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Residents Worry Upgraded Plaza in South Lakes Village Center Will Attract Teens, Noise

by Fatimah Waseem April 18, 2018 at 12:00 pm 70 Comments

To the dismay of some area residents, a series of upgrades — including an amphitheater, fire pit and ping pong tables — are being considered for South Lakes Village Center (11120 South Lakes Drive).

The project by village center owner Chevy Chase Land Company is intended to activate space at the edge of Lake Thoreau between Cafesano and Red’s Table.

But residents near the center and merchants worry the new space will become a magnet for youth from Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School. The project would also increase noise — a concern that already rattles some residents as sound travels down the lake.

Reston Association’s Design Review Board deferred a decision on the project Tuesday night to allow the development team, which includes engineering firm Kimley-Horn, to revise the plan. The DRB could consider updated plans at its next meeting.

Mary Sapp, president of the Lakeport Cluster Association, said the project would increase noise levels, raise safety concerns due to unsupervised teens, and increase the chance of vandalism of the plaza’s “very attractive features.” Sapp said three of the cluster’s 11 bollard lights were destroyed, three were knocked over and two Safeway carts were thrown into the lake from the dock over the last 15 months.

We assure you that Lakeport Cluster is not ‘anti-students’; a number of our residents have children (or grandchildren who visit often), and several are actively involved with South Lakes High School,” Sapp wrote in a statement to the DRB.

Charles Foster, a Lakeport Cluster resident, called the project an “unprecedented experiment in Reston” that would attract 3,400 young adults within walking distance, creating an environment that “ allows anyone at any time to engage in any type of activity.”

Upgrades include an amphitheater, new lighting, a chalkboard wall, outdoor ping pong, lounge and plaza seating area and outdoor ping pong. A new, back-lit sign is also proposed for the center.

Gil Blankespoor, a resident in the Lakeport Cluster, questioned how the property owner will maintain the upgraded site.

“We know Chevy Chase Land’s heart is in the right place. They did a fabulous job last year with the new landscaping, and their plan is to build community activities. But what they propose is in the wrong place — far too close to residential developments,” Blankespoor said.

The development team said they were open to removing the gaming features of the site, including ping pong tables, in order to allay community concerns. DRB members also suggested removing outdoor cushions, which could end up in the lake, and adding more shaded trees.

In response to concerns about attracting area teens, Michael Casey of Kimley-Horn said the plaza was open to “all generations” and should not exclude any demographic. By design, the commercial plaza is placed next to residential development, he said.

“This is what community is,” he said.

Given the “brutal reality” of the retail world, activating the space is necessary to ensure the long-term viability of the center, said Tom Regnell, president of Chevy Chase Land Company.

“We are interested in that very long-term view,” Regnell said.

Photos via handout

  • Guest

    As a regular user of South Lakes Village Center, I can say I have never had a bad experience with the many high school and junior high school students that visit the center mid-afternoon. In fact, their energy is infectious for this old warhorse. Moreover, I think anything that improves that concrete slab with steel picnic tables that passes for a “plaza” in the center would be an improvement. It is uninhabitable mid-summer.

    That said, I don’t think we want kids or adults playing ping pong at midnight. Some reasonable management of these changes will have to be put into effect.

  • Sam

    I would love some updates to the plaza. It’s a bit uninviting in its current state. I would think managing loose items like ping pong balls and cornhole bags would be a pain for management but I think the overall plan is great. I echo other sentiments that I’ve never had issues with teenagers here or anywhere else but I’m not there during peak teen hours either.

  • Jared

    Cornhole, nice seating, and fire features would be a well-balanced upgrade. The fears of raising the risk of vandalism are silly. The recent vandalism is a symptom of the area being dead. If the area is more active, it would deter vandalism because there’d be too many witnesses.

    • E

      Jared, everybody knows the best way to have a safe community is for everyone to lock themselves in their houses until the end of their days. On the few awful occasions they have to go into public they should view everyone with unwavering suspicion. It’s these things that make Reston great.

  • League of Legends

    It appears a dark and gloomy picture is painted to halt any progress already being made at South Lakes.

    1. “Sound travels across the lake” – true, but that also applies to the ducks and geese that raise their voices in the wee morning hours

    2. “three of the cluster’s 11 bollard lights were destroyed, three were knocked over and two Safeway carts were thrown into the lake from the dock over the last 15 months.” Although I also see this as a problem its more spin than reality – the majority of the 3400 students are well behaved and peaceful. They bring a lot of money into the plaza as well as positive vibes and energy. We all know the bad apples by name!

    In my high school days we played ping pong every day, sometimes using books notepads or hands to move the ball. My favorite was the elimination match where 15 to 20 of us would be playing on a single table with only the best two going into the finals. This just my opinion but its prob better kids being outside having fun than subscribing to the dull pleasures of multi media games. Plus the vendors are happy to see them!

  • Mike M

    Ensure the viability of the plaza? So the merchants don’t want this, but you know what’s best? The biggest problem at this plaza is parking. That erodes business.

    • Richard

      Parking has always been a pain there, but it hardly erodes business since most of the spaces seem full at peak times.

      • Mike M

        Right. And when the parking lot is full, additional customers cannot come in. Many start going elsewhere. This is not a controversial point. It’s why they expanded parking not so long ago. But still, it’s difficult to park at times. We don’t all bike just yet. Yet there are empty storefronts. So who would want to put their business there. My point is businesses lose clients when clients can’t park. “Activating” that space with ping pong won’t do anything to keep the plaza viable. The viability of the plaza was questioned not by me, but in the article. (Wowz, it’s like you have to ‘splain everythin’ in here!)

        • Richard

          True, it seems you do have to explain everything. Since you seem to agree that parking is maxed out, then it follows that they can draw more people only by public transit or by foot. Making the plaza more inviting for students and the local residents encourages the latter.

          • Mike M

            And your point is . . . Middle Schoolers will make up for clientele turned off by the parking limitations. Well, I am doubting that.

        • Scott

          This is a fair point. Ppl loitering in the plaza, and not in stores, will make the parking congestion issue worse. It’s quite possible this impacts business negatively.

    • E

      “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded” – Yogi “Mike M” Berra

    • Why do you bother?

      Who said the merchants don’t want it?

      • Mike M

        The article says that. But, as usual, not much back-up. I can imagine it’s true.

  • Drive By Critic

    Firepit? So we can make burnt offerings to the gods?
    It will likely turn into one giant waste receptacle filled with cigarette butts and Subway wrappers .But give it a try..LOL

    • The Constitutionalist

      Allah be praised.

  • John Higgins

    It would have been nice to see the headline, “Owner Proposes Bringing Life to Village Center”. The honking and hissing that accompanies any change is hardly news. Chevy Chase Land Company should be applauded for this initiative.

    • Richard

      Exactly! Well done, Chevy Chase Land Company. You are the kind of property owner we need more of in Reston. We can use one fewer Boston Properties.

  • Dizzy Diz

    Oh my god! Not teenagers! I’m quite certain that a plaza face lift will encourage mass rioting and sound levels that will surely shatter windows in the lakeside homes. If you think your lamp and grocery carts aren’t safe now, wait until all those crazy teenagers start flocking in to sit by the lake and enjoy some lunch off campus.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Parent of teens here.

    We were eating at Red’s or Cafesano one day (we eat at both; can’t remember which it was) when we happened to spy some younger kids throwing someone’s stuff (one of theirs) into the lake. For fun, best we could tell. I would strongly suggest NOT having loose objects such as balls and cushions at that location. They will get thrown in. Keep any loose recreational supplies – if it’s done at all – far from the lake.

    Some shade on that plaza – maybe tinted glass, so as to cut the heat of the sun and keep off rain/snow but not cut the view – would be great.

    Would love improved amenities in general, particularly ones that appeal to teens who are killing time between after-school activities or between school and getting picked up. They’d like something fun to do. Would also love improved parking at that center; it’s awful and very tight.

    • rogermortimer

      I think the robberies at the Sunoco station in the shopping center (one occurred in early 2018 and others have occurred in the past) should be of greater concern. Yes, I concede serious crime happens most everywhere, but serious crime destroys the quality of life, even if just psychologically. I am not sure rambunctious teens are a problem, as just some common sense and reasonable enforcement can keep that in check.

  • Anonymous Person

    We’re going to make oysters go extinct with all the pearl clutching going on about the possibility of TEENS using a public space.

    Think of the oysters. Stop raising such a fuss.

    • Would you like it by your home

      Bet that the people saying bring it on don’t live near there. Some people who don’t live on lakes love sticking it to people with homes on the lakes. For those of you who don’t live on the lake, how would you like games and yelling by your backyard, especially late at night? Many of those condos/townhouses are really close to that area.

      And noise travels much farther and more easily over water. We live quite far from Lake Thoreau but can hear noise on the lake more easily than activities much closer to our house. I don’t blame the homeowners at all. Good for management to want to do something, but they can beautify the area in a simpler way without such a disruptive plan.

      • Why do you bother?

        Some people who live on lakes love sticking it to people without homes on the lakes.

        Fixed that for ya

      • Scott

        Yes. Stick it to those ppl on the lakes! I hate them….b/c they live on a lovely drainage pond that collects all of our dirty runoff. Thank you for finally bringing this ugly jealousy to the surface so we can begin to heal as a community.

        • The Constitutionalist

          It’s beyond jealousy, it’s full blown envy at this point.

        • Why do you bother?

          No one is being stuck, including the lakefronters.

  • Wings!!

    The firepits and ping pong tables sound nice, but if you ask me, what that area real needs is an open air Hooters.

    • Scott

      Thank you for not disappointing! This is the first thing I thought of when I started reading comments!

  • Snakeden Sam

    The shortsightedness and nimby-ism of the Lakeport Cluster neighbors is disgusting.

    They bought in a village center not some secluded condo project off Glade.

    DRB keep all of the features!!

    Many of us have been worried that Chevy Chase would let the South Lakes center to continue to deteriorate as happened at Tall Oaks so that the property could the be redeveloped into high-rise. Would you like that better Lakeport Cluster nynbies?

    We came to that belief because of the continued deterioration of the parking lot which is need of total re-milling and repaving and the failure to replace the many dead trees and shrubs that have been removed.

    These amenities will postpone the conversion of this center to high-rise which is a very desirable result.

    • Really?

      What nonsense. With an anchor like Safeway, CVS, restaurants and other shops, South Lakes is nothing like Tall Oaks.

      • Greg

        Yet. Tall Oaks didn’t deteriorate overnight either. And the RA did little, it anything, to enforce maintenance covenants.

    • Kris

      Why have all the tween/teen centers disappeared from Fairfax? These kids need to go somewhere to “hang”, were cost is not an issue to be admitted. These kids are silently screaming for a “hangout” spot. When I was a kid, it was the “Firehouse” in McLean, which no longer exists. The real issue is a place that tweens/teens can be kids, have a safe spot, and be able to hang with adult supervision, but not feel threatened.

  • SuperCoop1280

    As a South Lakes resident, I think this is great, I just wish they would upgrade the parking lots. It is always a mess to find parking to go to Crest, Pet Valu, etc…

    • Why do you bother?

      The only upgrade that would help would be adding more spaces. Where would you propose they would go? There isn’t any room for more parking spaces.

      • Scott

        Not exactly. It is also poorly designed and hard to navigate. It’s oddly shaped and improvements might lessen spaces which would exascerbate a different problem, but that doesn’t change the fact that the lot is poorly conceived.

        • Why do you bother?

          With that, I agree. What was the point of staggering spaces so one can’t pull through?

  • Mason Miller

    Better that kids go hang out in the woods or the tunnel by South Lakes High School than be seen.

    Grrrrr

  • Greg

    Learn your lesson from Tall Oaks…

    Redevelopment will bring at least 20 percent “workforce” housing with it.

    • cRAzy

      Redeveloping a pint-sized plaza won’t bring any workforce housing.

      • Greg

        Then how did it happen at Tall Oaks?

    • Dana

      I LOVE the idea of this. I’ve seen places like this in other cities and towns and have always envied them. And what’s wrong with adults who see kids doing stupid things to ask them to stop doing it. Kids are usually very responsive if the person asking isn’t a condescending jerk. We can all help and do our part in keeping it nice. It takes a villiage…….

      • Greg

        OK, but I am confused what you love? Tall Oaks’ demise, redevelopment, or workforce housing, or something else?

  • Confused

    “The project by village center owner Chevy Chase Land Company is intended to active space at the edge of Lake Thoreau between Cafesano and Red’s Table.”

    What does “is intended to active space” mean, or what words are missing? Would be great to have more editing from restonnow staff. (Reporters shouldn’t have to do it all.)

  • Confused

    “The project by village center owner Chevy Chase Land Company is intended to active space at the edge of Lake Thoreau between Cafesano and Red’s Table.”

    What does “is intended to active space” mean? Are words missing? (More proofreading from restonnow staff would be great in general. Reporters shouldn’t be expected to catch everything.)

    • NobodyUsesTheirRealName

      It should read activate the space. Like make it more inviting so more people go there and it becomes more active.

      • Greg

        How about “use”?

        The space (or place) is passive. It doesn’t do anything, but it can be better used or put to better use or become an activity space.

        • Why do you bother?

          “re-invigorate” is what you’re looking for.

    • Scott

      Activate…..there can you understand it now?
      I don’t think you understand how hyperlocal sites work. There is no RestonNow staff sitting around an office or otherwise.

  • Dana

    I love the idea of this. Also having games and activities, though ping pong may not be the best idea as I see a lot of balls going into the lake. I love to see all the students around and find them very respectful. And if someone sees one of them doing something stupid, why not just ask them politely to stop. Kids usually respond well if you’re not a condescending jerk. We can all do our part to help keep the place nice. It takes a village……..

  • Why do you bother?

    is intended to active space

    Can I get a verb?

    • Greg

      May I (please)…

      • cRAzy

        You can . . . but you won’t.

      • Why do you bother?

        My slang font isn’t showing up.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Isn’t ‘is’ a verb?

    • Reston Now

      Updated!

  • Why do you bother?

    “Sapp said three of the cluster’s 11 bollard lights were destroyed, three were knocked over and two Safeway carts were thrown into the lake from the dock over the last 15 months.”

    Can you say “Hire a security patrol”?

    • Greg

      Or call the cops.

    • cRAzy

      How will this get worse if the plaza is better???

      • Why do you bother?

        Exactly. It won’t. Improving the plaza = win/win.

  • Kiwimommy
  • Scott

    If people are worried about teenagers loitering in the plaza, they should be trying to get rid of Starbucks. Anyone who has been there in the afternoon knows that 3400 SL students descend on the place every afternoon when school let’s out. #firstworldproblems
    #dontupgradeourcrappyconcreteplaza

  • Scott

    If all of the NIMBY folks are worried about noise from a fire pit and ping pong, wait until the ultimate plan is enacted to redevelop SL plaza so that businesses front the lake to take advantage of the waterfront.

  • youhavegottobekiddingme

    Friend, either you’re closing your eyes
    To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
    Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
    By the presence of a ping pong table in your community

  • Michael Gandolfo

    I really hate that people in this town come up with the most bogus reasons to resist change. These people would rather see our town stagnate than encourage economic growth and enhanced living conditions.

  • Craig Smebakken

    I grew up in Reston and have lived there on and off since 1970. As a whole, Reston and it’s communities were built around these centers for the purpose of human interaction and the theory of live, work and play. I know one opponent to these upgrades quoted in the meeting is well known to have called the police 3 or 4 times an evening on Lakeside Inn and Red’s Table because of people dining a bit too loud on their patios…..I would ask these folks that live in Lakeport Cluster why they would have moved and continue to stay in a location so close to a Center that had people interacting if that’s not what they wanted? Why not pick somewhere else in the woods or away from that human activity if they couldn’t handle it? There are plenty of other places on the lake, (or not on the lake), in Reston that they could find to live with the peace and serenity they seem to be looking for…..or maybe they want a wall? Last time I looked, Lakeport Cluster is not a gated development. There are plenty of those around the area as well….just maybe not on a lake, or Reston….

  • Chuck Morningwood

    So, why not just put those amenities in the middle of the parking lot? Take out about 20% of the parking spaces and turn it into a pavilion. People could collect there, and there would be witnesses ALWAYS.

  • Aileen

    This 40-something will be ecstatic at having a great space to enliven that soulless shopping center. The kids already hang out there in droves anyway.

  • Waitwhat

    I support pre-teens and teens. Their exuberance can make them noisy at times in groups, but they respond well if you request that they turn it down a notch. And these kids are under all kinds of pressure. If SL Center can be a nice, safe space for them, that’s a good thing.

  • CK

    Adding corn hole and ping pong focuses on only a narrow age segment of our community. On the other hand, enhancing the area as a lovely little park, with lake views, complete with benches and shade trees would be a nice welcome to the shopping center. Not enough people get a change to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake. This will attract folks of all ages and families to a little retreat.

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