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Groups Dislike Planned 23-story Reston Tower

Fairfax County Planning Commission will soon discuss proposal for new mixed-use building that is more than a half mile from future Metro.

The plans for a 23-story mixed-use tower at 1760 Reston Parkway are being met with resistance and criticism from local groups committed to planning principles and smart growth for Reston.

RTC Partnership's mixed-use project - projected to have 413,700 square feet of office  and about 5,200 square feet retail use (Floor Area Ratio of 4.08)  - is scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on March 14.

The building has already been approved by the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee. If constructed, the building will be taller than any current building at Reston Town Center. The present building, at the corner of Bowman Towne Drive by the Spectrum shopping center, is five stories high.

Members of the Reston Citizens Association's Reston2020 advocacy group say that  the Town Center Office Building proposal "violates many of the Planning Principles adopted by the Reston Master Planning Task Force on 15 March 2011." 

"It is the wrong building in the wrong place," Reston2020 says on its website. "This proposal places a 23-story office building in the midst of the proposed Lerner Spectrum development.  The Spectrum plan, which calls for a mixed use community, embodies many of the Task Force’s principles.

Reston 2020 says a building of this density should not be located far from the future Reston Parkway Metro station, which will be more than a half mile away.

"The proposed building would be one of the highest in Town Center, containing over 1,500 office workers in a 4.05 FAR development.  Yet it is over one-half mile from the future Town Center station.  The Planning Principles say that the 'highest densities will be within approximately one-quarter mile' from the future stations. The principles also indicate development will be stepped down from the immediate station area."

The Association of Reston Clusters and Homeowners has similar concerns.

"The pending application, which would locate an approximately  2,000-worker job center beyond a half mile from the Town Center Metro Station - defies Transit Oriented Development," ARCH members said in remarks to the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee.

ARCH urges developers and the planning committee to consider current office vacancy rates in Reston. 

"We are very concerned that citing a major employment center more than a half-mile from the transit center will siphon office demand away from the immediate transit center," ARCH members said.

ARCH also points out that anything that impairs the ability to redevelop areas closest to the Metro stations will increse traffic and could depress Metro ridership, which in turn would pass off increased costs to taxpayers.

Both Reston2020 and ARCH recommend that the proposal be amended to be in keeping with Reston's planning principles.

However, Richard Wealen, managing partner of RTC Partnership, says the features of the tower - a contemporary design by Reston's Polleo Group -  will make it a desirable location, despite nearby office vacancy rates.

Plans for the building include five floors of retail and parking and 18 stories of offices above that.

There are plans for an outdoor 38,000-square-foot terrace and green roof on the sixth floor. Developers hope to also build outdoor seating from a restaurant on that floor.

The proposal has been given conceptual approval from Reston Association's Design Review Board.

Eve Thompson February 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM
I thought the Position Papers from the citizen groups were very appropriate. It seems not only out of scale but also to violate all the principles and goals for Transit Oriented Development.
Arielle Masters February 28, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Once again, some committee in Reston is trying to make Reston look like Crystal City. It isn't, and it shouldn't look like that.
Marc E. February 28, 2012 at 02:07 PM
While I like the design on this building, it's location would seem out of place and I'll agree With Reston2020's position on this. This building should be close to the station location.
Michael Sanio February 28, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Will this proposed building increase or reduce traffic on Reston Parkway?
Roland Fleer February 28, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Anything will be an improvement over the current building. A well designed building that is better than the standard bland suburban office building would be welcomed.
John Farrell February 28, 2012 at 03:03 PM
What's truly disappointing is the apparent lack of anything from this applicant going back to the community. This would be a great spot for the much needed 50 meter indoor pool! This site is part of Small Tax District #5. Its occupants can and will used RCC's facilities at Hunters Woods. Where's the recreational proffer?
Arielle Masters February 28, 2012 at 03:10 PM
I'm not sure it makes sense to put a pool in the middle of a shopping center BUT - if they do - they might as well add some indoor tennis courts. People keep asking for those - it pops up in the paper every few months or so.
The Convict February 28, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Go away, Polleo. You're neither wanted nor welcome.
Donna Rostant February 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Research indicates that employees will walk one quarter of a mile or less to their work site from a public transportation stop. So, unless the employees live within a reasonable walking distance or there is a substantial push to use alternatives other than personal vehicles for transportation, the inescapable conclusion of this building’s placement will be an increase in the amount of traffic on Reston Parkway and the surrounding roads. It seems like a building comprised of this mix of retail and office space would be more suitable if located closer to the station. Although it’s out of scale for the location, the building design is definitely an improvement. It’s great to see developers incorporate sustainable features in building designs. And, it would be wonderful if this building, whatever the final design, or another office building included a state of the art indoor recreational facility that would be available to Reston Association members of all ages.
The BSD Guy February 28, 2012 at 06:33 PM
There are numerous faulty assumptions about this building: 1. That there will actually be anyone interested in occupying it. 2. That the County and/or the RA are even remotely interested in residents or what's best for them. After the last "development fest" of the late '90s we STILL have a lot of marginally occupied if not flat out empty office buildings THROUGHOUT THE COUNTY. If this building were to fill up it would likely do so at the expense of other office buildings, which of course leads to dilapidation. The nonsense that everyone will start wagging their tails just because the choo-choo train is coming to town is just that - nonsense. The only people that care about rail are the people that will use it to commute inbound towards DC and the dumb developers/and or county officials that have crack-pipe dreams of money falling from the sky just because they put up yet another building. We really need to get some officials in the county government that actually know how to plan something and PROPERLY analyze impact, instead of people that behave like their delegates of the county's very, very special interest- the developers. It's very frustrating seeing our tax dollars go up and the quality of life plummet just so some billionaire elites in the development industry can keep raking in the cash.
John Farrell February 28, 2012 at 06:37 PM
This existing building is on the edge of a shopping center that is planned to be redeveloped into high rise office. During my service on RA's Parks and Planning Advisory Committee, we identified the need for a 50m indoor pool, particularly north of the Toll Road. An indoor 50m pool would serve the general community, the Masters Swimming Club and the South Lakes High School swim team. Neither the existing RCC pool at Hunters Woods nor the YMCA pool are 50m. Thus, neither can be used for competition for our high school team nor the mature RA members active in the Masters Club. RA has only 1 50m outdoor pool - Lake Newport. Enclosing it was not considered a viable option. Folks living in high rise multi-family will have very few children but will want opportunities to swim and play tennis year 'round, use a gym and run on RA's trail. So, Ms. Masters, if this site doesn't work from your perspective, where should we put an indoor pool or an indoor tennis facility. I'm really open to suggestions.
Uncle Smartypants February 28, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Here's a suggestion: let's not build an indoor pool or an indoor tennis faciltity at all!
John Farrell February 28, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Because . . . ?
JoAnne Norton February 28, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I think that the area is not flat enough for a pool. Like Donna R's explanation of who will walk where from the Metro. It is too high for the area. I would like to know if this is part of Spectrum itself. We need to see it in relation to the Lerner(Spectrum)plan. We also need to consider the landscaping. During the summer months, when we have those horrid hot days, it is extremely difficult to walk in that area. Trees would help. If these developers do not get their way, will they sue the county or state to get their way? Also, I would like to see some sort of survey done by Patch, etc of the community to get a more valid vote when we have these structures submitted. How representative is RCA and ARCH of the community? How many members do they have?
Arielle Masters February 28, 2012 at 07:16 PM
North of the Toll Road - such as at Baron Cameron Park - seems like a fine place for an additional indoor pool and swimming but not a great place for the South Lakes team to practice since they'd have to cross the Toll Road to get there. Lots of lights in between; lots of wasted time + a need for buses or new drivers carpooling. I suppose if a pool & indoor tennis are aimed at the newbies/retirees in the condos rather than the general population of Reston, then the RTC area - walking distance for many of them - would make sense. It would probably need steam rooms and/or saunas, a hot tub area, a kiddie pool/wade-in area/spray fountains in case some of them do have kids; lounge chairs for reading while not swimming; lots of lifeguard chairs; poolside storage (cubbies/lockers) as well as men's & women's locker rooms with changing tables. This isn't necessarily the same as what a school team would need. Although I can understand the desire to be as cost-efficient as possible by just building one such facility, I think it would be a better idea to build something like this (the previous) for the general public near RTC or Baron Cameron Park and something specifically for team use closer to SLHS.
Arielle Masters February 28, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Is there enough room at or near SLHS - perhaps in the woods just off of the upper SLHS parking lot, between it and Hughes, or on some part of the existing athletic fields - to build them a 50m pool there for local schools' and teams' use? http://g.co/maps/j5v2d I'd think they wouldn't need the kiddie pool or ramp (wade-in) area or necessarily saunas/steam rooms, and they WOULD want more things like lap lanes and timers and starting platforms; maybe a high dive; home & away locker rooms (or men's/women's). I suppose Oak Marr Rec Center is the closest that has a 50m? Or does it have a smaller pool? Herndon CC? Could RCC/HW's pool be expanded out back into the woods? It's already pretty close to SLHS. Not a lot of space in the building but there's a bit of a buffer out back. Worst case, they might need to move the path a bit.
John Farrell February 28, 2012 at 07:17 PM
You're right, JoAnne, this building will sit on one of the highest spots in Reston. It should have a spectacular design because it will become a landmark. Fronting on Reston Parkway, it will be seen by an enormous percentage of our community every day. So why does Polleo devote most of that Reston Parkway frontage to the parking garage? It's like "mooning" the community. I also agree generous numbers of street trees and benches are a must in any design. Though the building itself will generate plenty of afternoon shade on any Reston Parkway sidewalk. In order to build the structure and the parking garage, the site will be made level. So its current condition is no impediment to an indoor pool.
Uncle Smartypants February 28, 2012 at 07:18 PM
As far as indoor swimming, it does not pass the cost-benefit test - why should all 50,000 of us pay millions to build and maintain something that will only benefit ... what, a few hundred? As I've said afore and elsewhere, we (yes, I play) can play tennis year round in this area. Surely we have more pressing needs for our recreational funds ....
Donna Rostant February 28, 2012 at 07:29 PM
A critical element of Reston is planning. We moved here knowing it was a "planned community." We like multi-use facilities; many of us enjoy lunch-time access to running paths and swimming pools. We like tree-lined streets and paths. In short, whatever gets built should reflect these community values. We can, and should, work together to retain these principles. Where practical, I want to see occupants of any new buildings use public transportation and footpaths rather than cars. For this to work, buildings like this need to be located adjacent to Metro stations, no more than a reasonable distance away. The proposed location of this building is more than a half mile from the planned Reston Town Center Metro. As a result, the proposed building would likely bring an increase in automobile traffic and local congestion.
John Farrell February 28, 2012 at 07:30 PM
That's great brain storming. Most of the Baron Cameron acreage is already devoted to one kind of ballfield or another. So an indoor pool would mean taking a ballfield away from a constituency. The lack of space at Baron Cameron was one of the reasons folks were interested in the Browns Chapel mega-gym, parking garage and juice bar replacing the 3 baseball fields. Today, the SLHS swim team has to travel to the Herndon Community Center to practice. So a facility anywhere in Reston would be a shorter ride. Thanks for your suggestion. Keep brainstorming. We can do better.
John Farrell February 28, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Uncle I'm talking about using proffer money here, maybe supplemented by the STD #5 tax money that the commercial buiding owners pay. Not RA money. What should recreational proffer money be spent on instead?
Uncle Smartypants February 28, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Developers who build office/retail buildings - no residential units - have to give recreational proffers? I understand making them pay for road improvements and hardscape infrastructure, but we can ping them for money for playgrounds and indoor pools, too? Wow, you really do learn something every day.
Uncle Smartypants February 28, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Donna, I'm responding to both your posts. I don't disagree with you, I just think it is so sad that people think half a mile is too far to walk. Even at a fairly leisurely 3mph, it only takes ten minutes to walk half a mile. People point to morals and ethics and sending jobs overseas as indicators of the Decline of the American Empire, but we're declining for the same reason every other empire declined: we got fat and lazy.
John Farrell February 28, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Uncle The tenants of those office buildings get to use RA's trails freely and, because the building owners pay into STD #5, their tenants and occupants also get to use RCC's facilities. Of course, they can and should be asked to contribute to Reston's recreational amenities. You can bet RA's amenities will figure prominently in their marketing materials.
Richard Holmquist February 29, 2012 at 10:08 PM
...and we're replacing outdoor green space with Colosseums (or in our case, high rises, 50m swimming pools, indoor tennis courts ...)
Snowman Hunter March 01, 2012 at 06:58 PM
What is the benefit of building a 50m pool for the high school. All high school meets and records are short course yards (25y). Quit hiding behind the 'needs of the high school' and admit 50m is a dream project for the 30 or so Master swimmers in Reston. How long is the Masters long course season anyhow? 3 months. Let's spend that money on something that will benefit the whole community instead of pet projects.
John Farrell March 02, 2012 at 02:48 AM
No one is hiding anything. At Oakmar and other County facilities, a bulkhead in put in the water for high school meets. Yes, a 50m pool would be useful for the Masters Club. I mention it with every posting about the 50m pool. A 50m pool would also be used by youth swim clubs as Lake Newport is used during the outdoor season. The pool would also be used for exercise classes and swimming lessons which are fully enrolled and have waiting lists frequently. We had an extended presentation at PPAC on the uses to which such a facility would be put and it seemed to me that it would be busy most of the year. If not a 50m pool or indoor tennis or trails, what recreational facilities would you targeted with proffer money?
Ray Wedell September 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM
There is one simple, fundamental problem at work here. These planning meetings have virtually no public input and residents have to work very hard to get information. As a result, the need for "public discourse" is minimally met by developers and our planners and elected officials. Simply stated, they don't want any input other than those who will tell them what a great job they are doing. Every Reston citizen should by on the email lists, every meeting known by us. Nobody should ever be removed because he/she may not agree with a presentation, etc. Projects like this go through easily because the skids are greased well in advance, and potential opposition or recommendations for improvements by citizens is shielded from us by the potentates. Representative democracy at work? For now, the best thing we can do is promote the Reston Patch to everyone. It does the best job of getting valuable information out to citizens in a concise and timely manner.

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