The owners of Tall Oaks Village Center have slightly tweaked the proposed redevelopment plan to turn the ailing shopping center into a mainly residential neighborhood, but citizens would still like to see more changes.
Duncan Jones of Tall Oaks’ owner, The Jefferson Apartment Group, showed changes at a community meeting on Monday that included four fewer townhouses, a doubling of the retail space from 3,500 square feet to 7,000 square feet, and an addition of more common area.
The standing room-only crowd seemed to look ahead this time around. At two meetings in April, many community members disliked the residential plan and insisted residents would support retail if Tall Oaks were managed correctly.
At Monday’s meeting, which broke up into roundtable focus groups, attendees were asked to take a critical look at JAG’s plans. JAG purchased Tall Oaks for $14 million late last year.
The consensus: the small groups generally liked the diversity of housing (including two garden-style condo buildings, four clusters of 2-over-2 townhouse condos and 100 townhomes), the addition of more retail and the move towards community space.
They also requested even more stores and a more cohesive community open space, as well as another exit to Wiehle Avenue and more integrated space with the existing Tall Oaks Assisted Living building.
“I would like to see more retail,” said longtime resident Dick Rogers, a former board member of the Reston Citizens Association. “It’s an improvement [over what was presented in April], but they can go a little farther in my view.”
Citizens were asked to rank amenities in order of importance, including trees and open space, a dog park, trails and walking paths, public art, playgrounds and variety of retail shops.
County planning officials and JAG will tabulate results and consider them, along with the feedback summary from Monday’s meeting.
Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, who lives close to Tall Oaks, said she sympathizes with neighbors about the potential loss of their village center as they have known it for the last 41 years.
“Many of us remember Tall Oaks when it was a vibrant center and people supported it,” she said. “But for eight years, no matter what we have tried [has not worked]. The point is to bring some vibrancy back to Tall Oaks.”
Jones said the 70,000-square-foot center — of which only about 13,000 square feet is occupied — faces extreme competition from neighboring existing and future retail centers. Retail centers at North Point, the Spectrum, Reston Town Center and Plaza America, all built after 1990, have contributed to the demise of Tall Oaks, he said.
“There are competitive locations that are sucking your dollars away from this center,” Jones said of nearby Harris Teeter, Giant, Whole Foods and other big retail stores.
The Tall Oaks anchor space vacated by Giant in 2007 (and later two international groceries that each lasted just two years) is just 35,000 square feet, which is too small for most modern grocery stores, he added.
He said the planned retail — which could also be further expanded by adding ground-floor stores to an existing office building — would most likely be small stores, with an outreach to existing tenants such as Paradise Nails, Mama Wok, Fur Factory pet grooming and others.
“It would most likely be limited to what we see today,” he said. “Food and delivery supported by a loyal base.
Photo: Reworked concept for Tall Oaks/Courtesy JAG