What is a Reston commuter parking lot right now will be a compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development (TOD) by the time the first Metro train pulls into the Wiehle Avenue stop in 2013.
Developer Comstock is getting ready now for the Reston of the near future. Construction on the $91.3 million underground parking garage begins in April.
The 2,300-space, seven-level underground garage is being built as a public-private partnership between Comstock and Fairfax County. The County is paying $87 million of the costs.
It's what's coming after that for the development called Reston Station will be innovative, expensive and up-for-grabs.
"This is going to be the gateway to our town," says Comstock spokeswoman Maggie Parker. "There is no model for what we are doing. It would be easier if we had something existing to work with, but we are incorporating a number of concepts from other transit-oriented developments and from Europe.
"We are not afraid to spend money," says Parker. "We want to invest in a winning product."
Parker says Reston Station will be a complement to the Reston Town Center, not its competition. For starters, Reston Town Center has grown to encompass many blocks. Reston Station is bound by a smaller footprint. Comstock's design includes building 1.2 million square feet of development into a nine-acre area.
The development will include hotel, residential, office, retail and restaurants. (For a look at the specifics of those areas, read the second of this series on Tuesday).
Reston Station will be the first residential development located along the Dulles Toll Road because the longstanding Reston Center for Industry and Government (RCIG) rules were vacated in January.
RCIG went into effect when Reston was founded in the 1960s. The goal of the ordinance was to attract commercial development to Reston to complement the residential development and give Reston a foundation towards truly being a community where one could work and live, says president Kathleen McKee.
"The RCIG ran for about a quarter-mile to half-mile along the side of the Toll Road," said McKee. "The people who built there were not subject to Reston Association. "Now that the RCIG covenants have expired, that means there can be residential development in that area. It ties in perfectly with the Metro and TOD. It allows for business on one level and residential on another."
Business owners in the RCIG voted on vacating the covenants, said McKee. The 380 residential units at Reston Station - all rentals - will be members of Reston Association, says Parker. Eventually, there will be 550 residential units when they project is complete.
But the RCIG rules being lifted mean it can be a potential land grab for other residential developers to come in and build nearby. There could be further multi-unit residential buildings built nearby, such as at Issac Newton Square or Plaza America. So far, the Comstock plan is the only one approved, says McKee.
"At this point, we have been in discussion with developers, who say they will build to meet market demand," said McKee.
Can the infrastructure handle an influx of new residents and businesses here? That's what the Reston Master Plan Task Force, advocacy group Reston2020 and many citizens are trying to figure out. Reston2020 wrote a 13-page opinion of the Reston Station plan when it came into focus a year ago.
Among its criticism: it does not have enough open or green space and that traffic will be quite congested.
The intersection at Wiehle Avenue, the W & OD Trail and Sunset Hills Road, close to the new Reston Station, is already one of the most congested traffic spots in Reston. It is also one of the most dangerous too, as Fairfax County Police point out that is a top local spot for auto and car-vs.-bicycle accidents.
Traffic is bound to get worse before it better around Reston Station. It will be the end of the line for Metro's Silver Line for three years. The rail is set to extend to Dulles International Airport in 2016. It will also be the only station from Tysons Corner to Dulles that has significant commuter parking, meaning many people from outside Reston will drive to the station at Wiehle in order to board the train.
Parker said Comstock has worked with the Reston Master Plan Special Study Task force to include new streets that will run through Reston Station, including a through street paralell to Sunset Hills and the Toll Road that may run from Hunter Mill Road to Plaza America.
"We are working on three major traffic studies," says Parker. "The problem with VDOT roads is that they assume all Virginia roads are country roads. We are working closely with the county and VDOT, and the improvements will be significant.
McKee says the traffic studies should be completed in May.
Reston2020 says new bridges and/or tunnels across the Dulles Toll Road should be of highest priority "to ease the already excessive congestion."
"Development will be concurrent with the provision of adequate transportation infrastructure," the group writes in its latest statement of vision. "Reston East/Wiehle Avenue and Reston West/Herndon-Monroe will be urban transit neighborhoods."
The group also says Reston East should emphasize higher education. To read about the prospect of a college center, click
Coming tomorrow: What will Reston Station look like? We've got specifics for you.