Happy First Birthday, Silver Line in Reston

Some of the Silver Line's first passengers on July 26, 2014A year ago yesterday, the Silver Line’s first train rolled into Wiehle-Reston East.

After years of talk, political maneuvering, construction, construction delays and budget busting, Reston was finally connected to Washington, D.C. by rail.

Phase 1 of the Silver Line has five stations that run from Tysons Corner to Reston. Additional stations will be part of Phase 2, which will stop at Reston Town Center, Herndon, Route 28, Dulles International Airport and Ashburn.

However, Wiehle-Reston is the end of the line until at least 2019. It is the only Phase 1 station with parking (3,300 spaces at the Comstock-Fairfax County garage). That makes it by far the busiest of the five stations.

It only took a few weeks for the Reston stop to exceed expectations after it opened July 26. 2014. By mid-September, Wiehle-Reston East was counting more than 8,000 entries daily, surpassing first-year ridership goals. Overall Silver Line ridership was about 60 percent of where Metro expected it to be after a full year.

Wiehle-Reston East is now seeing more than 9,100 entries daily. Other stations: McLean, 1,842; Tysons Corner, 3,423; Greensboro, 1,185; and Spring Hill, 1,441 (17,088 Silver Line entries daily).

“Wiehle-Reston East continues to be the Silver Line’s commuting powerhouse, surpassing first-year ridership projections with nearly 9,200 boardings, or 18,400 weekday entries and exits last month,” a Metro spokeswoman said.

There have been some growing pains, though. Many commuters have complained the Silver Line saves them neither time nor money; Metro service in general suffers delays and issues daily; and the addition of the Silver Line may have slowed Metro service overall.

There has also been criticism of faulty timed lights getting in and out of the Wiehle-Reston East garage, as well as a poorly designed kiss-and-ride area.

Still, it has had an impact on the Reston economy. Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Mark Ingrao says his organization has seen a 22- percent increase in membership from new businesses or businesses new to Reston in the last year. The chamber itself also moved its headquarters from the Reston Town Center area to within walking distance of Wiehle-Reston East.

Jerry Gordon, President and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, says the Metro’s economic impact can be seen countywide.

“We have direct evidence that two companies that are in Tysons Corner are there because of the Silver Line,” Gordon told Reston Now. “Instelsat moved from DC, and they told us ‘no Silver Line, no Intelsat.’ The county was also able to retain Cvent in Tysons. Without the Silver Line, Cvent undoubtedly would have left.”

In Reston, Bechtel is leasing an additional 175,000 square feet in Reston as it moves hundreds of remaining employees from its Frederick location to its Reston global operational headquarters.

Bechtel spokeswoman Charlene Wheeless said at a recent Bisnow event that Reston’s location near Dulles and near Metro made it an ideal place to locate.

In Reston Town Center — where the Metro won’t even stop for nearly four more years — the 2.8 million square feet of office space is 100 percent leased, commercial real estate brokers say.

Bob Long, Vice President of Verity Commercial Real Estate, says that the office market outside of Reston Town Center is “not very vibrant.”

“The vacancy rate is starting to close and there is some activity in Fairfax County,” he said. “But it is smaller tenants seeking 2,500 square feet, not large amounts of space. And there are not any new office buildings under construction in Reston. Every building has a ‘For Lease’ sign on it.”

Office space rental rates at Reston Town Center are commanding a higher price ($45 per square foot) compared to Rosslyn-Ballston, Tysons Corner and the rest of Northern Virginia, according to the Washington PostWhile available space has been growing in most of Northern Virginia, there is much less available in Reston, where being close to a Metro is an amenity for attracting workers, the Post reported.

Development around Wiehle-Reston East also continues to boom. Comstock’s Reston Station will start leasing 448 BLVD apartments this fall, and expects to begin work on a 16-story office building later this year.

Comstock is still looking for a tenant for its 11,000-square-foot retail space, which sits on top of the parking garage. The retail space will eventually be the first floor of a hotel.

Nearby, Bozzuto and Reston’s Chuck Veatch are beginning construction on a 421-unit residential building between Sunset Hills Road and Reston Station Boulevard. There are also rezoning applications for office-turned-residential projects at 1825 Michael Faraday Ct. and 1831 Wiehle Ave.

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