Reston Spectrum’s Future: Urban, Walkable, Mixed-Use

by Karen Goff December 29, 2014 at 9:00 am 3,653 15 Comments

Artist's rendering of future development at Reston's Spectrum/Credit: Fairfax County

The recent closure of Romano’s Macaroni Grill at Reston’s Spectrum Center took many residents by surprise

While the shutdown was sudden — the employees have said they received no notice — the plans for the future of the area stretching from the Macaroni Grill to Harris Teeter have been in the works for more than a decade.

When Reston Town Center was planned in the late 1980s, the plan was for a town center-like area to expand all the way down Reston Parkway to Baron Cameron Avenue. However, the development climate was not ripe for such a project in the early 1990s, so The Spectrum was developed in a strip-mall fashion and leased to big box stores such as Barnes & Noble and Best Buy.

“It was underdevelopment in respect to the property zoning,” Mark Looney, the land use lawyer representing Lerner, said at a public hearing on the project in 2013. “Reston Town Center was intended to be a grand downtown. This was developed in transition [due to the economy of the early 1990s]. In the interim, it became a big box-development.”

By 2008 — with the Metro’s Silver Line looking like a reality for Reston Parkway — Lerner Enterprises was focusing on securing a higher density future for the 24-acre site. In May of that year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a plan for nearly 800,000 square feet of non residential (retail, hotel and office) space and a maximum of 1,442 residential units.

The plan sought to connect The Spectrum to the Reston Town Center in a walkable urban core.

In 2010, Lerner sued the county to obtain additional density for the project.

In early 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved changes to the plans for the Spectrum. Some of the details:

  • 774,879 square feet of non-residential use; 1,422 multifamily residential units (with 12 percent set aside for affordable housing) in seven new residential buildings
  • 38 percent open space. At least 12 percent set aside for affordable and workforce housing.
  • Underground and structure parking; LEED certifications
  • Two new east-west streets and expanded bike trails and pedestrian access.

The development will be divided this way:

Land Bay A (where Best Buy and Barnes & Noble are located) is planned for 546 dwelling units, 255 hotel rooms, 172,000 square feet of office, and 62,500 square feet of retail uses.

Land Bay B (where PetSmart and On the Border are located) is planned for 643 dwelling units, 270 hotel rooms, and 48,650 square feet of retail uses.

Land Bay C (where Harris Teeter is located) is planned for 237 residential units and 134,896 square feet of retail and bank uses. Only Harris Teeter is expected to remain — and expand into the current Office Depot space — in the redevelopment.

Additionally, Land Bay B will wrap around the planned 23-story office tower at Bowman Towne Drive and Reston Parkway. That building, which will contain retail and 18 stories of offices, was approved by the supervisors in September of 2012.

Lerner representatives said in 2013 it had no immediate plans for redevelopment, and officials did not respond to a recent interview request from Reston Now.

But real estate sources said at the time to watch for individual business closings — especially in stand-alone buildings like Macaroni Grill’s — over the next several years in preparation for the redevelopment.

Retail leases are generally 10 years, and many retailers do not want to sign for the longterm if their future at a location is uncertain. That was believed to be the situation in 2012, when Barnes & Noble failed to reach lease terms with Lerner and left the Spectrum.

It also likely played into the reason for The Macaroni Grill’s closure, though parent company Ignite has shut down dozens of Macaroni Grill’s nationwide in a cost-cutting measure. Ignite officials would not comment on the Reston store’s closure.

The Spectrum is about one-quarter of a mile from the future Reston Parkway Metro Station, which is slated to open in 2018.

Read the entire staff report on the project on Fairfax County’s website.

Photo: Artist’s rendering of mixed-use building at The Spectrum/Credit: Fairfax County

  • Greg

    It would be nice to see some innovative, distinctive architecture and lighting here. Everything looks banal, boxy, and blond-brick bland with token verdigris here and there. All that seems to remain of Reston brown are the now-peeling paint jobs on most of the traffic-signal poles.

  • Noelle

    Excited for all these developments!

  • A Restonian

    Don’t try to hold your breath until these redevelopments happen. Huge current vacancies in commercial real estate (although not in RTC) and residential demand is so-so. Could be the better part of a decade before re-development occurs.

    What we need to watch out for in the meantime as a community is deteriorating maintenance and upkeep at existing retail shopping in these areas. Elsewhere, this process has taken decades sometimes. The process also more often than not leads to more crime and other undesirable activities in and around deteriorating strip shopping centers like these.

    The developers don’t care. RA isn’t in charge. And the County has other things to do. It will be up to Restonians to keep pressure on the County and the developers/managers to maintain their properties–or re-develop them.

    • TheKingJAK

      It’d be nice to see Restonians retaining the ability to completely govern their own destiny.

  • Mike M

    Walkable? More like lethal for pedestrian traffic.

    Now is the time to hold Kathy Hudgins and Sharon Bulova accountable. The developers don’t care about walkable, and unless they are prodded the County would rather get low-income and subsidized housing than anything else.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Just what we need: bigger walls on our concrete canyons.

  • Brad

    Does Reston need 500+ new hotel rooms?

  • JohnJamesIII

    I needed the Petsmart, On the Border & Macaroni Grill..and the ones that are gone-Best Buy/Barnes & Noble/Starbucks..have no need for a new hotel, Harris Tweeter or a RTC part deux.

  • Jason Rub

    Buried halfway through the attached staff report is this little nugget:

    “Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) calculates a yield of 125 additional students from the project’s proposed residential units and recommends a monetary contribution of $1,172.250 to address capital improvements for South Lakes High School Pyramid. FCPS recognizes this application is a PRC plan and not a rezoning application: however, FCPS requests the applicant make a contribution since a proffer was not made at the time of the original rezonings. The schools in this pyramid are projected to be overcapacity in the next six years and this contribution would offset school impacts. Staff strongly encourages the applicant to make a contribution to alleviate future overcrowding within schools in which the proposed development is located. The applicant has received a copy of the FCPS request, but has not agreed to make a contribution to help mitigate the impacts of the development on the existing schools as of the date of this report.”

    I know they’re not legally obligated to make these contributions, but there’s got to be some way the county can hold their feet to the fire over this sum (just under $150,000) that in relation to what they stand to make is but a pittance.

    • Mike M

      Hold Sharon Bulova and Kate Hudgins accountable. Go ahead! Pull that other lever! The only thing that matters at the local level is accountability! If you zombie on into the polls and just pull the D every time, expect the same results.They are no better than any Republican when it comes to allowing Reston to be the developers’ free-fire zone. They also have presided over the conversion of a South Lakes High School that was “under-utilized” to overcrowded and growing!”

  • Cindy

    Skip PetSmart and check out the new pet supply shop opening at Lake Anne in Jan called PetMAC. Moving to Reston from Arlington. Locally owned.

    • animallover

      Unleashed at Hunters Woods and PetValue at South Lakes are also very good.
      Petsmart had some larger items-kitty towers, etc. that are hard to find at the smaller pet shops..they also did a world of good for pet rescues.

  • RestonLyons

    I am not excited about a bigger Harris Teeters as quality is not what they strive for. They dropped Dietz and Watson with its Italian meats from Italy, hormone free cheeses, etc. for low quality Boars Head. Is a bigger Whole Foods in the picture?

  • I doubt the figures about school enrollment growth due to
    the town center. Now there are some 3,000+ residential units in the Town Center
    but fewer than 50 residents of school age.
    And I agree that there will be no rush to build lots of
    office building and more housing. The vacant office space in Fairfax County is
    in the millions of sq. ft. today. Reston will attract people to its commercial
    real estate because being close to the Metro will be a positive when a
    corporation in say Annandale needs to occupy more up to date facilities (no
    more 40 year old six story building in the future) and while moving from midrise
    old facilities they will look for modern facilities close to the Metro not on
    some lot in Annandale..
    And I understand that the Container store signed a 10
    year lease two years ago so they are expecting to stay around for a while.
    Closer to the stations will be first and Harris Teeter will be a long way down
    the road.
    Just some thoughts.

  • shaman

    Reston has become Robert Simon’s worst nightmare…..
    Huge ticky-tacky buildings and un affordable rent for even the middle class.


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