As Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins concludes her two-decade-long career this month, she acknowledges that Reston is experiencing what some might call “the painful side” of growth.
Nonetheless, Hudgins, who helped expand the Silver Line into and beyond Reston and presided over major changes in the community, says that she is confident that the pipeline of projects in development will slowly transform the community into a more inclusive suburb with a thriving transit-oriented core.
As community consternation about the pace of development and supporting public infrastructure mounts, Hudgins says she is hopeful that the community’s growing pains — including increased traffic and the uncertainty of future transportation funding for projects — will slowly give way to a more welcoming community.
The arrival of the regional transit system prompted a flurry of redevelopment and development along the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station and the Reston Town Center Metro Station. Hudgins, a big believer in the promise of commuter rail, hopes residents who are alarmed by the residential towers and mixed-use projects scraping the area’s skies can learn to embrace change that is inevitable due to the Silver Line’s expansion.
“When we announced that Wegmans was coming, everyone was happy. We have to remember that you can’t build a Wegmans and not have people going back and forth,” Hudgins said. “What Reston is seeing is the benefit of financial investment. The question is, how long does the vision take to shape out?”
As she prepares to hand off her position to former Planning Commissioner Walter Alcorn, she worries that some issues are still lingering, including housing affordability.
“When we came to Reston, there was a price point that we could all live on, but that has changed,” Hudgins said. “The question is, how do you implement affordable housing? How do you fund it? And what do you build?”
As the community grows, Hudgins also hopes that the welcoming spirit that prompted her to settle into the area nearly 50 years ago, also grows.
“The challenge will be how to keep that sense of community that I bought into and that we bought into,” Hudgins says.
In addition to helping bringing rail to the area, Hudgins says she is also proud of the “little legacies” like creating a high school bus pass system for buses and Metro, as well as expanding Kindergarten from a half-day to a full-day program in 2011.
She hopes Alcorn will offer community engagement opportunities to keep Restonians updated on the holistic picture of planned development, infrastructure, and housing affordability projects.
Hudgins plans to “sit back and watch” and become a part of the community again.
“If we can get to a point where we have the diversity of transportation uses and the people who work here can live here, we will learn that we can have a really great community, even as it changes.”
She compares Reston’s pace of development to living in your home as it is being remodeled — which she weathered through even when the roof was damaged by a storm.
“In the end, the actual plan does work.”