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Time, Merchants Move on at Lake Anne Plaza

by Karen Goff September 5, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,162 28 Comments

Historic Lake Anne Plaza

Lake Anne Plaza — the original Reston’s village center that is about to embark on a revitalization project that developers hope will transform the area — has had a string of business turnover news in 2014.

To recap:

Is it a streak of bad timing, a sign of the economic times or a changing of the guard?

A little bit of all three, says Rick Thompson, president of the Lake Anne of Reston Condo Association, which oversees commercial space as well as residences at the plaza.

Thompson points out that many of the recent closings are from longtime store owners who had businesses at Lake Anne for dozens of years.

“Any set of businesses in any location are always going to go through periods of change,” he said. “Tastes change, businesses go through cycles.  I think there are a lot of different reasons at work here.

“Take the cupcake store. She rode the cupcake trend, but that’s probably in the rearview mirror now. Jasmine — he was in business 25 years, but he did not continue to invest in his business and it atrophied. Larry (Cohn, owner of the pharmacy) held on way past retirement. Linda Fuller (of Lake Anne Florist) ran her business a long time. She wasn’t ‘working for the man’ somewhere.”

So what will open at Lake Anne Plaza? It takes a certain type of business owner, but Thompson says he thinks space at Lake Anne will appeal to independent-minded, cost-savvy entrepreneurs. While there is no rule against chain stores at Lake Anne, the size of most storefronts usually deters businesses looking for a more uniform space.

“If it is the kind of business that makes sense here, it is a great location in a growing area,” he said. “It is an affluent economic [area] and there will be redevelopment nearby.”

Rents are far lower at Lake Anne than they are at many other Reston shopping centers or at Reston Town Center, says Thompson. At Reston Town Center, for instance, business owners are bound by management rules. Space at Lake Anne is individually owned with fewer rules.

But that can also work against the plaza, which has a voluntary merchants committee. Some shopkeepers keep irregular hours or do not maintain property properly.

Also impeding progress is Lake Anne Plaza’s historic designation. That means that the “horseshoe” part of the plaza cannot be altered, even if it means outdated entryways or tight fits for delivery trucks.

“There is no way to roll back the historical designation,” said Thompson. “It is already in the county code.  Is it better to have free reign and let the architecture go to hell? I don’t think anyone would want that.”

David Peter, president and CEO of Republic Land Development, which is redeveloping Crescent Apartments and the land surrounding Lake Anne Plaza, says the vacancies do not worry him. In fact, they help boost his plan that the Lake Anne area is ripe for higher density and renovation.

“I think this bolsters what we have been saying for two-and-a-half years — that this place needs to be revitalized,” he said. “We think we have a plan that will achieve that. Obviously, we hope other people will pick up where the others left off.”

Peter said Republic’s goal is to start construction in mid or late 2015.

  • Dexter Scott

    She rode the cupcake trend, but that’s probably in the rearview mirror

    What? I still like cupcakes!

    Jasmine — he was in business 25 years, but he did not continue to
    invest in his business and it atrophied.

    How do you “invest” in a restaurant? Serious question. Assuming he had enough cooks and waiters, what else was he supposed to do?

    • Karen Goff

      I think what he meant was a savvy business owner needs to update – menu, decor, physical facility, business plan, etc. Jasmine did not do that.

      • Robert Mowbray

        I always enjoyed Jasmine because it had a menu that was constantly changing and varied. The best food in Reston. Ambiance – it was part to Lake Anne Plaza.

    • justsayin

      Jasmine, I loved it. We weren’t really concerned about the ambiance, we had the outdoor seating in plastic chairs next to that great fountain, good food, music playing and some waiter friends that we knew for over 20 years. I don’t feel the same connection at chain restaurants..was truly a local scene.

    • john

      like any other business, keep changing, this place had no ambience, looked and felt unsanitary, owner got lazy, no new menu ideas, paid no rent what else????

  • Wolfytoo

    Whole place should be leveled and developed with class, none of which it now has!

  • J S Williford

    Going to Lake Anne is like going back to the 1980s. Old, tired, sorta dumpy. The place is in dire need of revitalization

    • Dexter Scott

      All it needs is some women in stirrup pants with really big hair.

      • justsayin

        get the legwarmers to play, big hair will be out in force.:)

  • kcowing

    I’ve lived very close to Lake Anne Plaza for 24 years and go there frequently. It seems that every 7 or 8 years there’s a sudden, big turnover of businesses – like dominoes. It is classic Reston but has its shortcomings: parking, traffic at intersections, location, and surrounding demographics. If the redevelopment actually happens then you’ll have a huge increase in people living within walking distance and that should breather some life into the area. *If* the redevelopment happens, that is. If there was a way to make the Farmer’s market a year round activity and span more than just one day perhaps there’d be more of a draw – but it uses up the very parking space that is already stressed.

  • justsayin

    Obviously the center’s already begun planning for the redesign, so not sure why anyone feels the need to bash it or the stores, merchants that have left but to those that do not appreciate the look and feel of that center, (I would think) you do not really understand architecture and design, it’s very cool. Lake Anne will continue to draw the cool cats. There’s plenty of vanilla out there already.

    • Lake Anne Fan

      Thank you!

  • Karen Snyder Richardson

    Having grown up in the Lake Anne area, I see Lake Anne Plaza as a magical place that is the true heart of Reston. I am glad the historic protections are in place. It should NOT be compared to the chain-based plazas of our current generation or Reston Town Center. This place has so much MORE CHARACTER AND CHARM– the striking modern architecture, an unusual european layout, the gorgeous lake, lake-based activities, the fountains, the Reston Museum, condos above and close to the businesses, the iconic Heron House, GRACE, the Van Gogh Bridge, the funky concrete play-based statues, the distinctive outside wooden decor the walls of the pharmacy building, the restaurants, the colorful waterfront townhouses perched on the lake shore, and so many other unique features make this a treasure to be cherished and bolstered….we need to lift up this wonderful place and help it return to its lively roots. I love the summer movie nights at the plaza and the hugely popular Farmer’s Market…it would be great if the hugely popular Farmer’s Market along with the artisans/crafters could have a more frequent presence in some form at the plaza as these are non-mainstream offerings that are in demand by the people. Keep the magic in Lake Anne Plaza!!! As the part of the revitalization and redevelopment effort, I would love to work with/for a supporting organization to help make this happen!!

    • kcowing


    • Robert Mowbray

      You mention everything but the trees – a major contributor to the charm of Lake Anne Plaza.

      • Karen Snyder Richardson

        I strongly agree with you about the vegetation that surrounds Lake Anne. It is key to it’s environment and aesthetic ambiance. I just read Richard Mowbray’s comment, and now I realize the trees in the featured photo are on the chopping block. The loss of this mature stand of trees is a tragedy in my mind. It’s difficult for me to fathom that this would be considered an acceptable loss or trade off.

        • justsayin

          That’s a shame, and a major loss. ugh.

    • Sarah

      YES YES YES!

  • Robert Mowbray

    Part of the architecture and charm of Lake Anne Plaza is the stand of mature forest which is featured in most photos of the Plaza. The forest is the porperty of the Reston Association. Unfortunately RA has agree to trade this mature forest to Republic Land Development for a stand of immature trees full of invasive exotic trees and trash located nest to Baron Cameron. The trees which form the backdrop in the photo included with this article will be replaced with a parking garage which could have been built somewhere else.

    • LakeAnneFan

      Actually most of the tree in that picture are not in the area where the parking structure will be placed. The most recent plan that was at the DRB a month or more ago saved even more trees.

  • LC

    So if I’m reading this right does that mean the physical building that houses the store fronts and apartments can’t be demolished….EVER?!?! Is that the “horseshoe” we are referring to? If so, that is a shame. We go over to Lake Anne once a week but it is depressing as all heck and just completely unappealing to look at. I was hoping those old buildings would be demolished at some point and a better way of utilizing the unique spot would be set up (since it’s only one of 2 lakes which actually has restaurants on it.)

  • justsayin

    Wow, it’s a pretty BIG redesign, guess that structure behind the the big new tower will be the new parking garage? Will miss those trees! This looks really beautiful though must say..not too shabby.


  • Max

    The iconic Heron House is need of a serious makeover. I love Lake Anne, but the outside of that place looks like it will fall down any moment. It is a very large blight on the plaza. You look at it and all you see is crumbling concrete and dirty balconies. You would think after what 45 years or so they actually fix it? As for the cupcake lady I am not surprised about that. Her cupcakes where small and very expensive and she was open almost never. Did anyone really know her actually business hours?

  • kcowing

    I posted this last night but it was deleted. “My wife and I were at the Farmers Market at Lake Anne today. Parking lot was full, all the streets for blocks around were filled with cars. The market itself was almost standing room only. Lake Anne can – and does – draw customers. Someone just needs to take what works and run with it. Lake Anne rocks.”

    • Karen Goff

      First I have seen it. Please stop accusing me of a personal bias against you and check your DISQUS.

      • kcowing

        Why did your site say that my comment needed approval?

        • kcowing

          Looks like DISQUS liked my image a little too much …

      • kcowing

        Why are my comments subject to approval? What is wrong with them?


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