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Deal For Major Lake Anne Redevelopment is Off, County Says

by Karen Goff — December 11, 2015 at 10:20 am 42 Comments

Artists Rendering of Lake Anne Redevelopment/Credit: LADP

The long-awaited 1.7-million-square-foot revitalization plan for Lake Anne is off the books for now.

Residents of Crescent Apartments received a letter from Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins on Thursday advising them that Lake Anne Development Partners (LADP) has informed them the project “may not be feasible.”

Crescent’s 181 units were slated to be rebuilt as part of the mixed-use development of 1,037 residential units (including replacement of the 181 affordable units at Crescent); 60,000 square feet of retail; a 15,800-square-foot grocery store;and 78,000 square feet of office space.

The plan, which would have taken about 12 years to complete, also sought to re-route Village Road, build an outdoor amphitheater, add a parking garage and a grand boulevard of shops leading to the historic part of Lake Anne Plaza.

“Regrettably, Fairfax County has recently been advised by the Lake Anne revitalization project’s primary developer, Lake Anne Development Partners (LADP), that their public-private partnership with the County to redevelop the Crescent Apartments and the Lake Anne Village Center may not be feasible,” the letter reads.

“While such situations are not uncommon in large, complex developments, the County and LADP are deeply disappointed by this turn of events and shares the frustration that we know the community must be feeling.”

After years of discussions with the community about the best uses for Lake Anne, LADP was chosen in 2013 to take on the revitalization of Crescent, the county-owned, aging, affordable housing complex, and the surrounding areas.

The project received final approval from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in early 2015. LADP had said it hoped to break ground this year.

But that never happened. Sources said there were a “collection of reasons” why, but mainly due to financing of the giant project, which sought to add major density to Lake Anne.

“Lake Anne Development Partners has actively pursued the redevelopment of Lake Anne Village Center since 2012,” LADP said in a statement Friday. “Unfortunately, LADP has not been able to satisfactorily assemble all of the required land parcels needed for a viable development plan. It is with true regret and disappointment that LADP’s planned redevelopment of Lake Anne will not be moving forward.”

LADP’s website was disabled as of this morning.

Hudgins said the county will begin deliberations about the longterm implications for the future of Crescent.

“At this time, the County is not prepared to predict when or how we will proceed with redevelopment of the project,” wrote Hudgins.

Hudgins told residents of Crescent:

That you can continue to live at the Crescent and that we will remain committed to keeping the Crescent a vibrant, attractive place to call home. We will have high standards for the appearance of the property, and will maintain it with great care.

That we will maintain and grow our very strong partnerships in the community, including with Cornerstones and the local schools; and

That we will communicate with you and keep you carefully informed as to next steps.

However, Hudgins said Crescent has a high number of vacancies due to the planned redevelopment but it will start leasing again in coming months.

Rick Thompson, president of the Lake Anne Reston Condo Association (which represents commercial and residential tenants), said he is “quite disappointed” at the turn of events.

“The county does have a comprehensive plan that this concept is based on,” he said. “We will have to reconstitute our efforts on the basis of that.”

While most retail shops and condos on the Plaza have historic district designation and were not part of LADP’s plans, the expected increase in density and visitors was expected to have a positive impact on current retail at Lake Anne Plaza.

Thompson said it is possible the county will issue a new RFP or reach back into the one from 2013 to pick a previous proposal.

The Lake Anne Merchants Association says it is still committed to investing in the vitality of the plaza, pointing out that Reston’s first nanobrewery, Lake Anne Brew House, is about the launch, as is Lake Anne Coffee House under new ownership.

It is not yet known what will happen to the land swap approved by Reston Association in 2013. That deal traded an acre of RA’s land at Lake Anne for a parcel along Baron Cameron Avenue, as well as financial incentives and improvements. A parking garage was to be built on the site adjacent to the historic “J” part of Lake Anne Plaza.

  • restonresident

    Does this mean that who Lake Anne project is off and that Lake Anne will continue to be the dated, underutilized center it is now?
    Sad news. That area badly needs revitalization

    • restonresident

      Pardon the typos. The whole Lake Anne…

      • Karen Goff

        Yes. With this developer anyway. That’s not to say a new deal won’t be made with another developer in future, but years of work with this one are over. Could take a while to make a new deal. Till then, no plans.

    • LakeAnneResident

      That’s funny, those of us that live there don’t think of it in this way. We really love it.

      • Greg

        They why have so many years and so many tens of millions of dollars been spent to change it? Surely it’s not just to get more section 8 housing.

        • Feh

          They don’t spend money there, which is why business after business fails at LAP, but still they claim to “love it”.

  • Reston

    This is a tragedy. The redevelopment is desperately needed and long overdo.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I cannot tell you enough how happy it makes me that the flood of extra bodies to Reston has been abated. At least temporarily, anyway.

    • Guest

      Especially in place that is more than a 1/2 mile from RTC and a more than a mile from Metro with no significant transportation improvements. If built, no one could get there–or leave.

      And don’t tell me buses, bikes, and walking would solve the problem.

    • Feh

      Oh, don’t worry, when Crescent starts leasing again, there will be plenty more bodies in Reston, especially of the poor and vibrant kind. Sure, they’re not going to spend any money, they’ll just loiter in the plaza and attack people on the paths, but we’ll have that really great vibrant diversity, yaay.

      • Chuck Morningwood

        Oh, I get that. But at least there won’t be more such bodies than there has ever been. No new units, mean no net new idlers.

  • Crescendo

    I think LADP got scared because they realized that tazering a DRB member does not a building feature approve.

  • Guest

    Thompson’s comment above, spoken like the realtor he is, is so out of touch with reality that it is impossible respond rationally.

    No commercial developer would build anything remotely consistent with the Board’s extravagant plan for Lake Anne. The reason: The county plan is itself so far out of touch with reality in terms of current or future residential or commercial demand for RE in an area isolated from commerce and transportation that it will never be realized. But the Board of Supervisors offered up all the density (and all the potential property tax revenue opportunities) it could conceive anyway. When the Board gets realistic, maybe some redevelopment will occur.

    • Paul M

      2 Things. 1- Thompson isn’t a realtor. 2. According to Republic Land Development the Condominium Board was the only reasonable owner in the group.

      • LesAnn620

        Thank you — was just coming down here to say the same thing.

  • Nate_VA

    I think this is very disappointing.

  • concordpoint

    Fairly consistent for the County Revitalization Office. They regularly put design elements over financial deal elements. Pretty pictures before you know it pencils out is poor community service. How many millions of tax dollars were spent on this? Cathy should insist on a Board Auditor review of the Benefit/Cost of the Office of Community Revitalization.

    • Terry Maynard

      I would push the blame farther up the ladder: The Board of Supervisors has done just about everything humanly possible to allow/approve more development and redevelopment in this county to create a larger property tax base. Increasingly, the commercial market is LOSING value–led by huge office space vacancy rates–and so the residential market has had to make up the difference in property tax revenues, yet County spending increases continue.

      One result: We can expect a property tax rate increase after the new year to make up the difference. Wait for it!

      • concordpoint

        Agree. Fairfax County and their office of Community Revitalization screws up uniformly throughout the County. Cathy has zero credibility if she doesn’t demand accountability on the part of County staff. Time and money have been WASTED chasing pretty pictures not grounded in economic reality.

        • RestonMom

          Why why why can we not switch out Cathy for some new blood and new perspective?

  • Sandrine Johnson

    Sad for the merchants who were hoping for more traffic, but happy for the residents of Crescent apartments as well as happy to keep my neighborhood a quaint and quiet refuge.

    • Feh

      A refuge for vibrant loiterers… yay.

  • Greg

    Surprise, surprise! How many years and millions of dollars (most of them tax dollars) have been wasted on the Brutalist bombshell on the lake?

    • LA la land rezident

      Don’t know about the $$$, but the Lake Anne VC area had focus groups on redeveloping the village center early in the last decade–about 2001. Then a charrette in 2005. Then the county revitalization folks ending up in the latest plan ca. 2013.

      • Greg

        At least 15 years. And it was distressed 15 years prior to that. All of those “charettes” and county workers and planners and consultants cost (lots of) money. And, let’s not forget the million or so dollars that Pennino and Davis kicked in to keep the place from, quite literally, collapsing into the fetid waters of Lake Anne. No doubt, too, that the RA has (improperly) spent member assessment dollars to bolster Lake Anne and swap valuable land for a cesspool.

        Too bad someone doesn’t cut the weeds infesting the Baron Cameron avenue median and the Lake Anne “historic district” signs, but I guess that would be just lipstick on the pig.

        • Feh

          Those weeds don’t bother anyone living on Lake Newport, so, unlike Tetra, the RA is not going to railroad the gullible into voting to spend money on it.

  • Very disappointing indeed. Lake Anne needs some steroids but not now. One factor not mentioned is a decline in the long range growth expectations for NVa and for Reston. Economic growth in Virginia last year was 48th in the Country and Maryland was 49th. And much of the lack of growth came from the Virginia suburbs of DC.
    And now that almost 4,000 new apartments have just been built or are in the pipelines the need for condos/apartments in an area like Lake Anne has to be way down, down.
    But now that this is off the table JBG may go ahead with the redevelopment of Fairway Apartments.
    Times are achanging.

    • Terry Maynard

      Agree with you wholeheartedly on both the effect and the cause of the LAVC redevelopment failure. While it will help JBG, I don’t know if it will be enough. Given the weak local (regional) economy, I suspect the only residential development that will proceed are those near Metro stations. Yet, they are impossibly expensive for many (most?) people to afford.

      And with continuing huge office space vacancy rates and absorption (new leases) declining over 3 years, we don’t need any of that at all in the near term.

      • Yes and Dulles Airport is falling behind and the plans have
        all been based on a booming airport. The money flowing out of the government toward
        military expansion is over. And Virginia as a whole faces major economic
        challenges. And, I suspect the plans for LA were overly optimistic from
        the beginning…

    • RestonMom

      I did not know that and appreciate the insight. Thanks JWG.

  • Steve

    Lake Anne Development Partners have deleted their website. The collapse of this deal begs important questions as to why the developer backed out. Was it because the developer did not believe the project was sustainable with 20 percent of the units as affordable housing? Were attempts made to lower that requirement? Why did the county make such a big deal out of this after the board approved it yet leave it up to one supervisor to quietly announce the collapse– in a letter to residents. What now the future of North Reston?
    http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news/2015/fairfax-approves-lake-anne-revitalization-plan.htm

  • LeftPolitico

    What does Eve Thompson, the RA Board member representing Lake Anne, have to say about this? And what does the RA Board have to say about the land swap?

    • Karen Goff

      That will be in a follow up story Monday. Thanks.

  • Jamie MacDonald

    I wonder how much the redevelopment plans factored into the decision making of the Brew House and (new) Coffee House owners, and perhaps any merchants that might have renewed leases in the past few years. What a shame. Reading the article, it sounds like one big fiasco to me.

  • Bill Hussein O’Stalin

    Too many hands in the till and too many unrealistic expectations. The government insistence on low income housing is a failed experiment that has trashed one community and project after another. Go read the comments at various websites about new apartment buildings where tenants flee after their first year lease. Because they are employed they pay higher rates to subsidize the lower units. What do they get? Urination in the hallways, scary people hanging about and the smell of marijuana drifting down the hallways. At one apartment building in Silver Spring residents were treated to teens jumping on the hoods of their cars and not much being done about it. Charming!

  • Jenny

    We love Lake Anne and the Plaza. We live nearby and have spent many a Saturday morning enjoying the market, hanging out at the Book Shop. We can’t wait for the new Brew House and the remodeled Coffee House to open. We know many of the people who have worked so hard to make this happen and we’re disappointed for them but we also have been watching the area steadily improve for the past several years; largely attributable to the efforts of a few. We are confident that Lake Anne will continue to improve, maybe not at the faster pace that the redevelopment would have brought but it’s already on the right track.

  • JoAnne Norton

    Sadly, not many mentions about Lake Anne with its historic focus, and its part in a community. People said Reston Town Center would be a “dud” and look at it now. The Reston ideal is to have all levels of income, race and age in Reston. The area over near Dogwood school used to be an open air drug market until Fairfax County took control of some things over there and it is a vibrant community now. I worked Fear Fest and other things at Southgate Community Center and met so many neat polite and hard working youth. At one of their last festivals, there was more community spirit and joy than in other neighborhoods in Reston. Southgate was a partnership of Fairfax County and Reston Association. Sad how doing good in Reston and looking to the positive is so not done. Replies mention overcrowding, Fairfax County wanting money, cold economic statistics and not what we are.

    • Chuck Morningwood

      I have to ask, just how close is your property to the Southgate Community Center, and the surrounding environs. Sure, FCPD cleared out the drug cesspool from Southgate but guess what — that’s their job.

      Sure, there are decent, hard-working, law abiding people in need of housing assistance. Still, the fact is that crime and poverty go hand in hand.

  • Chuck Morningwood
  • Guest

    This project needs to be completely rethought. It was a bad idea for the county to purchase the Crescent Apartments in the first place. They should now be relet at market rates. Forget about further subsdized housing in that neighborhood, Reston already has enough of that. And now that the late, great Bob Simon has left us, can we all begin picturing a new future for this community, and not one that is pointlessly enthralled by the seductive –but ultimately failure-prone– striving for “diversity” at the expense of economic success for Lake Anne?

    • Greg

      I certainly hope so. The sooner the better. Decades and tens of millions of dollars have been wasted,

  • JuzMe

    Finally, some sense restored in Reston 🙂

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