Amidst Community Concern, County Board Approves Campus Commons Project

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Campus Commons on Tuesday — the first major redevelopment project in a transit-oriented area in Reston near established neighborhoods.  Although community criticism pushed developer TF Cornerstone to amend its plan, citizens and resident groups remained concerned about the scale and impact of the 12-acre development.

TF Cornerstone plans to redevelop 1900-1902 Campus Commons Drive with two residential towers with 656 units, an office building, and seven public parks. Two office buildings will remain on the site.

The scale of the project — as well as a controversial proposed on-grade pedestrian crossing at Wiehle Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road — prompted the eruption of community consternation and the formation of Rescue Sunrise Valley, a community group that pushed the developer to scale back the site.

Last month, TF Cornerstone shifted roughly 86,550 square feet from an office building near Sunrise Valley Drive to a residential building and reduced its height from 12 to seven stories. The setback along the curb of Sunrise Valley Drive was also increased to a minimum of 50 feet.

The approval of the project highlights the challenge of transitioning the community to mass transit. Community planners rely on the hope that transit-oriented developments like Campus Commons will reduce the number of vehicles — a transition that will likely happen over time and raises questions about community impacts in the interim.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, residents said the project adds additional congestion in an area that already has high traffic volumes.

Although the developer’s plans show an on-grade crossing at the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and the toll road, TF Cornerstone will work with the county to explore three options for a pedestrian bridge. The study group, which will also represent local residents, will work for up to three years to explore the best way forward. TF Cornerstone committed to constructing the bridge of contributing $1.5 million to help finance any alternative.

Michelle Kimmel, a member of the Coalition for a Planned Reston, said that while she supports transit-oriented communities, Campus Commons does not hit benchmarks for well-planned development, especially because it is not harmonious with existing residential areas.

“We got people ending up on a pork chop in the middle of the toll road,” Kimmel said. “It’s just beyond me how this project can succeed.”

Reston Association President Cathy Baum said the project illustrates the association’s longstanding concern about high densities planned for transit station areas and the inadequacy of transportation to keep up with development.

Baum also encouraged the board to remove the on-grade crossing at Wiehle Avenue from plans “as an assurance to our members that it is truly not an option.”

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins thanked residents for their involvement in the project and said she hopes the county will work diligently to ensure the developments like Campus Commons reduce traffic in the long-term. Hudgins also noted that the county’s planning documents call for redevelopment projects like Campus Commons in the corridor of Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset. Hills Road.

Hudgins also said she hopes the developer will continue to work with residents as the project is built.

Photos via handout/Fairfax County Government

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