Reston Association Gets OK to Purchase Tetra Building

by Karen Goff May 11, 2015 at 6:40 pm 1,164 61 Comments

Tetra buildingReston Association members have approved the purchase of the former Reston Visitor’s Center.

Nearly 33 percent of eligible member households voted in the member referendum, which ended on Friday. There were 5,676 ballots returned, and the vote passed with 52.92 percent of the vote, Reston Association President Ellen Graves said.

The vote authorizes RA to purchase the 3.48-acre property and its 3,128-square-foot building for up to $2.65 million. RA plans to repurpose the building — which from 1983 to 2003 served as Reston’s Visitors Center and currently serves as offices for Tetra Partners commercial real estate — for community and event space and a lakefront park.

Part of the refurbishment will be paid by Comstock, which will contribute $650,000, and by the seller, Tetra Partners, which will pay $275,000 for new roofing, HVAC system and other repairs.

The property off of Baron Cameron Avenue sits in between Lake Newport Tennis and Brown’s Chapel Park and will give RA 98 acres of contiguous space.

The referendum capped a contentious couple of months, where RA faced vocal opposition to the purchase. Opponents objected to the purchase price, which was far more than the $1.2 million recent Fairfax County tax assessments, as well as RA’s information that commercial development would happen if RA did not make the purchase.

“I understand the significance of the outcome of the referendum,” RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said. “I have great respect for all who participated, either in community meetings or by voting.”

At a special meeting on Monday, Fulkerson and Graves expressed the association’s sadness that the deal will go forward without Tetra founder Bill Lauer, who died suddenly last week.

“It was a great pleasure working with him,” said Fulkerson. “He will be sorely missed in the community.”

The board also voted last night to allow RA to sign financial terms for the property’s mortgage. RA Chief Financial Officer Robert Wood said the association talked to three banks. The most favorable terms came from Access National, which is offering RA a loan of $2.7 million with an interest rate of 3.35 percent locked in for 10 years, at which time RA would most likely refinance.

Graves said a community task force will now form to get community input and form a concept plan for the property.

The task force will be made up of one resident from each of RA’s districts (Lake Anne/Tall Oaks, Hunters Woods/Dogwood, South Lakes and North Point); three residents of the neighborhoods adjacent to the property; and a member from each of RA’s advisory committees.

Fulkerson said her main goal now if to “mitigate expenses so it has little or no impact on member assessments.”

RA estimates that it will create revenue of more than $100,000 annually from event and meeting rentals, as well as after-camp and after-school child care programs.

Preliminary estimates by RA say that member assessments could be impacted as soon as 2018.

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