Reston Association staff began looking into the purchase of the former Reston Visitors Center in the fall of 2014, long before the RA Board of Directors voted unanimously to move forward with a member referendum on the purchase.
After a lengthy executive session during its regular meeting on Jan. 22, where the board was presented with details on the 3,128-square-foot building owned by Tetra Partners, the board voted to pursue a voter referendum for April.
But according to documents released by RA, the board signed an appraisal agreement with The Robert Paul Jones Company in December 2014 that said the appraisal would be performed by Jan. 12, 2015. The fee for the appraisal would be $5,000.
RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said the early appraisal agreement was done so RA staff would be as prepared as possible when presenting the idea to the entire board. She said she first informed the board leadership team (Ken Knueven, Ellen Graves and Michael Sanio) of the opportunityto purchase the building last fall.
“The leadership team asked me to earmark time during the Jan. 12 Board Planning Committee to discuss the opportunity during executive session and also be ready to discuss the matter further during the Jan. 22 Board meeting in both executive and open session,” Fulkerson said.
“In preparation for those meetings, they asked that I be prepared with as much information as possible to discuss the matter, including an appraisal of the value of the property. As with any item presented to the Board, staff provides as much back up information and documentation as possible to enable the board to make an informed decision.”
RA, which entered to a conditional contract in late March, is seeking to buy the building, which sits on 3.48 acres adjacent to Lake Newport and Brown’s Chapel Park, in order to maintain open and community space and fend off any interested developers who could turn the spot into a commercial enterprise, which is allowable under zoning rules and the Reston Master Plan. The building is approved for additions that could extend it 50 feet into Lake Newport and add nearly 7,000 square feet of space.
RA is seeking to borrow up to $2.65 million for the purchase of building, which could be used for a variety of community programs and special event rentals, its says. The appraisal, completed in late January, values the building at that amount. Recent county tax assessments value it at $1.2 million. RA says the difference is due to estimating the building’s highest-and-best use, and not just space.
Renovations and repurposing of the building are estimated to cost $250,000, RA says. It is also expecting $650,000 from a developer contribution.
Meanwhile, RA documents show that Tetra Partners wanted $2.7 million for the building or they are not selling. Tetra also said several restaurants had toured the building, but there were no current commercial offers.
RA will hold a community meeting on the planned purchase on April 21, 6 p.m. at Brown’s Chapel.
The referendum starts Monday and runs through May 8. The results will announced May 11. The referendum needs votes from 1,751 households (10 percent of eligible households) to be valid.
See more Tetra-related documents on RA’s website.