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RA: Tall Oaks Plan ‘Falls Woefully Short’ in Public and Retail Space

by Karen Goff August 17, 2015 at 9:30 am 17 Comments

 Reston Association’s Board of Directors has sent a letter to county officials saying that the new plan for Tall Oaks Village Center “falls woefully short of meeting even minimum standards sought for a village center.”

The Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) purchased the aging village center in December and plans to redevelop the space — which is only 16 percent occupied — into a variety of housing with a small amount of retail.

JAG has not filed any permits or plans for the redevelopment, which will not need rezoning under new Reston Master Plan rules.

The company has held three community meetings. In the first two last April, the plans were not well received by community members, who said if proper management was in place, retail would thrive.

At the most recent meeting, in June, JAG officials came back with an amended plan featuring 150 rather than 154 homes (a variety of townhomes, 2-over-2 townhouses and condos), about 7,000 square feet (up from 3,000 SF) of retail and additional open space.

But the lack of a community gathering space and open space remains an issue for Reston Association, RA President Ellen Graves said in an Aug. 6 letter to Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Planning Commission member Frank de la Fe.

RA says JAG should follow Urban Land Institute guidelines for the importance of public plazas in planning for the new Tall Oaks.

Those guidelines state a successful public realm is one where “commerce, social interaction, leisure time activities may mix easily in an attractive, pedestrian-friendly outdoor setting. … The public realm should allow for the integration of the people, the place and the larger community.”

Says RA: “The current Jefferson Apartment Group redevelopment plan does none of the above. In all its iterations, the plan falls woefully short of meeting even minimum standards sought for a Village Center in Reston. The existing elderly housing residents [at Tall Oaks Assisted Living] should be supported in the Village Center’s design, amenities and uses. An amount and mix of commercial uses sufficient to serve the surrounding neighbors should remain.”

See the entire letter below.

RA Letter Re:Tall Oaks by Karen Goldberg Goff

Photo: Rendering of redeveloped Tall Oaks/Credit: JAG

  • Richard

    Excellent letter. I couldn’t agree more. I think few are opposed to residences at Tall Oaks if the development can also include a pleasant public space. Something beautiful and unique would be ideal, reflecting positively on Reston as well as raising the value of the housing units that are planned. My kids and I rode our bikes through Tall Oaks yesterday. It would have been nice to have had a reason to stop and linger for a while.

    • Sherri

      I am with you Richard. This is a great opportunity to create something unique and a place people want to go, hang out, get something to eat or drink. I applaud RA for stepping up!!

  • Reston Crimewatcher

    This is typical of RA. The letter written to Hudgins and de la Fe is one sided. There is not disappointment/dissatisfaction among the “entire community”. A small, vocal group who thinks their townhomes will “look like garbage” when new options come into the neighborhood are dissatisfied. They should just get over it. And what is all this talk about “community gathering space”. Its ridiculous. I say build 600K-750K townhomes there. These affluent people will also support businesses at Lake Anne. Valencia Way & Farsta Ct. are horrible and should be sold in an assemblage to a developer as well.

    • cRAzy

      Geez, RC, don’t you hate it when you’re not part of the “entire community?”

      • Reston Crimewatcher

        I am a “1 percenter”. It depends on which community you are referring to, but in general, I prefer to be a loner.

    • Greg

      You are absolutely right about those unkempt streets. The DRB needs to get out there and do a property-by-property inspection to fight the blight. Ugly and dated designs are one thing, but overgrown vegetation and building dilapidations are another. In this case, enforceable covenant violations that definitely harm the ‘hoods.

      I am NOT disappointed or dissatisfied with the current plan. The sooner Tall Oaks is redeveloped, with very little “gathering space” the better. It’s been festering for at least three decades and it’s time to move on.

  • Ming the Merciless

    If I were looking at townhouses / condos, I would not want a “public plaza” or “community gathering space” right outside my front door. I sure as heck wouldn’t buy a place in Lake Anne Plaza – one look at the riffraff who congregate there on nights and weekends would be enough to convince me to buy elsewhere.

    It is amazing to me that people even think that the owner of a private property ought to provide a “public plaza” or “community gathering space”. If the public wants this, let the public pay for it by purchasing land and creating a park on it. You want your public plaza, head right on over to Tetra. You stupidly overpaid for it, you might as well use it!

    • Richard

      The new owner of the Tall Oaks property should have no such expectation. Until recently, this property was zoned commercial, not residential or mixed. As I recall, the recent changes to the Reston Master Plan lifted the strict commercial zoning but also required that the redeveloped Tall Oaks must offer a public meeting space and that the plaza concept is important for any redevelopment of the village centers.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Meh. Tall Oaks does not now have a “plaza” or “community meeting space” — unless the community wants to meet and hang out in an empty parking lot, which from casual observation it does not. Therefore the claim that the redeveloped property should have such things is weak.

        If they put a couple of benches under a tree and call it their public meeting space, they’re good to go as far as I’m concerned.

    • Reston Realist

      If JAG didn’t want to put in a public plaza or community gathering space on their new property, then they “ought” to have not bought property designated as “village center” in a Planned Residential Community (PRC), aka Reston. It’s called “the law.” Oh, never mind.

      • Ming the Merciless

        The “master plan” is not a law. It is a plan. It can be changed, and it has been changed. And since the plan does not specify what a “public plaza or community gathering space” actually is, JAG can feel free to interpret that however they like.

  • LaffyTaffy

    Great article and a good letter from RA.

  • Robert Mowbray

    Do the other “Village Centers” in Reston (Hunters Woods, for instance) meet RA’s requirements?

    • Greg

      Probably not, but who would want to “congregate” or “gather” at them? Lake Anne maybe now and then when there’s a concert or farmers’ market, but the rest of them are in-and-out strip commercial centers.

    • Richard

      The updated Reston Master Plan seems intended to move Reston away from the village center strip mall and to something more in line with R.E.S.’s original plaza concept, while at the same time allowing for additional density around those sites. The plan envisions that these standards will be applied to redevelopment of these sites, not to the existing sites. Lake Ann and Hunters Woods certainly have public plazas. South Lakes has a small site by the water and a playground, I recall. Northpoint has a few picnic tables in front of the Starbucks. The developments have gotten worse and worse with time. I’m pleased to see they are reversing course.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Seems overly familiar for me for RA to be addressing the intended as “Cathy and Frank” in a formal letter. Just sayin’.

  • Drive By Critic

    The letter is complete and utter nonsense. Don’t we have enough public gathering space in Reston already? And why place this burden on a private developer who wants to redevelop this eyesore of a property? The Urban Land Institute is not an authority on Tall Oaks, and its so-called guidelines are little more than pseudo sociology. But I am not shocked that RA would cite such an “authority” given its bourgeoisie communitarian bent ..

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