When I wrote last month about the importance of Reston organizations working together, I didn't realize how much togetherness we were in for.
At RCA's marathon meeting in August, one of the documents we ratified was a statement regarding the proposed 23-story office tower on the site of the former Reston Times building, sometimes known as the "Town Center Office Building." Our resolution endorsed the position that Reston 2020 took back in March, which called the proposed tower "the wrong building in the wrong place."
But we didn't just pass our resolution and call it a day. We reached out to other community groups that had expressed opposition to the tower, specifically the Reston Association and the Association of Reston Clusters and Homeowners (ARCH). Last weekend, leaders from our three organizations met and agreed on a common position.
And this week, for the first time, RCA, RA and ARCH will have a joint meeting with our Supervisor, Cathy Hudgins, in which we will speak with a united voice about this issue, as well as others like the Reston National golf course. This is a huge step forward for Reston: rather than fighting over turf, our organizations are joining together to support our shared vision of Reston's future.
As ARCH President Jerry Volloy joked at our weekend gathering, "We've got to stop meeting like this. People will think we're a community."
In opposing the planned tower, we are supporting the Fairfax County planning staff, which recommended rejection of the application. The staff's report noted that the tower was much taller than the planned development around it, that it adds too much non-residential development for the location, and that it would worsen our traffic situation. When we meet with Supervisor Hudgins, we will urge her to stand with her County staff.
In addition to the flaws pointed out by the staff, the tower would fly in the face of the plans that the Reston Master Plan Task Force is developing for the Town Center area. The Task Force's Town Center Committee has developed a vision based on the principles of transit-oriented development (TOD), which is designed to maximize the value we get out of the Silver Line. One key TOD principle is that the tallest and most intense development should be located as close as possible to the transit station, with development stepping down as you move away from the station.
If the proposed tower were located in the shadow of the station, it might fit with that vision. But in fact, it's over a half-mile away from the station. (Commonly-accepted planning wisdom holds that people generally will not walk more than a quarter-mile from transit to their destination.) The vast majority of people who would work at this tower would not use Metro to get there. (Indeed, the building's planners anticipate this, as they are including a parking garage with over 1,000 spaces.) Rather than encouraging the use of the Metro, this tower will just add more cars to Reston's already-clogged streets. With all the money we are investing in the Silver Line, why would we want to undermine that investment with a poorly-planned building?
The Town Center Committee's vision for the area around the tower calls for a mix of uses, with residential and office components sharing buildings. But the proposed tower is all office space (with a smattering of retail), with no residential component. Again, this will only lead to more traffic on our roads.
These are some of the points that our three organizations will make at our meeting. I think we make a strong case, and I think it's that much stronger when we're all making it together. I believe this heralds a new and powerful era of collaboration among our community organizations, and Reston can only benefit from the collaboration.
When RCA, RA, and ARCH meet with Supervisor Hudgins to dicuss the tower, we will ask her to stand up for her staff. We will ask her to stand up for the vision of the Task Force she created. And we will ask her to stand with our organizations, which represent the opinions of a broad swath of Restonians. The tower makes for a pretty-looking rendering, but in order to do right by Reston, it needs to go back to the drawing board.