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Update: Tall Oaks Hearing Delayed Until at Least June

by Karen Goff April 12, 2016 at 4:40 pm 20 Comments

 Jefferson Apartment Group’s (JAG) public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission will not happen until sometime this summer at the earliest.

The developer, which purchased the ailing shopping center in December of 2014, has had two spots on the planning commission docket this spring, both of which have been delayed. JAG is now slated for a hearing on June 23.

JAG representatives said in February they needed additional time to conduct a market study examining the area’s retail viability.

JAG’s current plan is for 150 homes and about 7,000 square feet of retail space on the parcel at Wiehle Avenue and North Shore Drive. That plan 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 plan features a variety of townhomes, 2-over-2 townhouses and condos. The retail space has been expanded from the original plan for 3,000 square feet of retail.

JAG representatives said at community meetings in April 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 marketed the store vacancies, including the 25,000-square-foot anchor/grocery store space that has been empty for about five years, to retailers. 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, RA land use attorney John McBride said in February.

“There is a problem with Tall Oaks,” he said. “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 the county planning commission.

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

They have also said they would like to see about 10,000 square feet of retail, as well as more green space, on the site.

Rendering of new Tall Oaks Village Center residential and retail/Courtesy JAG

  • Dentro

    Gee, how could they be ailing with all that free parking?

    • Chuck Morningwood

      Exactly. bill it as shuttle parking for the Metro. Charge less than Fairfax County for the space, run a shuttle bus from the lot to the Metro. Bill it as an alternative to waiting 30+ minutes to exit the parking garage.

      • Greg

        Best and highest use of the land I have yet to see. Tear down the Brutalist vacant buildings (score!), but keep the trees and woodlands to hide the parking lot. (score!).

      • TBex

        You’d have to charge enough to keep the parking lot surface intact and lines painted, pay the property taxes, collect and enforce fares, and run that shuttle. Is it even possible to undercut the garage? Would the convenience of a parking lot outweigh the inconvenience of waiting for the shuttle?

        Doubt it. Break apart everything that’s there and let nature reclaim it.

  • Greg

    Methinks they will walk from this deal and let the place fester.

    • Rodney Dangerfield

      They already own it, but without a viable plan being permitted, it will fester regardless and everyone loses.

      • Greg

        Not quite. Regardless of who owns is now or in the past or in the future, it’s clear that retail has been and will remain a failure at Tall Oaks. We’ve all been losing for decades (tax revenue, affordable housing, safety, aesthetics), waiting for some retail Godot to show up at this moribund site (and for similar reasons at Lake Anne). It’s not going to happen despite the Reston Luddites who demand it will but fail to sustainably support retail when it’s there.

        It’s absurd and wasteful that (at least) two more studies must be conducted to validate what’s obvious. Retail today is destination oriented with lifestyle centers bearing greatest success. Tiny, isolated, hard to see and access centers are doomed as is this deal.

  • Elaine

    There must be visibility from Wiehle Avenue to make the retail viable. If it is visible, that would be a game changer for retail success.

    • mosambie

      The only thing hindering visibility is the trees. I am not in favor of chopping them all down, but trimming them back and better signage would help.

      • Mike M

        That will expose the arse end of a strip mall complete with dumpsters and loading docks.

  • Well with the Lake Anne redevelopment failing and JBG putting the Fairway Apartment redevelopment on hold and this Tall Oaks developer backing off we may be seeing a different short or mid-term future for Reston. And Fairfax County is facing enormous changes and when the next recession hits Reston may face challenges like never before. (Personally I like Tall Oaks and when we lived on Hunt Club in the early 80s it was the best place for grocery shopping.).

    • Ming the Merciless

      when we lived on Hunt Club in the early 80s it was the best place for grocery shopping

      Before Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s (and when did North Point and South Lakes open?) I am sure it was great…

  • Chuck Morningwood

    7000 sq ft of retail. That’s about the equivalent 3 – 4 of your average sized townhouses in Reston.

    • A gas station, drive through bank, 7/11 and barber shop would need that much space.

      • TBex

        How much space would a time portal to the 1970s need?

        • Mike M

          How much space does the Lake Anne development take up?

        • A time portal would probably take up a 1,000 sf fit and then anyone who wanted to do their shopping at Tall Oaks in 1978 could just do it then come back to the future but the products would be entirely different.:)

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