RA Investigating Purchase of Former Visitors Center

by Karen Goff January 23, 2015 at 9:00 am 1,040 9 Comments

Tetra Building in Reston/Courtesy of Tetra Reston Association is taking steps to add the former Reston Visitors Center to its property portfolio, but ultimately the members will get the final say on the acquisition.

The RA Board on Thursday unanimously passed a motion to authorize a referendum on the purchase this spring.

Members would vote on whether RA should purchase the building, which is set on 2 1/2 acres off of Baron Cameron Avenue.

The building was constructed in 1982, and for nearly two decades served as a visitors center to familiarize people with Reston, particularly the North Point area as it was constructed.

The 3,200-square-foot building is currently the headquarters of Tetra Partners, a commercial real estate firm. Tetra approached RA about purchasing the property about a year ago, said RA president Ken Knueven.

The property would be a natural fit for RA as it abuts several other RA properties. Among them: Browns Chapel Park, Lake Newport Dam and Lake Newport Tennis. The building also has a 50-foot extension into Lake Newport.

“This seems like a wonderful opportunity to get control of a piece of property that could, over time, be subjected to a lot of pressure as surrounding areas develop,” Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Director Eve Thompson said at Thursday’s board meeting. “It would be better to have that in our control and have the land used in a manner appropriate to its setting.”

RA is currently pursuing an appraisal of the property’s value, which would determine the price. However, it is challenging to know financial details when it is not known what the building would be used for or what kind of revenue it will produce, said RA Chief Financial Officer David Harris.

The community would not only get to decide whether RA moves forward with the purchase, it would also have great input on the building and land’s eventual purpose, the RA Board said.

RA land use attorney John McBride said the property was originally designated in the Reston Master Plan as a convenience center (mix of commercial, office and limited retail).

In the Master Plan Phase 2 draft, RA has recommended that the convenience center designation be removed and the parcel be limited to office or community use, which would enable the property to be redeveloped, said McBride.

The RA Board approved a fast-track schedule to get to the referendum. It includes:

  • Feb. 9  — Special meeting for board to consider referendum question and approve letter of intent to purchase
  • Feb. 10 — Week of posting notice of public hearings for purchase
  • Feb. 26 — First public hearing
  • March — More community discussion at four already planned district meetings
  • March 26 — Second public hearing; board to consider conditional contract pending referendum
  • April 13 — Ballots mailed out to member. Only property owners (and not renters) would be eligible to vote
  • May 8 — Deadline to return ballots
  • May 11 — Election results announced

RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said the reason for the quick schedule is “this sets us up for 2016-17 budget cycle, so we know what to plan for.”

“I have been a Reston resident for 36 years,” said Fulkerson. “I remember when [the building] was a visitors center. I watched the movie with my parents when they were curious about North Point. It is gorgeous, and I would like to add it to RA’s portfolio. The building itself has a wide range of opportunities.”

Photo: Tetra building at 11450 Baron Cameron Ave./Tetra file photo

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