Letter: Viable Options Exist for Tall Oaks Village Center

Alternative Tall Oaks Plan by Bill Woloch

This is an op-ed by Bill Woloch, PhD Architect. It does not represent the opinion of Reston Now.

I recently had the honor and a pleasure to sit down with Mr. Bob Simon, the founder of Reston and talk to him regarding his thoughts of the future development Tall Oaks Village Center.

After my discussions with Mr. Simon, I put pen to paper and developed a concept plan for the Tall Oaks Village Center that may be more in line with public thinking of what Tall Oaks Village Center could look like.

If you venture to Lake Anne and look at the mix of residential and commercial properties you will find a very quaint setting. I found out that originally a lot of the business areas on the ground floor of many of the buildings were originally residential and eventually converted to commercial space as Lake Anne Village Center evolved. This evolution of space function should be planned for in the Tall Oaks redevelopment strategy.

Applying this principle between commercial and residential space is somewhat unique in terms of planning developments, but the concept has already been proven in Reston with the continual evolution of the Lake Anne Village Center and should continue into the future.

The buildings themselves could be anywhere between three stories to five stories tall with underground parking and centered around a community plaza. The plaza would have areas of high, medium, and low activity. Covered and uncovered areas should exist in and around the Plaza and seating areas so the space can be enjoyed for a whole host of purposes. Planned and unplanned functions can occur in the new Tall Oaks Village Center similar to what at Lake Anne and the Mosaic District.

The Mosaic District in Fairfax was developed and is managed by a company called Edens. This small piece of geography has to be visited to understand how a small outdoor space can successfully bring the community together and offer something to everyone who visits.

The Tall Oaks Village Center can share some of the simple features that exist in the Mosaic District and the Lake Anne Village Center such as water fountains where small children can get wet while parents sit and watch in the shade. Lake Anne has a similar water feature.

Comfortable outdoor seating in the shade and in the sun located throughout the development. No stepdown street curbs, but a gradual slope between the limited roads and where people walk. There are a host of other considerations that do not cost a lot that make the Mosaic District and future Tall Oaks Village Center successful.

Traffic and vehicle circulation in the future Tall Oaks Village Center will be very limited and with one exception.  Access by vehicle would be limited to the edges of the Village Center so parents and small children do not have to worry about accidents.

One element of the new Village Center is dramatic with regards to traffic, and that is a new connection to Wiehle Avenue from the development. This new exit to the Village Center will now allow a circular pattern for not only pedestrians and bicycles, but vehicles as well. Surface parking will be limited to areas in the development closer to North Shore Drive so the center of the development is vehicle free.

Please take a minute to look at the drawing and if you like what you see please contact the Fairfax County Planning Commission, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and Reston  Association and let them know that you encourage them to examine other alternatives to the existing proposals.

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