Tall Oaks Study Will Take Second Look at Retail Possibilities

by Karen Goff February 26, 2016 at 11:30 am 31 Comments

 Jefferson Apartment Group’s (JAG) plans for Tall Oaks Village Center will be delayed as the developer conducts a market study examining the area’s retail viability.

JAG’s plan, which had been slated to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission in early May, is for 150 homes and about 7,000 square feet of retail space. It has not been well-received by community members or Reston Association, which said in a letter to county officials last summer that the plan fell “woefully short” on retail and community space.

JAG’s latest plan features a variety of townhomes, 2-over-2 townhouses and condos and about 7,000 square feet (up from the original plan for 3,000 SF) of retail, and what critics say is limited open space.

JAG representatives said at community meetings in spring of 2015 that Tall Oaks’ current 70,000-square-foot retail space — which went from 90 percent occupied in 2007 to 13 percent in 2015 — was not viable.

They said they shopped the store vacancies, including the 25,000-square-foot anchor/grocery store space, to retailers but there was no interest.

The market study will provide more definitive results, and Fairfax County is likely to follow up with a similar study of its own, said RA land use attorney John McBride.

“There is a problem with Tall Oaks,” he said at RA’s monthly board meeting on Thursday. “The community, developer and the county are hopefully going to work together to solve that problem.”

McBride said part of the problem for Tall Oaks is it is designated a village center in Reston’s Master Plan, but never developed as a village center — with a variety of uses built around community space — when it was first built in the mid-1970s.

“It never was a true village center,” McBride said. “It is more of a suburban strip center. Getting it to a true village center as best it can be is the challenge before us.”

McBride said after the market study, the developers will present the findings — and perhaps new plan — to the RA Design Review Board in June and the county planning commission in July.

Several Tall Oaks-area residents said they would like to see a study done independent of the one JAG is conducting.

One resident pointed out that retail should be more viable than ever with hundreds of more residents coming to new multifamily developments nearby, such as near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

“With residential [building] in progress, it would make retail a better fit,” said Melanie Whitaker, who lives on Bentana Way. “I think we need to keep to the true intent and keep it as a village center.”

RA At-Large Board member Ray Wedell encouraged RA to step up and take a strong stand on what is essentially a housing cluster JAG has planned for Tall Oaks.

“The proposal is so antithetical to the principles of Reston,” said Wedell. “This should serve as a clarion call that we need to control our future. We need to band together so we don’t have an abomination like this crammed down on us. RA needs to stand up.”

Rendering of new Tall Oaks Village Center/Credit: JAG

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