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RA Rep Hopes Citizens Ease up on Retail Pleas for Tall Oaks

by Karen Goff May 13, 2016 at 11:30 am 38 Comments

Tall Oaks animation rendering/YouTube

Reston Association Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Director Sherri Hebert says the community should move on from the idea that extensive retail will return to Tall Oaks Village Center.

Tall Oaks owners, Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) showed the community a third version of its redevelopment plan this week. The plan calls for about 150 townhomes and condos, with a parklike entry, public art, a children’s play area and exercise stations.

JAG also plans about 8,500 square feet of retail and services, up from about 3,000 and 7,000 in previous versions. It does not include plans for an anchor grocery store, which a recent market analysis said would not thrive in that spot. The current grocery anchor space has been empty since 2011.

However, residents at public meetings in the comments on Reston Now and social media continue to clamor for the return of an anchor store.

“As much as people want to fight for [more retail], Fairfax County did a market analysis and then did a peer review. The fact of the matter is [the mostly residential plan] is a done deal and we would be smart not to waste our energy on fighting it.”

Herbert said she thinks the latest Tall Oaks design “is on the right track,” but she she does have a few concerns about the highly urban style of the buildings. Tall Oaks is nestled among mostly 40-year-old residences and wooded areas.

“These centers are not urban and not supposed to be,” she said. “This has to be a neighborhood.”

Here is a message she sent to Tall Oaks-area residents urging them to share their thoughts on the plan at upcoming meetings:

As a cluster president and a resident of the Tall Oaks community, I hope you had the opportunity to attend the JAG briefing on Tuesday night to hear the latest news regarding the Tall Oaks Village Center.  If you did not attend, all the briefings are available on the Reston Association website.


  1. Monday the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee (P&Z) is meeting at the North County Government Center at 7:30.  They will be VOTING on the Tall Oaks proposal.
  2. Tuesday night at 7 pm the Full DRB will hear Tall Oaks as well, seeking conceptual  approval on the site plan.  This meeting is at RA.

If JAG get’s the thumbs up, it is an easy meeting with the County in July.

If you have concerns or want to voice your opinion, these meeting are important to attend.  IN ADDITION, sending letters, emails, and/or making calls to Supervisor Hudgins is critical.  Below is her information:

There were many issues surfaced during the Tuesday night meeting but what was alarming to me was the developer’s comment that Fairfax County and Reston citizens were giving conflicting guidance and of course, they were following county guidance.

One example was around the design and lack of set back off of North Shore.  It is not consistent with the Reston-way nor does it fit the design of adjacent neighborhoods, which is a principle outlined in the comprehensive plan.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see a line of townhouses every time I turn onto North Shore.  A line of mature trees would be nice.  The Village Center is not intended to be URBAN, it is part of a neighborhood.  If people want the URBAN-feel, they have lots of choices.

I am sure you have other perspectives and I hope you will make them known to the supervisor.

Don’t let the county dictate what is right for RESTON.

I hope to see you next week at the meetings and please remember to contact Cathy Hudgins to let her know what is important to you!

Thanks for reading,


(Editor’s note: The project can move forward no matter what Reston Planning and Zoning says as they are an advisory group without real power. The process includes a Fairfax County planning and zoning staff report and then a public hearing with the county planning commission, which is scheduled for July 14. The the planning commission recommends the project, it would go to the county Board of Supervisors for final approval shortly after that.)

  • Stop yelling at me

    Easy on the caps lock, Sherri.

    • Arielle in NoVA

      A bit of proofreading in general would be good.

  • Nyla J.

    In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of RESTON has become URBAN

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Pound sand, Herbert. This is a community, in case you’ve forgotten. Our opinions on this matter mean at least as much as yours.

  • ParkcrestRes

    So this is RA’s Official opinion?

    • Karen Goff

      No not at all. They do not have an official opinion yet. This is Hebert’s opinion as a resident, cluster president and the person who represents Tall Oaks.

  • Greg

    You better take what will likely be JAG’s last and final deal and forget about more retail. It’s failed before, hasn’t been supported by most and no developer will waste more time and money on what’s now been vetted as not-suited-for-much (if any) retail.

    • Jillian Morris

      What the hell is the email about? Sounds like Hebert what us all to go in with guns blazing?

  • Billy Smith

    “These centers are not urban and not supposed to be,” Urban like DC, no, but if you want retail to thrive you’ll have to have a more urban feel. If you want a really nice park with a coffee stand that can be supported by the 450 residents of the neighborhood I think its on track.

  • Jamie MacDonald

    Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it, Sherri Hebert.

    • JacknJill

      Truly! It’s like we got the word from ON-HIGH, thank you VERY MUCH!

  • June Smith

    Of course the RA reps want folks to ease up on the retail talk – there is much more revenue to be generated by stackable condos than a grocery store. So what if all the people living there have to drive across Reston to get to a store – clogging the roads even more than they are now.

    • Scott H

      Boo boo….you have two drive 2 miles to one of the other 5+ grocery stores in Reston that are actually viable. Could be worse. You could live in south Reston and have to drive past the two gross Safeway stores to get to a decent produce section. By my calculations, you’re closer than half of Reston to a decent store. #firstworldproblems

      • June Smith

        Your profession: Property manager or developer?

        • Scott H

          Nope. Just not an ignorant whiner. I have no opinion on what SHOULD be done with Tall Oaks, but it’s obvious that a village center is not viable there and the complaining about having to drive 5 minutes to a Giant, Harris Teeter, Trader Joe’s, or Safeway is ridiculous.

          • June Smith

            Quite the contrary – Tall Oaks IS a village center and it CAN sustain a Giant, HT or TJ … for the professional planners – they are not as revenue generating as the condos … it’s all about the bottom line – and how to squeeze out more money.. Village Centers are as much a part of Reston today as they ever were – and as long as people stand together against over growth – they will remain the center of each Village

            Just curious – how long have you lived in Reston

          • Scott H

            In the 17 yrs I’ve been in Reston, multiple groceries have failed there. That is all you need to know.
            Aside from that, the strip mall was never the vision of Reston. Not saying condos is the right answer, but lets not kid ourselves about the viability of the location. From a commercial perspective, it’s the worst in Reston from a density, accessibility, and traffic flow perspective.

          • June Smith

            UNION grocery stores have failed … non-union grocery stores are doing very well – and surprisingly – offer better salaries, benefits and working conditions.

            Village Centers NEED grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants and mom & pops – where the community can shop without having to drive – sit – in traffic. That’ s what Reston is about – that is what made Reston what it is – that is the little bit of Reston that must be protected

            Paving over our village centers and building concrete skylines are NOT what Reston is about – that is Tysons … we do not want to be Tysons.

          • Greg

            Only Giant was unionized. The other two ethnic markets were not. Facts, June, facts, please.

            And same challenge to you. If your passion is as profound as you make it sound, put your pocketbook to work. Buy the property from JAG and bring it right back to the 1960’s future you so desire to preserve.

            Also, there is nothing even close to paving over Tall Oaks and creating a concrete skyline being proposed or even considered by anyone (except you). Not even close.

          • June Smith

            Greg – the international store was ill suited for the village center – and just about any area in Reston. Giant was in the village center for some time – and closed only because Giant was closing it’s smaller stores and focusing on their larger anchors. A non- union grocery store will do well in the center and easily sustained with the growth around the area

            And yes Greg – the plan is to pave over the village center and create a concrete skyline – in an attempt to make Reston another smaller version of Tysons Corner —- which most people in Reston do NOT want

            Sorry to disappoint you Gregm but the vocal minority like yourself – are not the ones that grease the wheels

          • Greg

            The TO Giant was always nearly devoid of customers. Fact. It was poorly maintained and dirty. Fact. How hard is it to keep things clean and the replace the burned out light bulbs? Union or not?

            I am not disappointed, but my mind is boggled by your mischaracterizations of facts and reality. The silent (or vocal as it were) majority will prevail. Moreover, the progressives among us and certainly the paid, professional licensed consultants and very highly paid planners tell it like it is, don’t live in a fairy-tale world as do some and will take history and reality into consideration when they approve a viable use for what you term a village center.

            The facts are that you and your like talk one thing (bring on LOTS of retail) but do another (not support local retail). No one will repeat that mistake for a bunch of stubborn live-in-the-past types.

            So, again, if you are so passionate about repeating failure, pay for it yourself or move to Herndon where things have not changed in 50 years (but change is ever so slowing coming there too).

          • Scott H

            Are you saying that crunchy, left-wing Reston doesn’t support UNIONS? Are you saying that despite the best rhetoric, even left-wingers make rational economic decisions -like drive past a crappy UNION store to a nicer one – in their own life even as they promote irrational, idealistic left-wing public policy?? Tsk-Tsk

          • Greg

            What village centers? Tall Oaks is a toxic wasteland that has NOT supported a Giant. Fact. It was never a desirable place to live, work or play. South Lakes, North Point and Hunters Woods are standard suburban strip centers. Lake Anne, without enormous public tax subsidies would have long ago failed. And yet, despite all of the public support as it is, all redevelopment efforts at Lake Anne, some going back to the Bob Dix and Martha Pennino eras, have collapsed — as has the redevelopment of the Lake Anne Fellowship House.

  • John Higgins

    An astute observer notes, “Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it…” In this case, “it’s not what you say, but if you say it.”

    I read Ms. Herbert’s comments and email as not only reasonable, but refreshingly candid and helpful. There is not going to be a grocery or a replacement row of unsuccessful retail shops in Tall Oaks. Grumble as we may, that’s clear. She directs community attention to issues where our opinions might have some impact and provides info on ways (meetings and letters) to express them. She acknowledges that others will have different views; she doesn’t marginalized them, refute them, or demean. She solicits that they be expressed. And for that she is attacked and has her motivation questioned? Shameful.

    • Greg

      Attacking? Please!

  • Tammi Petrine

    The Tall Oaks Village Center (TOVC) revitalization is a complex issue. JAG bought this property from a negligent former owner who purposely allowed the center to decline while waiting for Metro to arrive so he could reap a financial advantage.

    The basic issue is that Tall Oaks is a Village Center (VC) in a planned community. Residents bought property in this area expecting Village Center services. While a full-scale grocery may not be viable, a paltry 7500 or 8500 square ft for retail is not acceptable either. Our supervisor has emphasized walkability for years yet does not support plans for TOVC that ensure that new residents and existing neighbors have enough retail/service square footage for basic needs? JAG is not accustomed to working in a planned community and has tried to insert a run-of-the-mill residential development into this property. The delay of which they complain is of their own making. JAG has made progress but is far from the basic minimums required for VC service and place making. While we are sympathetic to JAG’s and other commenter’s impatience to get the show on the road, rushing to approve a terrible plan is not an answer.

    Further, the meeting in the old Giant was a ill-conceived set-up… Dark, not enough seats, no mic, not enough time for all attendees to be heard, pre-planned long comments by a business man who has been offered a sweetheart deal by JAG. We could neither hear, see or be heard. We ask our supervisor, JAG, RA’s DRB and Reston’s Planning and Zoning Commission to afford us the opportunity to allow JAG to design a truly inspiring plan for this parcel that will ensure JAG’s AND Reston’s successful future. So far what we have seen will serve no one except JAG.

    I applaud Ms. Hebert’s leadership and candor this frustrating process. Criticizing someone who has spent months spearheading citizen opposition to the non-complying developer’s bulldozer only serves to hasten Reston’s demise. If you don’t appreciate what a planned community is, please remember that the comprehensive plan was designed to keep Bob Simon’s vision alive.

    • Greg

      What is is about “retail is not viable at this location” do you not understand?

      There have been at least three studies performed, reviewed by RA and FC and many others, confirming this fact. VC, Simon. planned community or otherwise, retail will not work at Tall Oaks and has not worked for decades (long before the current and former owners).

      If you are so hellbent on retail at Tall Oaks and are so convinced it is viable, why don’t you (as in the “we” you reference in your posting) buy Tall Oaks from JAG and develop it your way? Start a gofundme campaign. Hire the best land-use legal firm and get it rezoned to whatever plan you support. See how many advance patrons and customers you can round up and then have a go at it.

      • Tammi Petrine

        Greg, the premise of the said studies is that an anchor grocery store can not survive; therefore little if anything else retail can. Baloney! While we would prefer an full-size anchor grocery, what is the problem with advocating for a robust deli-type grocery and restaurant plus other small eateries which would serve as a catchment for each other? A nail salon is fine on an upper level with perhaps a beauty shop/barber partner but more square footage is necessary for a viable retail. Why the all or nothing approach? JAG has the opportunity to develop a winner vs a loser. We reject this loser in our planned community.

        BTW, Greg, did you know that Residential COSTS Fairfax County money after all the services required for residences are tallied? Source: Fairfax County Econ. Development Authority at a lecture last month.

        Have you noticed that more than 80% of development in Metro corridor now are slated to be residential? The zoning in the Metro corridor is meant to be dense/Urban and corridor master planning discussion goals were for a 50/50 commercial/residential mix. How deep a budget hole will our supervisors dig for us before they realize that all of this new dense residential will eventually result in much higher taxes for everyone? In that light, do we really want a crowded TH cluster at the corner of N. Shore and Wiehle with NO AMENITIES to offset neighbors’ already unsatisfactory road network? This is NOT the corridor. This is an established neighborhood.

        The Tall Oaks plan should also include a northbound only egress onto Wiehle. That can and should be done.

        Thanks, Greg, for your comment. JAG is a respectable company from McLean; not a carpetbagger. If they know what is required, they can deliver. No one wants them to build a failure including them!

        • Greg

          Yes, Tammi, I am well aware of the facts which are loud and clear — retail has not worked at Tall Oaks and will not in the future. If you so desire retail, why did you not better support it when it was there? Or open up your own stores? Or do something, anything, during the past two decades when Tall Oaks has decayed to the eyesore it is today? Did you get on RA then to enforce its maintenance covenants?

          And, I will repeat my challenge that if you so prefer this or that, buy the property and do it. Nothing speaks louder than money, right? I promise that we will patronize your establishments (just as we did with the Giant, Compare Foods, Fresh World and the two Asian restaurants there).

          As to the EDA’s reports. Did you know that most economists are wrong? They have a propensity to look at one thing and ignore everything else. They fail month after month on easy-to-predict jobs created or lost, unemployment, trade balances and much more. Fairfax County is the only county to have such an entity in the Commonwealth, and it costs us at least $8 million a year for dubious results.

          As to the particulars of residential costing more? Not likely in the Tall Oaks property. For one, it’s infill development and is a relatively small number of residences. Next, most of the residents will likely be childless, empty-nesters or otherwise light users of public services. We will not need more or new new sewers, schools, parks, waterworks, libraries, fire or police stations or roads to support this project. What we do need in that darkest-of-dark places on a dangerous road is streetlights, so perhaps the county will spend a few dollars on better lighting (which has long been needed regardless of what replaces Tall Oaks) and thinning the encroaching jungle that is blocking sight lines at that bad intersection.

          What does tarnish residential development is the county’s burden of requiring ever more social housing, especially in Reston, (where the existing stock is begging for residents). Low-income residents are not high spenders and do tend to consume more services. Developers lose money on building low-income housing and often demand and receive denser development for providing them.

          As to ugly architecture and plot siting — we agree there. Perhaps a better placement of the units will help, or more attractive architecture are things to suggest with JAG.

          Perhaps suggesting that the retail units be provided as condos rather than rental units will help JAG build more of it.

          • John Higgins

            I’m not sure how one might reasonably evaluate the success of an economic development authority. Do they actually deliver new industry and jobs? I don’t know how to answer that. But I think “dubious” is too strong a term.

            What I do know is that Fairfax is not the only county in Virginia with an EDA. Henrico, Warren, and Amherst counties come to mind. Prince William and Arlington counties have the organization, but they formed them as departments rather than as independent authorities. The cities of Richmond and Virginia Beach have EDAs, as does Hampton Roads. Perhaps more to the point, our main competitors (including Montgomery County) for new business utilize this tool. It would be foolish and perhaps negligent if Fairfax County did not do the same.

          • Greg

            Dubious means hesitating or doubting, so it’s the perfect word. 36 staff at the local EDA at an annual cost of at least 8 millions dollars and what do we have to show for it?

            Rationalizing and criminalizing (dubious) spending because everyone else does it? There are no words.

            This is how we end up with a four-billion dollar-budget with not a penny to be cut anywhere…

            Silly me for thinking we are a commonwealth. Clearly that’s a bogus word since it appears it’s every Virginia political entity and subdivision and their EDA’s for themselves.

            Others (in the flyover no less) have figured this out, but not here.


          • John Higgins

            I refrain from one-on-one verbal jousts in this forum, and as tempting as it is to break that pattern, suffice it to make two points about my comments:

            1. I didn’t say the value of an EDA is beyond question, I said I felt it was too strong a term – in its common usage pejorative sense. Indeed, I don’t have a standard for evaluating the cost-benefit of the FCEDA. $8 million per year is a big number (which I have not fact-checked). The taxes and economic stimulation from just a few of its success (VW, Hilton, KPMG, and Northrop Grumman) are relevant, but you get the point.

            2. I was correcting a factual error in you earlier statement that Fairfax is the only Virginia county having an EDA. I named three others. I cited two other counties that have an economic development organization (county departments) but have not taken the legislative route to organize them as authorities.

            Other comments were gratuitous, but I believed thoughtful readers might want to consider that bringing industry to a community is a zero-sum game. Those who don’t play, take the leftovers.

            Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

          • Greg

            I don’t get the point. There have been just as many, if not far more, EDA losses, and huge ones at that. Surely you recall a company called Exxon-Mobil that decamped for Texas. A company called MCI that ended up in DC. The entire telecommunications sector that vanished. Tandem and Telenet and Sperry. Sprint and Nextel both once headquartered in Reston. A company called AOL that moved from Fairfax to Loudoun, and a research sector that hobbles along at best with the Howard Hughes billions at work in Loudoun. And yet our cloistered EDA gets bigger and spends ever more year after year. Dubious is too weak a term.

            Hilton is a holding company with small employee / financial footprint in Fairfax County. VW is no Toyota and is a morally corrupt company, and the rest have been here or were essentially bribed to stay or both.

            Dubious use of ever-more scarce (according to government) tax resources but ever higher taxes for the masses, regardless of the madness of having one EDA compete against another in the same commonwealth without doubt or fancy words.

            Some here do have a habit of marginalizing others’ opinions here and shaming those who question government and quasi-government expenses and actions of any kind.

            Worse, the constant rationalization of doing something because: others do it, someone else has vetted it, it’s always been done that way, etc. is why our government is so broken.

            Surely you do recall the ACE booklets (another unwanted copy of which arrived in our mail Saturday and is in today’s trash).

            Take the best and final, thoroughly vetted, offer from professional developer JAG, encourage it to provision (as little as possible) retail as condo ownership or take the failed Brutalist festering leftovers for another decade or two.

          • Tammi Petrine

            Greg, thanks for your response. As configured now, the development is primarily TH’s. Why would you think TH’s would have empty nesters and/or families with no children? Empty nesters want one level living; not TH’s. TH’s do have tons of children normally. If someone is a DINK (Double Income/No Kids) those folks prefer to live in more amenity driven places and certainly want some retail close by.

            Currently JAG envisions 150 units on this small plot. Could the plan be better with bigger buildings, more trees and open space and different types (condo’s vs.TH’s)? Very possibly. Combined with existing neighbors and paid parking at RTC, the market is hot in Reston for a great deli/grocery. I’m not espousing huge retail square footage but a combination of decent spaces to make TO come alive. Simon’s dream was residential above, retail below. I don’t think that is a hard and fast rule but good retail is a boon to everyone and is what the neighbors want. I would travel to TO for a good deli and so would folks in surrounding communities as well as neighbors. (BTW, I did frequent the old Giant A LOT before it disappeared. It was super convenient on our way to and from errands and friends in N. Reston.)

            To say that retail could never prosper at TO is flawed. If it is done right and with the right stores, it can and will especially in this era where most adults are working stressing, long hour jobs and want the convenience of ready-made food or deli fare and staples such as bread and milk.

            The current JAG plan show zero added retail construction. They are re-purposing the office building and old Curves/7-11 space and that’s it. That is not sufficient and an actual decrease in space from what was proposed before when the plan was for 7500 PLUS the office building owned by others.

          • Greg

            Tammi — do you have any statistics to support your assertions as to where and how people live today? Not how and where they lived in the 1960’s, but today.

            And your reference to “amenity[-]driven places” surely must be a pun (driven, get it?) since Reston has since the beginnings in the 1960’s been sold as the most amenity-rich suburb on Earth, no?

            As for “retail nearby,” there is plenty of (successful) retail nearby (including many delis) easily accessible by walking, biking, hiking, driving, bussing, metroing, Ubering, hitchhiking, and even on-lining. What more would the contemporary Tall Oaks townhouse resident desire?

            Retail is not going to succeed at Tall Oaks (as asserted by the professionals several times over) no matter how you spin it. You, me and your like have had 40 years to support retail at Tall Oaks but we all know that it’s failed. Moving the boxes and jiggling their sizes is no more than re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

            Retail has failed at Tall Oaks, and this is a long-standing fact. It’s too bad that your and our custom did not sustain Giant and the many other businesses that left, but neighbors wanting something and supporting and sustaining it don’t seem to work well at all at Tall Oaks, do they?

            So, please accept the challenge, buy the property from JAG and put your pocketbook where your mouth is. You certainly posit yourself as an expert on all things modern and retail and residential, so there is no doubt you will be wildly successful with your development dollars and dwellings and delis and show the rest how wrong they were.

          • Tammi Petrine

            Where, pray tell, are all the successful deili’s, Greg? Easily accessible? Ha! That’s rich! Ah, Greg, you are not a person from the neighborhood. You are a developer’s dream mouthpc. ‘Retail is not going to succeed’ because a ‘professional’ on the developer’s team says it will not? Anyone with sense knows that a marketing contractor will produce the answer that the developer is paying for: Recent case: the septage dump off of Hunter Mill Road that turns out to be $700K MORE expensive than renovating the existing site in tony Great Falls. Too bad that little fact was withheld from the public meeting, eh? We should have swallowed that lie because a ‘professional’ told us and skewed the presentation?

            Another issue not yet revealed: Time after time folks are stating that much retail is being planned for the corridor so TO doesn’t need any. Swell for the new residents of the corridor (walkability) but of no consequence for further away Restonians as little if any corridor parking is planned. The RE is just too valuable. So are TO residents supposed to walk to the corridor and tote back their groceries in all manner of weather? Also a laughable prospect.

            Walkability. It’s a concept. Village Center: also a concept. Reston: planned community = a concept. The Reston community has endured approval of project after project with little concern for impact on the neighborhoods or betterment of the whole because “density is good.” Tall Oaks is designed to be a mixed use area. We are asking for enough retail of a variety attractive to new residents as well as old. My mouth is exactly where it should be… Defending a neighborhood and a community from a lousy plan that will serve no one but JAG.

          • Greg

            Tammi, please. You do not know me and for you to assume who I am, whom I represent or anything else is ignorant at best.

            Take the fully vetted JAG offer or buy the property yourself and go at it with your tired, proven-to-fail ideas.

    • Ewwwwwh!

      Get your lips off Sheri’s ass Tammie– blech, blech, blech. Your and your crowd are gross!


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