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