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Tall Oaks Plans Finally Ready to Move Forward

by Karen Goff July 5, 2016 at 10:15 am 37 Comments

The Jefferson Apartment Group is finally ready to move forward with its plans for redevelopment of Tall Oaks Village Center.

After more than a year of community meetings — and a few compromises — JAG’s plan has a public hearing date with the Fairfax County Planning Commission on July 14.

JAG bought the ailing village center in December of 2014. It is planning to build 156 residences (44 townhomes; 42 two-over-two townhomes and 70 multi-family units in two buildings); 5,809 square feet of office; and 8,584 square feet of retail.

JAG’s plan has changed several times since it first began envisioning the transformation of the property in early 2015. The first plan had about 3,000-square-feet of retail. It then expanded to 7,000 square feet, and finally, more than 8,000.

What the plan won’t include — an anchor grocery store. JAG says it has done several studies that show no grocery stores want to lease in that location. The 25,000-square-foot Giant left a decade ago, and two international grocers have since failed. The demise of the anchor space (since 2011) is part of the reason the village center is now mostly empty, JAG officials say.

However, some community members say poor center management pushed grocers out and a store would thrive if located there.

JAG’s plans for the 18-acre property also include community and open spaces. If the plan moves forward and is approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, it will be the first original Reston village center to undergo a complete transformation from retail to mostly residential.

A county planning staff report recommends approval. Here are some highlights from the report, which can be found on the planning commission website:

The retail and office will be in the two existing freestanding buildings and would likely include retail, fast food and quick-service food stores.

Community gathering spaces include: a linear green horizontally located across the center of the site with a Central Plaza in the northern area of the site; an entrance plaza at the northeast site entrance; and condominium courtyards.

The Central Plaza will consist of three areas, a Community Recreational Area, Village Promenade, and Retail Terrace.

The Community Recreational Area features both natural play elements and nature-inspired traditional playground equipment, designed to appeal to a variety of age groups. Specifically, a play area for children is provided with ornamental fencing, shade trees, and seat walls.

The Village Promenade is a key gathering space and features two hardscape promenades anchored by a sculpture or fountain element at the terminus of the two converging promenade spaces. The sculpture/fountain element is intended to be visible from both the Entrance Plaza and Linear Green to provide a distinct sense of place and arrival.

Within the promenade space, shade trees, outdoor seating, bicycle racks, and chess tables may be provided. Terraced seating is located in between the promenades, facing the sculpture/fountain feature and a community gathering area, which provides flexible space for gatherings, performances, and events.

The Retail Terrace is adjacent to the promenade and provides open air, shaded patio seating for potential café/outdoor dining or other associated retail use. Adjacent to the Retail Terrace and along the Linear Green is an additional green space containing hammocks and fitness stations that provide recreational amenities for a variety of age groups.

The Entrance Plaza/Green is located at the main entrance to the Village Center to welcome visitors into the site and is designed as an open area to preserve the views to the Central Plaza from North Shore Drive. This area contains special paving adjacent to North Shore Drive, an open lawn area, art/sculpture or fountain, seat wall, ornamental plantings, and pedestrian and bicycle paths. The Entrance Plaza/Green provides a centralized location for the bus stop and shelter and bike share facility in proximity to the retail and recreational areas of the development.

The development is subject to the County’s Affordable Dwelling Unit (ADU) Program in the Zoning Ordinance, which requires that 12 percent (5 units) of the 44 townhomes and 5 percent (6 units) of the 112 multi-family units be provided as affordable housing.

Says the report:

In conclusion, the redevelopment of the Tall Oaeks Village Center provides an opportunity for revitalization with a mix of new residential and commercial uses.

For over two years, the applicants have reached out to surrounding neighbors, the larger Reston community, and various interested individuals and groups to discuss the redevelopment of the Village Center.

The PRC Plan/SE Plat, in general, achieves the vision in the Comprehensive Plan for redevelopment of a Village Center and has followed the Comprehensive Plan guidelines and process for redevelopment of a Village Center.

Some of the modifications requested by the staff report include adjustments for privacy fences and parking requirements.

  • Ming the Merciless

    Cue the usual sputtering that “retail can succeed!” from people who never patronized the many retail stores that failed there in past decades.

    • Mike M

      Cue the I-told-you-sos from those who knew the developers wanted to remake this high density all along.

      • Ming the Merciless

        They wanted to redevelop it because it was unprofitable and we have at least 16 years experience to prove that it could never be profitable in its current strip mall form.

        I look forward to something useful and attractive being created on the site of the current useless asphalt wasteland.

        • Mike M

          I really don’t care so long as it doesn’t exacerbate the traffic in the area. But I am pretty confident the developers knew they could make more money with high density mixed use and so that is what they set out to do with the County in tow. This is not the only place where they have been planning to tear down the old and put up high density mixed use.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Traffic will be exacerbated in every scenario other than “nothing happens”. Even if they could somehow magically create a profitable strip mall on the site, as some people wish, there would be more traffic. Everyone who is accustomed to the current “dead strip mall” status quo is certainly going to be annoyed when change occurs.

          • Mike M

            Nope. There are smart ways to bring development to the road net and not-so-smart. This county generallly is not so smart, being more concerned with low income housing. I don’t know what impact this will have.

          • Ming the Merciless

            “Nope” means traffic is not going to be exacerbated if they develop the site? Okay then.

  • LakeAnne Resident

    Don’t worry it will never get there. Should be scuttled at the last minute by financing issues much like Lake Anne Redevelopment.

    • Greg

      The issue was too much section 8 housing.

    • Richard

      One can only hope.

  • RunDMC

    OK so one thing I haven’t seen addressed… what’s going to happen to the existing businesses that are there already? That’s my Paisano’s Pizza AND my favorite Pho joint… and they’re both two miles from my house!

    • CanLogicPrevail

      I heard that some of the retail currently there will be moved into the already existing building. My guess is Paisano’s will stay (they seem to be very successful in that location). Don’t know about the Pho place.

    • Nyla J.

      The pho guy already opened a second location in Herndon. Pho Dulles

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Other than the lack of a small grocery store, it sounds like a decent plan. That area really needs a grocery store.

    • Greg

      There are four grocery stores within four miles of Tall Oaks.

      • Mike M

        I haven’t measured it. But there may be three within two miles. HT, Giant, Safeway.

      • Arielle in NoVA

        South Reston/Hunters Woods’ closest: the HW Safeway; the Fox Mill Giant just down the road from that; the SL Safeway. Harris-Teeter at Spectrum, Whole Foods at Plaza America, and Food Lion on McLearen are the next closest, I think; then the Giant at Franklin Farm.

        South Reston/South Lakes-Sunrise Valley ES’ closest: same as previous, minus the last two.

        North Point area’s closest grocery stores: the NP Giant; TJ’s by Home Depot; Harris-Teeter at Spectrum. The Giant at Dranesville & 7 (barely into Sterling) is a bit farther, as are the Safeway on Elden, the MOM’s at the K-Mart center (almost opposite that Safeway), and the Whole Foods at Plaza America.

        RTC: same as previous, minus the one in Sterling – that’s a bit far. Possibly add the one at HW.

        Lake Anne area’s closest: NP Giant; TJ’s by Home Depot; Whole Foods at Plaza America; HT at Spectrum; Safeway at SL. None of these are really walkable for the Tall Oaks folks.

        https://www.google.com/search?q=grocery+store+20190&oq=grocery+store+20190#q=grocery+store+near+20190

        • Ming the Merciless

          All this is irrelevant. We have abundant experience showing that when there were grocery stores at Tall Oaks, people (including Ming himself) preferred to patronize the better stores that were further away (WF, HT, TJ) than the smaller, crappier store at TO that was closer.

  • cRAzy

    Now you can see how important (NOT!) the Comprehensive Plan/”Reston Master Plan” is in guiding/restraining development in Reston. Just lucky, I guess, that it’s not FAR 5.0 density like all the station areas will be soon.

  • RoadApples

    Curious ?:
    If indeed the Developer contractually guaranteed a long-term lease by a legitimate ‘Grocery Store’ entity; could they trade that carrot on a stick for approval of even ‘High’ rise/high density mixed residential and retail?

    • Greg

      Highly unlikely. For one, no grocery has ever succeeded at that location, so why would a developer guarantee something tested and proven to fail? Also, vetted by several professional consultants as “grocery not feasible.” Next: the location is too isolated and invisible and located on a dead-end residential street. Next: Most groceries are 10k or more square feet. Finally, there are plenty of groceries nearby most of which deliver or have pick-up service,

      • RoadApples

        Understood: The caveat being Developer takes it on the chin;lease wise with a legit grocery chain (similar situation RTC did a similar deal in their infancy with the anchor Clydes (albeit a restaurant) in exchange for a larger revenue source: a ‘HighRise’
        (your reading comprehension might be lacking) mixed retail/residential development.

        • Greg

          No, my reading comprehension is fine, thank you. What is it about the fact of groceries of all kinds failing at Tall Oaks do you not comprehend? Or the consultants’ reports?

          There can be no high rises at that location. Even I would fight that and would have countless supporters including the planning commission and the BoS.

          Moreover, JAG is attempting to correct the failure calledTall Oaks and (re)develop a small classically suburban space — not something on the scale or timeline of RTC. It’s in, demolish, build, get out and move on for developers like JAG. As I have said all along, I suspect JAG regrets this purchase and will dump Tall Oaks and walk if this best and final offer is not timely accepted.

          • RoadApples

            I originally asked a curious question .
            You obviously do not comprehend well:
            I suggested a trade off: a grocery store for a ‘High Rise’.
            Simple question.
            Respectfully understand if you don’t agree.
            But don’t give me your ole’ bulls…t
            about a grocery store succeeding or not because it could be a loss leader if indeed a HighRise would be approved.
            If the need for a grocery store is so important: then a financial tradeoff could be an equitable tradeoff .

          • Greg

            Once again, my comprehension is fine.

            Facts (and zoning and comprehensive plans) are hard for some to comprehend or accept, but they are, nevertheless, facts and plans.

            Good luck with your “curious questions” and your single-quoted capitalized things.

            If you so believe in a loss-leading grocery at Tall Oaks, go ahead and install and operate one and build an equitable high rise.

            #smfh.

          • RoadApples

            Zoning and Comp Plans are subject to change:
            At present
            Highrises/Midrises at Lake Anne and Hunters Woods and RTC.
            The great deceased Mr. Halpin of the West Group predicted Skyscrapers in Tysons circa 2040 ish:
            You have a small minded/provincial
            mindset.
            Trading a Grocery store (a mice nuts tradeoff) fot a HighRise could be a win/win for the Neighborhood and the Developer.
            Please consider becoming a 21st Century individual as opposed to a grumpy/anti-growth stick in the mud.

          • Greg

            Your attempt at rudeness and boorishness succeeds; however, please focus your studies on English,

            There will be no grocery stores at Tall Oaks.

          • RoadApples

            10-4 .
            Respectfully understand your position.
            That being said I
            believe that you still do not understand the concept of my original curious question.
            Best of good fortune to you.

          • Greg

            I thoroughly understand it.

  • Greg

    “However, some community members say poor center management pushed grocers out and a store would thrive if located there.”

    What Kool-Aid are these people consuming? NOTHING has thrived there. EVER.

    • Richard

      You’re the one who has drunk the Kool-Aid by the developers. El Manantial Restaurant was successful and wanted to stay before being pressured to leave by the management. Grocery chains came under similar pressure. Management wanted to get a big pay-out and they were successful. Now the county is abandoning a core principle of Reston – the village center – in exchange for just another high-density housing development. It’s disgusting how people like you can be played by the developers so easily.

      • Greg

        We’ve had this discussion before. Your assumptions are (still) baseless and ignore the facts and professional opinions of those hired to render fact-based analyses. I had nothing to do with them other than shake my head in disgust at the hideous concrete wasteland — Tall Oaks is DEAD, has been so for decades and will never succeed without redevelopment.

        Village centers are a quaint concept from the 1960’s. We all know they failed hern, in Columbia and in many other places.

        it’s just as disgusting that people fail to adapt to the realities of life in the 21st century and just can’t let go of failed disastrous idealistic models that never worked and will never work. Get real — better yet, if you are so disgusted, buy Tall Oaks yourself and turn it into your own wonderful 1960’s village center.

  • Maybe RA should have bought it and created a lake and built a lake house.

  • Damon Feldman

    Any idea if the parking requirements include permanent, free parking, at least for a few hours? We should avoid the Boston Properties situation if at all possible.

    • Richard

      Who cares? There won’t be anything worth visiting. The developer is only going to make a cursory gesture toward retail and public areas that justify increasing the rents/prices for their on-site residents and addressing the pathetic requirements of the county. This site will cease to be a village center and will become a housing development.

      • Greg

        As it long ago should have. It’s been nothing more than ugly concrete boxes for at least 30 years.

      • Damon Feldman

        I’ve been pretty skeptical, but 8,000 sq ft is not bad. Couple restaurants, maybe a convenience store. It’s also very different to build housing now that Wiehle East is nearby, vs back when there wasn’t much else.

        I hope they do a good enough job to make it worth hanging out for those in the area, so the pool+center work together to foster community. We’ll see.

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