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County Board Supports Proposed Soapstone Connector Route Amid Concerns about Historic Resources

by Fatimah Waseem October 3, 2018 at 12:00 pm 27 Comments

County officials seek to proceed with construction of the Soapstone Connector, a major road extension between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road, amid concerns the path of the half-mile extension would disturb potentially historically significant buildings on Association Drive.

On Sept. 25, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to support the county’s proposed route for $169 million project because buildings on Association Drive are not likely eligible a historical designation on the national register. The board’s approval responds formally to a Virginia Department of Historic Resources letter that urged the county work with the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board (ARB)  to determine if the buildings on Association are historically significant.

Earlier this year, the ARB raised concerns that the 1916 Association Drive and ten office buildings on Association Drive could be eligible for National Register of Historic Places as a historic district. The county’s environmental assessment of the property did not concur with the ARB’s analysis.

Construction of the connector, which will create a new crossing over the Dulles Corridor, is not anticipated to begin until after 2023.

Tom Biesiadny, director of the county’s transportation department, said the county was ready to pitch its proposed route in January when concerns about the historical significance of the buildings arose. After direction from state officials, the department consulted with boards, agencies, property owners and developers to determine how to proceed. Two historic studies commissioned by architectural historians offered conflicting opinions on the historical significance of the buildings, which served educational associations.

If the state’s historic resources department determines the proposed route of the Soapstone Connector impacts historic resources on the site, county officials will need to mull additional alternates to avoid disturbing any historic resources. But county officials hinted the overall discussion on the impact of possibly historically significant buildings was largely moot because the entire office park is slated for potential redevelopment as a mixed-use project. Reston’s comprehensive plan was amended in 2014 to allow high-density development in the area and property owners have long expressed eagerness to proceed with redevelopment.

“I think you’re looking at an uphill climb to preserve this area as a district,” said Frank Selden, director of the Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

Biesiadny also said the future road connection would run through the building on 1904 Association Drive, which is not likely of historical significance. The building that is likely historically significant is 1916 Association Drive and lies on the opposite side of where the connector would run through.

The board indicated overall support of the project, which it formally approved several years ago. Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the connector was desperately needed to manage traffic generated by additional redevelopment and development.

“This would be an additional north-south crossing of which we have two that are already congested and [are] desperately in need of an alternative,” Hudgins said. She also suggested the county and the developer could acknowledge the historical significance of the buildings through other means.

An attempt to defer the vote to the board’s next meeting failed.

“This is not something that hasn’t been vetted and worked through,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova.

Although the state transportation department is procuring a consultant to design the Soapstone Connector, design work cannot begin unless state officials are aware of the final road alignment.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

  • 30yearsinreston

    Developers contributing to costs ?
    Hudgins has made sure that the residents will bear the full tab

    • James

      A few days from now you are chosen to be one of the first colonists on a distant planet. “What an honor” you say to yourself! Your descendants will truly populate and care for this new world that will be all their own. 5 years from now you finally make it to planet 52J1 and after landing on the surface you decide to go for a walk. You find a beautiful stream of crystal clear water and decide to walk along the banks taking in the beauty of your new home. Eventually you come to a rocky outcropping and awkwardly pivot your body to gain better footing. Unfortunately you trip and suffer a massive head injury! As your consciousness fades away for the last time you center your blame for this mishap and your last words escape your lips “damn you Hudgins, you finally got me.”

      • tom mccauley

        Good story, though she has had us for years and years. Maybe if the overflow parking from Shadow Wood is cleared and extra traffic lane could be paved and help the proposed Soapstone “overflow”. Soapstone was demoted several years ago from a two lane to a one lane road. A bike lane emerged for those folly enough to pedal Soapstone I just created 2 traffic lanes!

        • Mike M

          James can’t wrap his brain around the fact that we have been played by a low-end townie of a Dem pol. So, he blames those who call it out.

      • 30yearsinreston

        a bit early to hit the bottle isn’t it

        Or is it the crack pipe

      • Mike M

        Scary thing is, that planet 52J1 will actually be reminiscent of a hideous worn out version of the ugliest parts Tysons Corner. He will be walking to get away. Before he trips, he will look up aghast. Horrified, he will then fall to his knees pounding at the earth. “[email protected] them,” he’ll cry! “They blew the place up!” He will have recognized the old Bowman Distillery Warehouse in the yard before him. He will be in Reston a place he did not previously recognize.

  • Guest

    Just one question: Why doesn’t the county look at the historical standing of properties well before it goes ahead and approves a project?

    • 30yearsinreston

      because Hudgins only concern is how many free houses are provided

    • Greg

      Probably because it takes the county 50 years to build a road. The road was planned before the buildings were built.

  • Reality check

    None of these buildings are historically significant. Carry on.

  • tom mccauley

    While on our honeymoon in Italy, my wife and I scaled a hill, only to discover a church built in 1384. Just sayin……historically significant buildings? Where? Reston?

    • Greg

      A very few think that some Brutalist structures near Lake Anne may qualify, but redevelopment there has mostly failed for many years despite the tens of millions of our tax dollars Dix, Penino, and, especially, Connolly and Hudgins wasted on Lake Anne.

      The only successful planned redevelopment (not yet broken ground) is of the Fellowship House, but it was so poorly built and so poorly maintained that it is one step away from condemnation.

      The details are foggy, but litigation commenced regarding mold infestation caused by a dilapidated HVAC system. Is it RELAC?

      This may be it:

      http://www.restonian.org/2008/01/

  • Mike M

    I support the connector. I think the developers in the area should have proffered into a fund to cover the costs instead of providing low-cost housing to friends of Hudgins, thimble-sized “parks,” and public “art.” The question is will this also seep massive new flows deeper into Reston? For example, will this draw evening rush hour traffic to Lawyers via Soapstone and to Reston Parkway via Glade South Lakes? The truth is there should probably be another connector supported by proffers at South Lakes and not half of the approved development should have been approved without it. If they couldn’t raise enough money to cover the required infrastructure they shouldn’t approve the development. That should be the guide.

    • Chkitout1

      Soapstone drive is already being used as a bypass for drivers to get to Lawyers Road then to Foxmill Road to avoid Reston Parkway and Ox Road. I’m sure the increase in this relatively new traffic pattern helped influence the county to put speed bumps on Steeplechase Drive. The proposed connector of Soapstone Drive to Sunset Hills will make this problem significantly worse.

      • Carol Pearson

        I live on Steeplechase Drive. There are no sidewalks. Young children live in the houses along the road. Before the speed bumps were installed, walking the dog or walking next to my grandson on his tricycle was frightening. People used to drive 45 mph. Years ago, one neighbor was hit by a car and killed. I hate speed bumps, but as a pedestrian, I feel a lot safer now that they are there. Most people slow down to drive over them. The neighbors on Steeplechase petitioned the county to install them.

        • Chkitout1

          I don’t blame you or your neighbors for wanting the speed bumps. The point I was trying to make was that with the increase in traffic congestion in the area, more and more drivers are utilizing side streets to avoid the main thoroughfares.

    • Carol Pearson

      I live on

  • dick

    from the genius level transportation engineers who took away a travel lane on South Lakes Drive for a bike lane (bikes vs. autos around 5000:1 on this stretch)…now want to build a “connector” for the (lately recognized) traffic created by developers to assist the increasing number of vehicles…they should have applied some of this engineering intellect for South Lakes before reducing its capacity…really

    • johnson

      Don’t forget that they had just put Soapstone on “a diet” by cutting those lanes too. Brilliant. Do only idiots want/get these jobs?

    • Big Drop

      I still have not seen a single bike in the South Lake lanes. I also wonder how many traffic accidents these lanes are causing?

  • Conservative Senior

    Something is fishy with approving the connector. Could it be Wheelock”s purchase of the Fannie Mae Building & wanting to develop the golf course?

    • restonista

      I smell more acquisitions by Wheelock. The Fannie Mae purchase isn’t the end. Assembling the key properties will allow them to influence FFX county in their favor.

    • Greg

      Makes sense. There’s a lot of old Reston aside Sunset Hills, so there may be more in the works.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Another Toll Road crossing is desperately needed. One at Soapstone would be great, along with one at South Lakes Drive. More crossings => less traffic per crossing AND more convenient routes at the same time.

    As far as “historically significant” – if you didn’t stand up for the Marcel Breuer API building just down the street from there and you’re standing up for these – ha. ha. ha.

    https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/06/16/marcel-breuer-building-reston-may-get-knocked-down/

  • Off_He_Goes

    What is potentially historic about the office space on Association Drive?

    • Greg

      Nothing. They are energy wasting obsolete buildings.

  • AJR

    The director of DPZ is FRED Selden not FRANK Selden.

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