a marvel beyond the imaginations of many.
Heat picked up by the water in cooling household air is removed by water pumped from nearby Lake Anne. The heated water is pumped back to the 30-acre manmade lake, which is large enough to absorb the heat without measurable temperature change.
The same couldn't always be said for the interiors of many homes in the years that followed, but that's a small price to pay for progress, the end.

Full article text below:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mauvescraperpocalypse Now: What's 10 Million Square Feet When You Get a Wegman's and Maybe a Bike Lane or Two?

In one fell swoop, earlier this week the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved three massive projects that together will bring nearly 10 million square feet of new development and more than 3,700 residential units to Reston in the coming year, including at least one 420-foot (blaze it) mauvescraper that could be 35 (or more) stories tall. If built, that would dwarf the long-approved, not-yet-built One Reston Town Center project on Reston Parkway that at one time held the mantle of the tallest planned building in Reston.

You can't tell your exciting mixed-use development projects without a scorecard, so here's the rundown:

Reston Gateway, the Boston Properties-developed project that essentially connects our fake downtown vibrant urban core to the Reston Town Center Metro station, includes 2.2 million square feet of office space (including Fannie Mae's future headquarters), 93,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, and more than 2,000 residential units, along with the (blaze it) 420-foot mauvescraper and its neighboring 380-foot buddy. No truth to the rumor the second building will be called "Lil' Shorty," but here's hoping!

Reston Crescent is on the other side of the Toll Road from Reston Gateway and will ultimately have 4.1 million square feet of mixed-use space, including its own hotel, more than 1,700 residential units, and a dog park, but who cares, because Wegmans.

• Finally, Core Site will build two massive data centers on its property across from USGS on Sunrise Valley Drive. We do appreciate that the project was described by county officials as a "high-end" data center, not one of those tacky low-class data centers you see out in Ashburn and whatnot. Only the finest spam e-mails and streaming teevee series will be allowed to sully our earth-toned community's fiber optics! And there's even more good news, according to our elected county representatives:

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the data center would also significantly reduce trip generation. “In some sense, that’s a good news piece,” she said.
Yep. Just like millennials and mixed-use development residents, binge-watched Netflix episodes don't drive cars.

To be fair, all three proposals are among the "danger zones" of approved developments within walking distance to Metro. It's hard to argue against concentrating new development there, and we still think it's better to live in a place that's growing than one that's stagnant. Plus, Wegmans!

What's bad, of course, is that there's still no actual funding allocated for virtually any of the many infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate all this awesome new development. And while each project requires the developer to put up some money for infrastructure, we're not talking about bridge-building money, and we're not exactly confident the county is willing to hold developers' feet to the fire.

Consider this statement about the Reston Gateway project, which our BFFs at Reston Now, in what might have been a Freudian slip, called a "mixed-up" project:

Part of the deal includes the conveyance of a 60,000-square-foot performing arts center planned in phase two of the development. The building would be conveyed to the county’s board or another entity. If the plan fails, Boston Properties will provide required contributions for an athletic field, according to Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter.
Hmm. So a company which doesn't exactly have the best track record of supporting the community has gotten the green light to opt out of building a (presumably expensive) performing arts center by throwing (presumably far less) money at relining a soccer field or two? We're no planning officials, but this strikes us as.... pretty weak sauce, as the kids might have said at one point.

Never fear, as the county has, as they say in the movies, a plan:

Hudgins also noted that the arrival of the Silver Line over the next two years would reduce the number of drivers on the road.

“This is a large transition as we see it,” she said.

Um, it's already here? Also, if this is such great news for Reston, why was the news of the approval of the projects listed below such vital pieces of community news as a volunteer fire commission award, a stream restoration project, and proposed ordinances governing fleet vehicles in Hudgins' latest email to constituents? (To be fair, they were listed above the 4-H Fair and Carnival, so there's that.)

Exactly one (1) person spoke about the proposals during the public hearing earlier this week, Reston resident Rob Whitfield. "It was abundantly clear that the Board does not give a flying fig about the adverse consequences of their action," Whitfield said in an email. "I suggested to the Board that "Reston is being treated like a bastard stepchild" and that the disparity between transportation project funding between the southern half of Fairfax County and the northern half is vast."

Looks like we can look forward to more out-of-the-box proposals like this going forward. And Wegmans, the end.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Marketing of Reston Mixed-Use Development: A Play in One Act

INT. MARKETING MEETING - RESTON STATION

A series of EXECUTIVES are gathered around a table, anxiously awaiting what a MARKETING CONSULTANT has to say. The CONSULTANT stands and prepares to deliver a presentation.

MARKETING CONSULTANT
Nice set of parallelograms you've got here. The neon is a nice touch. Dynamic! But to attract a virbant millennial market, you need something else. You need to be relatable, give 'em something they can put on their, whazzitcalled, Instagrams.
A hush falls over the room. The CONSULTANT walks over to a covered flip chart and unveils an image.

MARKETING CONSULTANT
Hashtags, gentlemen, hashtags. Millennials love hashtags. And avocado toast.
Low voices can be heard among the EXECUTIVES. Finally, one raises his voice.
RESTON STATION EXEC
Promising. We like it! But millennials don't have the disposable income to drive our champagne wishes and caviar dreams of transit-oriented world domination. Besides, we don't want our subterranean parking lots filled with their Ford Focuses. I mean, gross.

We need something else. Something that captures the true spirit of mixed-use, transit-oriented development. Something that will finally silence all those nerds with their trivial complaints about "floor-area-ratios" and "infrastructure" and get them on board with the program.

The MARKETING CONSULTANT smiles.
MARKETING CONSULTANT
One step ahead of you, gentlemen.
The CONSULTANT flips over another page on the flip chart to reveal a new image.

Silence for a long moment. Then the EXECUTIVES burst into applause.

... and scene.