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Op-Ed: Wheelock Contemplates Grand Park, Open Space for All

by RestonNow.com September 20, 2018 at 10:15 am 22 Comments

This is an op/ed submitted by Wheelock’s Dan Green and Steve Coniglio, the company’s local partner. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. No development plans for Hidden Creek Country Club have been formally proposed to the county. If you wish to submit an opinion piece, email [email protected]

When Wheelock Communities purchased Hidden Creek Country Club in October 2017, we immediately recognized the special character of Reston and the need to include the community in exploring all the possibilities for the future of the private golf club.

From the day we purchased Hidden Creek, we have been open and honest about our intentions to work in partnership with the Reston community and club members to explore potential changes to the property that could provide the Reston community with additional public amenities, civic spaces, enhanced environmental benefits and new housing choices.

With that idea and Bob Simon’s Founding Principles of Reston in mind, Wheelock engaged the community by establishing a Focus Group to gain the perspective from a broad-based group of approximately 20 Reston residents that included representation from Rescue Reston, Reston Association, Reston Community Center, Hidden Creek Country Club members, nearby residents and other stakeholders in Reston.

We hired the best local firm, LandDesign, and a national land planning expert, John Sather of Swaback Partners, to work with the Focus Group. We gave both LandDesign and John Sather “free rein” to work with the group to ensure there were not any preconceived notions about the future of the property.

During the four interactive sessions, discussions centered on how the property could benefit the Reston community by creating significant public open space versus its current private use, providing public amenities to fulfill unmet community needs, rejuvenating the environmental condition of the stream areas and providing a mix of diverse housing, including the potential for senior housing and affordable/workforce housing.

We did a lot of listening during these sessions. We understand there is a group of residents that prefers Hidden Creek remain a private golf club available to its members. We also heard from the Focus Group the importance of public open space and the desire for this open space to be accessible to all Reston residents, not just the Hidden Creek Country Club members and those utilizing the portion of the Blue Trail that traverses the property. Improving the environmental condition of the land, removing the “road from nowhere” from the Comprehensive Plan and creating additional housing choices all were mentioned during this process.

Taking all this information, we challenged our team to think “big” on a special public element. In effect, we began by doing what few others do… we began by looking at public open space as the predominant part of the property.

At the final meeting of the Focus Group, the team presented a vision for a world-class, 100-acre Grand Park that the entire Reston community would be able to enjoy and shape. In creating this vision, our team examined other signature parks such as Merriweather Park in Columbia, Md., and Prospect Park in New York City. The vision presented included both passive and active recreational amenities, an indoor tennis facility, the Blue Trail and other trails providing community connectivity as well as cultural elements that adhere to Bob Simon’s Principals for Reston.

The Grand Park preserves more than 60 percent of the site as public open space. With additional trails and open spaces included within the development areas, as much as 75 percent could be open space. The remaining land would be planned for a variety of housing, some of which will help meet Reston’s needs for senior, workforce and affordable housing to continue Reston’s heritage of being an inclusive community. The exact number of homes has not been discussed as we are in a conceptual stage. However, we can say the housing, if approved, would be a mix of townhouses, single family and multi-family homes.

Reston is a place like no other. The Grand Park idea further reinforces that, making Reston one of the finest communities of our time.

We firmly believe in an open, public process and working in a partnership with the community to envision the future of the golf course. We look forward to continuing the discussion.

File photo 

  • Donald

    Mr. Green and Mr. Coniglio,

    Your words sound wonderful. Your intentions however… are misplaced, if not disingenuous, to our Founder’s guiding principles.

    We saw your true colors long ago, with the land and property purchases you’ve made.

    Be upfront and honest with the community. You wish to redevelop the area to suit your needs — under the auspices of “we know what’s best for Reston”. Please stop, and recognize the community your dealing with!

    The golf course was zoned as a golf course, it will remain as a golf course. If you don’t see any profit in the existing model, then sell the land to the state or to the county and let them run it as a regional golf course. Or, sell it to a golf course management company that really wants to successfully run a beautiful private golf course and club.

    Here’s the deal — it remains a golf course… always!

    Donald

    • Reston Resident

      Golf is dying. You can try to fight the trend, but in the end these courses are going to die. They aren’t particularly interesting courses and expensive to maintain. You can fight over what to do with the land, but keeping them as golf courses isn’t going to work.

      • 30yearsinreston

        Its not about golf
        Or are you too dim to realize it

      • OneReally

        Golf isn’t dying but poorly ran courses with overpriced memberships will.

      • Donald

        Golf isn’t necessarily dying, especially in this area. Yes, there was a glut of new golf course development happening at the time of the recession, and thereafter. There have been a number of closures in other markets.

        The Tiger mania helped a lot too. So, the industry has made some significant adjustments for sure. But, it isn’t dying.

        Hidden Creek could be successfully owned and managed using a number of different business models. But it would have to be run by an organization that is actually successful in owning and managing golf courses and is actually interested in doing so with HCCC.

        Donald

      • Umust B Kidding

        Wrong!

  • Drip

    I’m always skeptical of this type of PR. Throw out the typical pandering references to workforce housing and namedropping of various groups, and what the company is describing does somewhat, kinda-sorta resemble Bob Simon’s original vision for village centers, albeit minus the retail. The devil’s in the details and we currently only have platitudes, but if Wheelock’s actual submission and design resembles a village center ala Simon’s vision and not South Lakes, North Point or, ugh, Tall Oaks, then I have no problem with Wheelock dropping the golf course and making some money. But again, Wheelock didn’t purchase this property to be good stewards of the community. They want a solid return on their investment. This nice-guy approach, likely a result of research into how Reston National played out, will fade very quickly if the tangible designs do not match the utopia described here.

  • 30yearsinreston

    APPROVED!

  • wasINWDC

    This sounds like a good faith effort by the new owners (100 acre grand park sounds pretty awesome to me). Of course, developers typically garner this kind of input when they realize they’ll encounter considerable pushback & obstacles from the community – which is the case with Hidden Creek. Heavy involvement by the community from various groups who are truly interested in the well being of Reston is vital to keeping developers honest, and instrumental in preventing bad developments that destroy communities. So far, this sounds good … but what matters more than anything is the final approved plan and holding government officials’ feet to the fire during every step of this process.

  • tattler

    There was another large company in this area (their name escapes me) who also promised to take the land they owned and do wonderful things with it. I believe they too told us they intended to stay true to Robert SImon’s vision; reinvest some of their profit back into the area; and make it a ‘premier destination’. Damn, what is their name?

    • 30yearsinreston

      BPX

  • Robert Mowbray

    What impact will these plans have on the RA requirement that all development not result in decreased tree cover or increased storm water runoff?

    • 30yearsinreston

      RA are superfluous

  • 30yearsinreston

    Whenever Saint Bobs ‘vision’ is invoked, we know we are getting a bad deal
    Hudgins is gushing that more workforce housing is proposed
    ‘Work, Live, Pay’ is the new mantra
    No prizes for guessing who pays for the additional schools and lack of infrastructure

  • Michael Shapiro

    Spare us the platitudes. Wheelock never had any intention of operating a golf course.

  • Umust B Kidding

    The Reston plan calls for HCCC to REMAIN a golf course. If the community and the county need to go to court again to protect Reston’s golf courses, LET’S DO IT!

  • cRAzy

    Wait a minute!

    I thought you, Wheelock, just went through an “impartial” focus group process to generate and discuss a number of alternatives, including keeping the golf course. Most of the Reston residents in those groups opposed any development.

    And you are suppose to present your ideas (NOT your decisions) to the RA Board at its 9/27 meeting. (https://www.reston.org/Portals/3/2018%20GOVERNANCE/Final%20Packet%2009-27-18.pdf) Now you have just told the entire Reston community and the Reston plan to f**k off so you can pursue your greedy goal.

    Go to H**L–and take Hudgins with you!

  • Terry Maynard

    “Open space for all” does not mean “all open space,” especially a golf course.

  • Notafool

    The Texas boys from Wheelock must believe that Virginia residents are fools when they say they had “no preconceived notions of what to do with the property” when they bought it. At the Hidden Creek member’s meeting, I believe a questioned was asked to the authors of the OP-ED of “wouldn’t you be considered failures if you couldn’t get the Hidden Creek property rezoned residential?”. The Wheelock reps reluctently replied “yes” they would be. What liars. Now they take that same comment to the public expecting everyone else in Fairfax County to believe it. I guess it is easier to lie when you don’t have to face Q&A and look people in the eyes when answering. Now they want everyone to believe that it was the community focus groups that led them to the conclusion that it would be best to build new homes on the golf course. Sorry Wheelock, we Virginians can see right through that story.

    The Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan states that “Reston National and Hidden Creek will remain as golf courses”. Wheelock knew that fact when they purchased the property. I guess in Texas you can provide the proper incentives in a quid pro quo manner and get what you want as a real estate developer. In the meantime, the Hidden Creek golf course resembles a cow pasture and has deteriorated significantly since purchased by Wheelock. Herndon Centennial, a public course, looks like Augusta compared to Hidden Creek. I suggest that Reston Now take some pictures of holes #1, #4, #6 , #10, #11, #12, and #13 to see how much Wheelock cares about green space.

    Wheelock expected a standing ovation from the membership when they announced that they were investing $300K into the club. In reality, the membership really doesn’t care about new paint and carpet…just the condition of the golf course. The only standing ovation Wheelock will receive is when they resell Hidden Creek to someone that cares about maintaining/enhancing the beautiful golf course property that exists in Reston.

    • Hidden Member 30+ years

      Hidden Creek is in great shape. I would love to see current pictures of these particular holes! Grounds department does an excellent job with the resources they are given.

  • Hidden Creek Members

    Hidden Creek is perfectly sustainable in the short and long term as a golf course and country club. Currently, Hidden Creek is recruiting new members and advertising how wonderful it is for tennis, golf, swimming, weddings. In the long term, the owners have every right to try to change the use to housing if they can get approval to do so.

    Even though Hidden Creek is nominally private, the course and facilities are not exclusive for use by members. The facilities can be booked for nonmember events by all members of the community. If you doubt this, call and ask if you can book a wedding or a golf outing. The blue trail cuts through the course and shortcuts through the grounds would certainly be disrupted by construction.

    Even if you are a resident who does not want to become a member of a country club or rent the facilities, the club’s existence enhances the value of home ownership in Reston. Montgomery County has dozens of public and private golf courses, but Fairfax has a small number by comparison. If you think a little more park space is what Reston needs, I would ask if you have grown bored of all the great parks in the area – Lake Fairfax, Sugarland Run, Difficult Run, Tamarack, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Colvin Run Mill, Walker, Hunter Woods? We have two incredible national parks nearby in Great Falls and Wolf Trap. I am skeptical that Reston needs thousands of units of condos and some token park space that cannot be developed because it is below the flood plane to make it a great place to live. Rest assured, whatever Wheelock donates back is either land they cannot put houses on, or is otherwise the bare minimum they think they can give to get zoning approval.

    It would be a shame to substitute the vision and interests of an out of state corporation standing to make hundreds of millions from development over the interests of all of Reston.

    • Lynne Mulston

      Hidden Creek Members have hit the nail on the head here! Wheelock is doing their best to drive a wedge into the Reston community and most specifically the Lake Anne / Tall Oaks and North Course community as well as the membership of Hidden Creek. The Reston community is UNITED in protecting and defending both the north and south courses.

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