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Report: Make Lake Anne a Dining Destination

Consultants outline steps to revitalizing Reston's original village center.

The Lake Anne Commercial Reinvestment Plan (CRP) should concentrate on merchant and owner unity in order to make Reston's original village center a dining destination.

That was the basis of a report from Alvarez & Marshal Real Estate Advisory and The Eisen Group, firms that were challenged to create the CRP over a year ago.

After surveying the community andthe groups said on Wednesday that the preferred commercial concept is to see Lake Anne's future as a food and dining spot.

"Food and dining is the true identity of Lake Anne," said Rob Wolcheski, project manager at The Eisen Group. To get there, Lake Anne must centralize the management, strengthen the brand, maintain the infrastructure and step up event and marketing efforts, he said.

"It is not going to happen overnight," he said. "But there are short term steps we can make to get going. This is going to take a number of years."

To read the groups' full analysis or an executive summary, click here.

The most pressing issue is to centralize the management structure, said Tom Moriarity, principal with The Eisen Group.

Currently, residential owners at Lake Anne and some merchants are members of the Lake Anne of Reston Condo Association (LARCA). Some are not. The rents charged to business owners vary widely, as do store hours.

 "[You need]someone whose job it is to protect objectives and keep the ball rolling," he said.

The consultants outlined some of the challenges that have been impeding revitalization progress at Lake Anne. In addition to the organizational structure, there is an aging infrastructure, lack of clear commercial identity and tremendous competition from other nearby destinations such as

Some of the short-term goals the consultants outlined offer solutions to some of those issues. Among them:

* Increased signage - even a sculpture to attract attention along Baron Cameron Avenue.

* Hosting special events all year round.

* Using empty storefronts as pop-up gallery space.

* Seeking cross-promotion opportunities with Reston Town Center. In other words, if a special event is going on there offer a related event to supplement, not compete.

* Reconfigure retail spaces so they more resemble those in recently designed shopping plazas.

* Apply for National Register of Historic Places designation. Lake Anne will be eligible for that designation - which could bring state and federal tax breaks - in 2016. The process for this has already begun, meeting attendees said.

Moriarity said those with interests at Lake Anne should be patient as they would need at least three years to really get the process moving.

They also would need additional money, which remains one of the unknown variables.

"[The report] has 47 pages of action steps," says Rick Thompson, president of LARCA. "I don’t think anyone here is going to take this as gospel. The next step is to take ownership [of what they are saying] and go forward. Some of these will take a lot longer to do than others, and some of them are already things we are doing.

"In general, they are good ideas," Thompson said.

Thompson pointed out the new tenants that have opened at Lake Anne since The Eisen Group and Alvarez & Marshal began assessing it. Among them: The Cupcake Ladi, new ownership at the food service, and

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.

 "All of [the report] will not acomplsh 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."

The commercial reinvestment plan is being done in partnership with Fairfax County, which has named Lake Anne as one of several revitalization areas countywide.

Moriarity said Lake Anne's future also depends on critical mass of nearby residents to support nearby businesses.

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said redevelopment is especially important as the Metro's Silver Line prepares to open in Reston in 2013, bringing more residents, workers and dollars to the area.

"As we look at all these steps, we are very much aware it is a critical time for Lake Anne," said  Hudgins, a Reston resident. "Now is the time we start to put the implementation together.  I think we have a wonderful place here, with a structure of ownership of residential and commercial folks who work hard every day to keep this place alive."

Heather Dawn May 05, 2011 at 02:25 AM
I agree completely with the comment about Hunter's Woods. It was charming and had lots of character, just like Lake Anne, but now it's a crappy strip mall, filled with crappy stores. Hopefully RA will find a way to keep the charm and satisfy business and community needs. Personally I would like to see a "no chains" approach. Provide support to start-up mom and pop cafes and make it a truly special place. If people want to go to the chains, well, that is what the TC is for.
Alex Walker May 05, 2011 at 11:08 AM
Nothing beats a summer evening dining outstide at Lake Anne Plaza with children running around, music playing, and a glass of sangria in hand. It's as close to Europe as you can find.
cheryl May 05, 2011 at 11:16 AM
I LOVE this idea! Glad to see these planners can still think outside the "strip mall" box! :)
Susan May 05, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Lake Anne Revitalization needs to take into account the residents as well -- which it is partly doing. Lake Anne has such great appeal; however, sometimes dining outside is not what you would hope for. We have businesses that let people get so drunk that it interfers with the beautiful location. We have parents let their children play in the sculpture, climbing, using water guns, skateboarding missing pedestrians, and screaming as if they were in a playground. Less than the "gleeful sounds" of children playing. The look of Lake Anne is wonderful...but getting shoddy. The plantings are lovely however the residents area is in dire need of repair. Let's bring it up to it's full potential.
Arielle Masters February 13, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Have no knowledge of drunk in public folks - haven't run into any there yet - but kids are supposed to play in the fountain. Climbing the fountain, maybe not. And what's wrong with water guns? Or are they squirting you while you dine al fresco? http://www.lakeanneplaza.com/experience/kid-friendly-lake-anne/

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