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Future of Tall Oaks Village Center Topic of May 10 Meeting

by Karen Goff — April 26, 2016 at 2:45 pm 13 Comments

 The future of Tall Oaks Village Center is back open for discussion.

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins and The Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) are holding a community meeting May 10 to share a revised proposal for the ailing Village Center, which has been mostly vacant for several years.

The meeting is 7 to 9 p.m. at Tall Oaks, 12040 North Shore Drive,.

The future of the village center has been been a development topic for more than a year and the new proposal is scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission on June 23.

JAG purchased Tall Oaks in December of 2014. The group held a series of community meetings in the spring of 2015, where it outlined plans to turn the 70,0000-square-foot center into more than 100 multifamily units and townhomes and limited (about 3,000 square feet) of retail.

That did not sit well with neighborhood residents, who said the center could work as retail if marketed properly. Reston Association also said in a letter to county officials last summer that the plan fell “woefully short” on retail and community space.

JAG then came back with a new proposal, which offered a reduction in the number of residences and doubled the planned retail space to 7,000 square feet.

JAG representatives said in February they would also conduct a market study examining the area’s retail viability. The results of that study are expected to be available at the May 10 meeting.

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.

Graphic: Tall Oaks concept as of June 2015/Credit: JAG

  • Ming the Merciless

    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.

    Yeah, we’re not going to pay for it, and we didn’t patronize it when it did exist, but that’s what we want.

  • Greg

    What on earth are they thinking? 10,000 square feet of retail for what? Exactly what? Tall Oaks village center has been failing for decades with all manner of retail shops — most of which were very lightly patronized and failed.

    Better be careful or JAG will walk and leave the place to fester still some more. Lake Anne ring any bells?

    • Damon Feldman

      Let’s not forget that Jefferson Apartment Group purchased this village center knowing what it is. Their poor investment and failure to improve it are not reasons in themselves to alter zoning to suit them.

      I’d rather they sell at a loss and someone in the business of making retail work give it a shot.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Nobody has been able to “make retail work” there for the past 15 years. It is not going to work. Figure it out already!

      • Greg

        They specifically purchased the failed property to redevelop (not improve) it. After all, it’s not called the Jefferson Apartment Group for nothing.

    • cRAzy

      There is already more than 10,000 SF of retail operating successfully at Tall Oaks–pizzeria, nail spa, more.

      • Greg

        The total center is fewer than 70,000 SF and it’s 3 percent leased. That’s 2100 SF, so 3000 is more than enough to accommodate what’s there now plus another shop.

        In any event, please show the list of prospective tenants for 7000 or 10,000 SF or retail.

        My money’s on JAG walking.

        • Damon Feldman

          I’m not sure what you mean by walking. They own the he property and already paid for it.

          I assume they would have to sell at a loss for a price such that supportable (lower) rents that are appealing to tenants can cover the mortgage.

          … Ideally to a retail company who know how to run or redevelop a commercial property.

          • Greg

            By “walking” we mean selling it. It’s better to sell, move on, and realize a loss sooner than holding it and trying to please the Reston Luddites who insist that retail and green space (in the middle of a dense forest) will work where it’s not going to and hasn’t for decades.

            And, of course, it’s possible to hire any number of consultants who will tell one whatever one wants to hear about the future. Reality and past performance, however, are far better predictors of the future. JAG will hire a consultant that will tell it that retail is not sustainable and RA or Fairfax County will hire another consultant who will say just the opposite. It’s not a matter of a competent retail company turning around a decades-old failure.

            Look what the RA did on its palatial Taj Mahal headquarters and outdoor recreation.

            The Tall Oaks parcel (which is an RES failure) should be mostly residential with little, if any, retail, and certainly none that requires vast signage, visibility and easy access. JAG knows this and will only pander so long…see Lake Anne for what happens when the greedy government and Luddites will not accept reality.

          • Damon Feldman

            Greg – you make good points about the parcel not being successful in recent years, particularly for a full sized grocery.

            But let’s think about the community for a minute. Sure JAG would love to redevelop the village center into housing near the metro. I understand that and don’t exactly blame them for trying.

            But zoning is for our benefit, not theirs. I think that Tall Oaks is now different because it is near the metro, and may do well if an appropriate amount of residential is added and it is updated. The place is a wasteland of cracked concrete now, but in a very desirable area and can be zoned to be a viable center.

          • Greg

            I agree with you; however, there is not enough density at Tall Oaks and nearby for viable neighborhood retail. Today’s standard is RTC and Tyson’s style or nothing. Isolated, invisible village centers (and most suburban malls) just don’t work and, in fact, have not been sustainably supported by the Tall Oaks community for decades. If the Giant would have been (more) profitable, it would be there today.

            Tall Oaks is not close enough to the Metro to make it work in the walled-garden design that’s there now and everyone seems to favor going forward; there’s too much nearby retail; and unless the entire corner is leveled and opened, and the road widened to accommodate better access (with lots of parking) there is likely no developer that will take on retail. Also, the fable of gobs of new customers from Metro has been just that. About 10,000 riders a day use the Silver line and it will be many years, perhaps decades, before that number grows to support more retail. Just as it did along he Orange line in Arlington with tightly clustered retail and low-density habitation nearby. Moreover, with metro’s profound management and maintenance issues, who knows when or if those numbers will grow. I would not be surprised if the 2nd half of the silver line is further throttled back, delayed or even mothballed because of the serious problems at metro.

            Just thinking like the developer — they have limited time, patience and budgets. And, with so many entities trying to exert inconsistent influence with little compromise, it’s not hard to imagine little happening and the center left to fester.

            While it’s often true that retail and commercial spaces place lower burdens on county services, tax revenues from them are wildly variable and leave the local area (sales taxes). Habitation tax revenue is usually quite stable, predictable and 100% of it stays local to fund the often higher service demands it places on the county, but this is mostly a factor of the county insisting on so much social housing with its very high demands on county services. High-end housing generates more tax revenue and places far fewer demands on county services.

  • Guest

    Absurdity at its best, and here is plenty of absurd development in Reston already! If ppl insist in dictating the terms of development, then the builder just might walk away. O N the other hand there are development proposals afoot elsewhere in Reston that deserve to be deep sixed, but we are not masters of our own fate.

  • Restontimes

    So where is the DRB on all of this. They have an important say, don’t they?

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