RA’s Tetra Appraisal Will Stay Under Wraps for Now

by Karen Goff March 23, 2015 at 8:30 am 37 Comments

Tetra building/Credit:YelpA Reston resident has filed a complaint with Reston Association after he said he requested a copy of the appraisal report for the Tetra building and was told he could not see it until RA had a conditional contract to purchase the building.

Reston Association CEO Cate Fulkerson told resident Irwin Flashman in an email that the board would discuss the conditional contract — the contract that is pending results of an April member referendum — at its meeting on Thursday, March 26.

Thursday’s meeting is also the final public hearing on the planned purchase. To review: Reston Association is seeking to purchase the 3.48-acre property adjacent to other RA properties such as Brown’s Chapel Park and Lake Newport Tennis.

The property, which contains a parking lot and a 3,128-square-foot-building, was Reston’s Visitors Center from 1983 to 2003 and is now office space for Tetra Commercial Real Estate. RA has sent a letter of intent to Tetra to purchase the building at 11450 Baron Cameron Drive for $2.65 million. Acquiring the building would give RA 98 contiguous acres of open space and prevent a developer from purchasing the property — and using the building for a commercial enterprise, which is allowed under the current Reston Master Plan designation. However, a recent Fairfax County tax assessment shows the value using that scale at $1.428 million. RA conducted its own appraisal, standard practice in a real estate transaction, to arrive at the $2.65 million purchase price, Fulkerson said at the first public hearing on the issue in late February.

RA land use attorney John McBride says an appraiser is looking at one property while an assessor is looking at a county full of properties — in this case, small offices, which will not be the “highest and best use” for the property.

McBride said an appraisal done in 2010 valued the property at $2.7 million — and the current owners originally wanted that price.

RA plans to borrow the entire $2.65 million. Fulkerson says $650,000 to be used to repurpose the building will come from a developer contribution. She has not yet said which developer, which Reston project and whether that deal is a final agreement or just an expectation. RA is also still seeking community feedback on the building’s purpose.

Some ideas that the association has proposed include after-camp care, community meeting space and event rentals. Uses such as event rentals would bring in income for RA, staff says.

RA says that there will be no impact on member assessments until 2019 and 2020, when increases of $3.64 and $3.68 are estimated. However, those estimates come with the current number of households in the association(21,618 households, including the new Harrison Apartments) and not the 600 new units that are expected to join the association in the next five years.

Flashman initially requested to see the appraisal on March 6. In more recent communication with RA, he calls the delay “unacceptable.”

“No opportunity for public comment after the March 26 date has been scheduled,” he wrote. “Comments made on March 26 therefore will not have had the benefit of information contained in the Tetra property appraisal, nor the draft conditional purchase and sales contract.”

“I believe the RA is obligated to provide the information requested in a timely fashion, which will allow members to make an informed decision on whether to vote for or against the proposed purchase,” Flashman wrote. ”

The board will discuss Flashman’s request at Thursday’s meeting.

Photo: Tetra Building/Credit: Yelp

  • MJay

    What’s wrong with letting the property get privately developed? How much of Reston would be affected by this development, and is it possible that private development by a private company could benefit the area or otherwise be a boon? Both RA and the candidates running for positions seem to have taken such a visceral, knee-jerk reaction to the prospect of development that they are keen to spend millions of our money on what could very much amount to a flight of fancy. OK, RA spends all this money, but certainly more expenses will be incurred moving forward beyond the sale. We get a vote, but so much information seems to be withheld or otherwise unknown at this point, I just don’t see now being the time to expend more of our funds on the voting process. Certainly, I understand RA wanting to avoid development of a McTacoHut or something, but are they willing to gamble millions of dollars, plus tens of thousands more moving forward, just because somebody down the road might do something on the land–something that was envisioned by the master plan?

    • Ming the Merciless

      Certainly, I understand RA wanting to avoid development of a McTacoHut or something,

      I don’t think they have to buy the property in order to prevent that.

      • JCSuperstar

        Seems like they are doing the same as what they are doing to keep RCNG from being developed. RA said they would step in and purchase if needed. But, I say, let there be a restaurant at Lake Newport and more residents paying revenue to RA at the old golf course.

        • MJay

          I agree… A nice lakefront restaurant would be nice. The market might even support such an endeavor. Or maybe some sort of corporate mini-retreat/conference spot? Perhaps RA is asking the wrong question. It’s not what can RA do with our money. The real question may be what private development could realistically move onto the property that fits into the master plan paradigm and be supported by the market conditions. Besides, although the recent police study shows an increase in prostitution in Reston, I doubt a brothel is coming to the shores of Lake Newport anytime soon, despite the unsubstantiated doom and gloom among RA and the candidates propelling this potential expenditure.

          • JCSuperstar

            Well, I believe RA is trying to protect its common areas. We can all agree or disagree on that.

            But, their recent efforts to save RNGC and now Lake Newport may be reaching. Proper development is inevitable.

          • Ming the Merciless

            In this case they are not trying to protect an existing common area, they are trying to add something to the common area that is not currently in it. Right?

          • JCSuperstar

            Ming, as I read their fact sheet, and sat in the recent district meetings, RA is attempting to pay to stop the redevelopment of that parcel and control it as RA open common area. I heard them say they will remove some of the parking surface and return it to natural area by “planting trees and shrubs” as well as repurpose the interior of the building for meeting rooms, programming, etc. They argued one contiguous common area from Browns Chapel park and ball fields over to include the tennis courts.

            I say — good luck. Haha. The recent developer activity around Reston tells me, ain’t happening. So make it a nice restaurant, with office space. Why fight this?

          • I agree with many of your points JC, but I have to differ with you on why we should fight this. We see that the county is having some budgetary issues and the fact that we have a Metro stop (with another on its way) with comparably large amounts underdeveloped land, we are most at risk for unwanted high density development. Since this is among the first cases of its kind in Reston, many people are looking at this as a precedent making event. If the county or a large enough developer sees that it is relatively easy to purchase and redevelop land in Reston, I believe see events like this happen much more and at a much faster pace. Thats why i think the work that Rescue Reston has done is so important, because they have set a precedent in regards to redeveloping common areas.

            When looking specifically at tetra, I see you already know of the history between its owners and the neighboring properties so I won’t go any more into that. I also want to factor in the fact that the neighborhoods received a guarantee from Supervisor Hudgins their would be no development without majority consent of the neighboring clusters. With all that it would be logical to let things take their course and wait for a private buyer, but the supervisor will hot always be in office to guarantee their is no unwanted development. Even if she does stay on for another decade it does not ensure that her position will not shift to be more pro development, and when that tide changes there is no turning back. I am not one to make doomsday predictions, but I will say there would be a high risk of permanent negative consequences if that were to happen.

            Since this is a referendum, the chance that this will not pass is still present, and we need to figure out what to do in that case as to not put all our eggs in one basket. The neighborhoods that would be affected should look into forming some sort of organization framed around the model of Rescue Reston, and continue the fight at Government Center. RA should also bolster its relationship with the County to ensure that the area is properly zoned according to the wishes of those that live nearby, much like it has been doing for reston national.

            We still a handful of options we can go through before any decision on zoning is made, so if this fails it does not mean an end to restons involvement in the future of the property as much as it means an end to restons potential financial involvement.

            I will link to a comment I had made before when tetra had come up that details more ideas we could still have if reston chooses not to follow through with this purchase:


          • JCSuperstar

            Charles, one Supervisor’s promise doesn’t necessarily say it’s so. An existing development plan, allows a developer with money and a mission to make things happen. You see what’s happening around you?

          • I completely agree with you on our supervisor as I said in my statement. Thats why RA needs to build a more formal relationship with all of the board, not just our supervisor.

            I personally live in one of the Bizzutto managed apartments in North Point so what is proposed to happen at St. John’s hits home for me, quite literally 🙂

            But to paraphrase what I said in my previous comment, we should be very careful in inviting a pack of wolves to fix our deer problem.

      • Terry Maynard

        In the draft revised master plan for this “convenience center” area (called “Lake Newport”), the language eliminates the possibility of a McTacoHut or even a nice lakeside restaurant.

        The draft plan recommends: “Lake Newport Convenience Center is planned for office use at the existing built intensity to maintain its current character.” So–if this language is approved ultimately by the BoS–the area can NOT become a McTacoHut, it can only be re-developed as office space (it’s current designation) at its current intensity–a huge DIS-incentive to redevelopment.

        Yet RA chose to object to even this language broadly constraining what the area could become–and put in their pitch for “community use”. Here is their proposed language for the same recommendation: “Lake Newport Convenience Center is no longer planned for a convenience center, but rather is planned for office use at the existing built intensity and/or community use, maintaining its current character.” (See RA’s letter to the County Planning staff here: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/reston/community_documents/20150212_community_comment_ra_bod.pdf)

        • JCSuperstar

          Good words. But there is a big difference between Master Plan and existing Development Plan. As I read the background, as well as old articles on this property, the development plan allows for a nice restaurant/office. The only reason why the owner failed on his last try was community feedback to the Supervisor.

          Look at the power of the developers and their attorneys like Looney. Tall Oaks just sold for a premium to be developed, Northwestern has demonstrated a strong case for RNGC, and the Looney team could easily take advantage of the massive Lake Anne Redevelopment and make something happen across the street at Lake Newport.

          Reston is now in a new phase of being rebuilt wherever possible with Metro coming. Look at all the developer acquisitions, what’s happening at St Johns Woods. RA can’t defend against this on their own. No way.

          • Terry Maynard

            Yep, “good words” written by the County which, in general, has focused on preserving non-Metro urban areas of Reston as they are. In fact, the word “is” in the draft language (& even RA’s addition) show that office use at the current density is the only permissible. It’s conceivable that a deli could exist in a 3,128 GSF office building (the current building’s size), but then where would the offices be?

            Developers will ALWAYS try to get MORE, MORE, MORE! They are even trying to get more office space approved at a time when office space vacancies have been at near record highs for more than 5 years. And the difficult financial straits of the County make those pleas more appealing since, presumably, MORE, MORE, MORE would mean a higher assessed value and more tax revenues. Why should they care about the communities affected by developer (& their land use attorneys’) greed.

            Nonetheless, with all the high density redevelopment approved at Lake Anne VC just across Baron Cameron, it is hard for even me (a cynic about these things) to believe there would be much incentive for a developer to buy the Tetra property to re-develop office space at current density levels. They certainly would try to increase the density. As in the past, RA and Restonians would probably have to put up a stink if such a proposal were forthcoming to make sure it didn’t occur. Plus ca change…..

            One important side note: While the County has generally protected existing Reston areas as I said above, it has so far refused to constrain redevelopment density of the village centers (exc. the already approved LA VC plan). The risk is that they see all our VCs turning into what Lake Anne is currently destined to become.

            In general, the draft language proposes that VCs become “community resources” rather than “neighborhood resources” that they have always been. That leaves the door open for Town Center-like redevelopment despite all the fluff around these comments. Reston 2020 provided important and extensive feedback to the County staff on this that you can read here, including its line-by-line proposed changes: http://reston2020.blogspot.com/2015/02/reston-2020-proposes-changes-to-second.html

          • JCSuperstar

            Looney was involved with Tetra…and now this:


            RA going to stop this themselves.

          • JCSuperstar

            RNGC, St. Johns, Tall Oaks, Fairway, Tetra, and more… all going the way of developers. It’s inevitable.

          • Reston Realist

            Well, I’m betting that Hudgins has her finger in the air checking the political winds to figure out which side of the issue to come down on before this November’s election.

          • Greg

            The residents on that side of Baron Cameron don’t vote for her and there is no more social housing in the deal so she’s long ago checked out. Moreover, if RA buys this albatross, it will be off the tax rolls forever, so Hudgins will be against it (and as a Reston resident, she will likely vote no.)

            As long it’s a deal that brings in more tax revenue, she will support it, directly or otherwise. After all, sweet sister Cathy opined that the millions more coming in with keeping tax rates stable “are not enough.”

          • JCSuperstar

            Don’t discount the Fairfax County Park Authority having they’re eye on it as well, as a nice little extension to their Baron Cameron Park. Remember their little try with Browns Chapel Park, adjacent to Tetra.

  • Rob

    Three words: Bocce World Headquarters

  • John Farrell

    So contrary to one of the talking points spouted by proponents of this idea, the owner has been trying to dump this property on RA since 2010.

    This Board fell for it.


    • JCSuperstar

      Agree. (rare here). Let it go its natural course. Someone with the money in their coffers will pick it up eventually anyway. The owner is going to sell it, that’s inevitable. RA should just let it go its course.

      • JCSuperstar

        It’s the same stupid argument they’re making regarding Reston National. They said they would purchase the golf course if the inevitable happened. Right (said facetiously).

  • LeftPolitico

    My understanding is that RA has NEVER taken out even a small loan. (Am I wrong?) What are the ramifications of taking out a $2.65 million loan? Surely not even the rosiest estimate would claim that any (highly questionable) revenue projections from the facility would come close to matching the loan payments.

    • JCSuperstar

      Careful. The environmentalists might say protecting land is a powerful thing. But, how do you put value on intangibles?

      • Ming the Merciless

        In this case, we can put an exact value on intangibles!

        $2.65 million – $1.428 million = $1.222 million worth of intangible goodness!

        • JCSuperstar

          Yup. But there are those who see value there. Look at this from Mr. Maynard’s blog:

          “Cities across America are investing in planting projects trying to get what we already have on this RA parcel. If this stand of trees is leveled… then what precedent does this set for Reston redevelopment? Reston Association and Fairfax County have an ethical obligation to exhaust all resources for alternative parking to save these trees.”

          I think it’s a poor argument, again, given the inevitable.

          • Ming the Merciless

            $1.222 million for a few more trees seems… excessive.

          • JCSuperstar

            Well, guess we will see.

          • Sloan

            Our trees are worth protecting, and they set Reston apart from most of the rest of Northern Virginia. As for the price discussion above, there is always a difference between the appraised value and the tax assessed value. Tax assessments are almost always lower than the market value… so there is not a 1.2 million overpayment. The important thing is the market value (which the appraisal is more reflective of).

          • Greg

            The property has been on the market for a while (years). There have been NO offers, so your valuation presumption is wrong. In the manner in which the property is zoned, it’s worthless. In fact the dilapidated building is a liability — since, among other things, the building needs significant refurbishment, including very expensive structural repairs. Moreover, it’s located atop a spillway, meaning it’s in a flood zone, and adjacent to a tennis facility with bright lights not meeting the county’s light pollution ordinance blaze away all year (wasting still more RA dollars) whether or not the courts are being used.

            As to trees, there are far more in Great Falls, Herndon, McLean, and Vienna than in Reston. Many trees in Reston are clumped in unnatural monoculture groupings and are of species now disfavored (Bradford Pear) or banned in Reston (Burning Bush).

    • John Farrell

      They have a line of credit to smooth out the peaks and valleys on expenses and revenues but otherwise, you are correct RA has never taken out even a small loan.

  • JoeInReston

    Curious as I am not a real estate expert and I didn’t sleep in a holiday inn express last night… What are the risks of releasing the appraisal report before the RA has a conditional contract to purchase the building?

    • JCSuperstar

      Not a real estate person either, but I suspect there are some. But, that’s not the real issue. Why should RA purchase the parcel? Let the seller get rid of it (his mission), and let the property be developed accordingly. RA thinks they can save everything — you ready to pay for a golf course?

    • Reston Realist

      Laughter. Complete gut busting hilarity at the utter ridiculousness of the appraisal.

  • Thomas

    Maybe Red’s Table would have had better luck with permitting and development of their outdoor patio space if they had gotten this building =) What an amazing view and piece of property… a continued push for good quality (non-chain) restaurants with views would be awesome.

    • JCSuperstar

      Who’s to say they’re not looking at it. The Red’s Table owners and their family own a fair number of restaurants.

  • No to Tetra deal

    This Tetra deal is a dumb idea. If RA is going to spend a bunch of $ to save open space they should try to buy up RNGC or at least half of it. Turn it into a nice park, add some more athletic fields, a swimming pool, maybe even a -rec center! I’d be up for that,


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