Back by popular demand, Reston Then and Now takes a look at Hunters Woods Village Center — the people’s choice with 38.8 percent of the vote in last week’s poll.
Like with some of the other village centers, Fairfax County’s Historic Imagery Viewer shows wild spurts of growth from the 1970s through the 2000s before tapering off.
The center was first approved in 1965 as the second village center, following the success of the Lake Anne Village Center. According to a comprehensive history of the site by Northern Virginia Digital History Archive, the development was designed to be a mix of residential, retail and professional uses that would as one of several village centers that would be just as accessible by foot or bike as it would be by car.
Construction began in 1971, and by 1972, the first stores started opening. The grand opening was celebrated with an Elizabethan-themed fair.
But problems began to emerge for the center within the decade. By 1978, the surrounding area saw robbery rates 25 percent higher than the rest of Fairfax County and a series of sexual assaults in the area diminished the utopian allure. Despite the crime wave, rents continue to go up, and local leaders began to recognize that the development was not as ideal for business as initially imagined.
While the aerial photography showed the site continuing to grow, behind the scenes there were several changes in ownership and — as was the case with other village centers — competition from newer shopping centers across Reston and Herndon that were starting to draw customers away.
By the late 1990s, it was widely recognized that the Hunters Woods Village Center was not the vibrant community hub it had once been hoped to be. In 1997, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a $14 million redevelopment plan.
Between 1990 and 2002, most of the original buildings were demolished and replaced with more modern retail, including Safeway as an anchor tenant. The Safeway is still there, though it recently lost its SunTrust bank. The site has remained largely stagnant since then and changed hands in 2010.
Its addition to a rundown of potential spots for new residential development in a 2017 list put together by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning means that changes for the site could be on the horizon.