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Last Chance for Tall Oaks, API Building Comes Tuesday

by Karen Goff July 26, 2016 at 10:00 am 3 Comments

Empty Tall OaksFront of API BuildingTwo items on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ agenda for Tuesday may mean the end of two structures that have stood in Reston for more than 40 years.

Jefferson Apartment Group’s (JAG) application to raze most of Tall Oaks Village Center and turn it into a mostly residential neighborhood will have a public hearing at the supervisors’ meeting (Fairfax County Government Center) at 3:30 p.m.

JAG’s plan for 156 homes (townhomes, 2-over-2 townhomes and multifamily units), 8,500 square feet of retail space and about 6,000 square feet of office was recommended for approval by the Fairfax County Planing Commission last week.

If the Board of Supervisors approved JAG’s plan it will be the first time an original Reston Village Center will essentially disappear.

Tall Oaks thrived in Reston’s early days, but as the community expanded, so did retail options. The center has been failing since Giant Foods left in 2007. The center is now only 13 percent occupied and other anchor stores have no interest in opening at the center, JAG reps have said.

The retail planned for the new Tall Oaks will be neighborhood-serving small shops such as fast food, coffee shops, and dry cleaning, though many residents are still lobbying for at least a small food store.

The new Tall Oaks will also have green space, an outdoor amphitheater, outdoor fitness stations and a children’s play area incorporating natural elements. See the county staff report, including development conditions, for more details.

Meanwhile, the supervisors will also be making a ruling on the future of the Marcel Breuer-designed former home of the American Press Institute. That public hearing is at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Brutalist building on Sunrise Valley Drive was home to the API from 1974 to 2012. It has been empty and for sale ever since.

Seakas Homes has been working for more than a year on a plan to build 34 townhouses and 10 condos on the wooded spot where the API building now stands. However, as the plans approached their date with the Fairfax County Planning Commission last month, a grassroots effort of architectural historians and former API staffers lobbied to save the building.

Library supporters have also asked the county to consider it as a new spot for the Reston Regional Library, which is the county already has $10 million in bonds for construction.

The API building is the only Breuer-designed building in Virginia.

The planning commission reached a tie vote (4-4) on Sekas Homes’ plans in June. The commission sent it to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation for denial. However, county rules say there must be a majority, so the commission voted again last week. They sent it to the supervisors a second time — this time with a 7-4 majority for denial.

Will the supervisors agree? Stay tuned.

Photos: Top, Tall Oaks; Bottom, API Building

  • Mike M

    “[O]ther anchor stores have no interest in opening at the center, JAG reps have said.”

    Not under the terms and conditions JAG is offering. I contend that JAG and their predecessor always intended to have this converted to residential for their own best interests. For new ideas in what can constitute an “anchor store” see the most recent Businessweek.

    I don’t care what happens here. I just wish the approvers genuinely worked to mitigate the additional burden any new development imposes upon the community. That would involve planning which doesn’t really happen in Fairfax. I assume this will be approved.

    The API building might just be a longer and more entertaining story.

  • 30yearsinreston

    Regardless of the cost, These architectural gems must be preservd for future generations
    The conplement the drab colors so prevalent in Reston
    Besides, the lack of lighting means that these bunkers won’t intrude on the serenity of the woods

  • Greg

    Tear them both down. Both have had many years to adapt and find appropriate tenants and uses and both have failed.

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