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by Karen Goff September 14, 2016 at 2:40 pm 20 Comments

Demolition began on Wednesday at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr., where for more than 40 years stood Virginia’s only building designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer.

The building formerly housed the headquarters of the American Press Institute, but had been empty since API merged with another organization in 2012.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in July approved Sekas Homes’ application to build 34 townhouses and 10 condos on the site.

The proposal was approved after a late effort by historians, design experts and Reston citizens, who protested that the Brutalist building should be repurposed for another use rather than destroyed. The building had not been considered for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places because it is less than 50 years old.

The building owner and commercial real estate representatives said there was no interest from other businesses to relocate to the 45,000-square-foot building.

The demolition is expected to take about three weeks. Looking through some of the holes made Wednesday, it was visible that the tear-down was happening even as some of the Mid-Century modern furniture and other fixtures remained.

by Karen Goff July 29, 2016 at 10:30 am 12 Comments

Rendering of RP 11720 Sunrise Valley/Fairfax County

Just days after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a controversial residential development on the site of the former American Press Institute building, the Fairfax County Planning Commission reviewed an application from the same owner for 54 townhomes a few feet away.

Office building at 11720 Sunrise Valley Dr.RP 11720, LLC, part of Rooney Properties (which also owns the API building), plans to tear down a 30-year old office building at Sunrise Valley Drive and Roland Clarke Place to build the urban-style homes.

The commission expressed concerns Thursday about parking, both in everyday and in special situations. Among the concerns: is 19 feet wide enough for garages, which are planned for the four-story townhouses? And where will delivery trucks go when servicing the units that front Sunrise Valley Drive?

The developers believe that width is sufficient for garages and planning staff says the delivery may have to block someone’s driveway.

Parking, transportation demand management (TDM) contributions and money to the Fairfax County Park Authority also came up as issues at Thursday’s public hearing, so the commission deferred decision on the project until Sept. 24.

Developer representatives said they did not include TDM because of the low-density estimate for the new neighborhood but they are willing to work with developers towards that if it is a development condition.

The parcel is at 11720 Sunrise Valley Dr., just west of the Mercer Condos, (part of JBG’s Reston Heights) and right across Roland Clarke Place from the American Press Institute property, where 34 townhouses and 10 condominiums are planned. (more…)

by Karen Goff July 27, 2016 at 10:00 am 44 Comments

Former API Building

After a campaign by architectural archivists and historians to save and repurpose the Marcel Breuer-designed former American Press Institute building in Reston, the building learned its fate Tuesday night.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow developer Sekas Homes to demolish the 42-year-old Brutalist building and construct in its place 34 townhomes and 10 condos.

Interior of API BuildingHunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said while she appreciated the efforts to save the building at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr., the building did not have historical designation and was not in a historical overlay district.

The supervisors’ mission is to stick to judging an application on “meeting the criteria set forth in the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance for this area and supported by recommendation of approval by Department of Planning and Zoning,” she said.

While a DPZ staff report recommended approval for the redevelopment, the Fairfax County Planning Commission did not. (more…)

by Karen Goff July 26, 2016 at 10:00 am 3 Comments

Empty Tall OaksFront of API BuildingTwo items on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ agenda for Tuesday may mean the end of two structures that have stood in Reston for more than 40 years.

Jefferson Apartment Group’s (JAG) application to raze most of Tall Oaks Village Center and turn it into a mostly residential neighborhood will have a public hearing at the supervisors’ meeting (Fairfax County Government Center) at 3:30 p.m.

JAG’s plan for 156 homes (townhomes, 2-over-2 townhomes and multifamily units), 8,500 square feet of retail space and about 6,000 square feet of office was recommended for approval by the Fairfax County Planing Commission last week.

If the Board of Supervisors approved JAG’s plan it will be the first time an original Reston Village Center will essentially disappear.

Tall Oaks thrived in Reston’s early days, but as the community expanded, so did retail options. The center has been failing since Giant Foods left in 2007. The center is now only 13 percent occupied and other anchor stores have no interest in opening at the center, JAG reps have said.

The retail planned for the new Tall Oaks will be neighborhood-serving small shops such as fast food, coffee shops, and dry cleaning, though many residents are still lobbying for at least a small food store. (more…)

by Karen Goff July 22, 2016 at 2:00 pm 10 Comments

Former API BuildingThe Fairfax County Planning Commission had a “do over” of sorts on Thursday regarding the former American Press Institute building.

The planning commission had to go back and take another look at its June vote to recommend denial of Sekas Homes’ plan to tear down the Brutalist office building and build 34 townhouses and 10 condos in its place along Sunrise Valley Drive.

After the historical significance of the Marcel Breuer building — the only structure in Virginia designed by the famous architect — was brought to the planning commission’s attention fairly late in the application process, the commission reached a tie when voting for a recommendation for denial last month.

The board sent the recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. However, it was then brought to the planning commission’s attention that that recommendation was not valid since it needs a majority vote.

“Under the county zoning ordinance, the planning commission can only take valid action only if authorized by a majority,” said Hunter Mill PC representative Frank de le Fe. “As a result, our votes did not constitute any action.”

The board then held some discussion on parking considerations, but nothing about the historical preservation of the building.

In the end, it voted Thursday 7-4 for denial of the project. The Board of Supervisors will make a final ruling at a date not yet determined.

The building, which housed API from 1974 to 2012, has been empty for four years.

Former API employees and architectural historians began protesting the plans and signing a petition last spring to make the planning commission aware of the building’s historic significance. There has also been a grassroots effort to get Fairfax County officials to consider turning the building into a public library.

The building has not been considered for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places because it is less than 50 years old.

by Karen Goff June 17, 2016 at 9:40 am 21 Comments

Former API Building1

The Marcel Breuer-designed building in Reston will get a reprieve after some of the Fairfax County Planning Commission admitted “a major screw up” by them. The commission will send Sekas Homes rezoning application to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors with a recommendation for denial.

“This was a major screw up,” said At-Large Member James Hart. “I hope this is a wake up call to us that we need to make sure something like this does not happen again.”

The building on Sunrise Valley Drive is the only Breuer-designed building in Virginia. Breuer is a famed architect of the Brutalist style of the 1960s and 1970s. The building housed the American Press Institute (API) from 1974 to 2012. It has been vacant since 2012, when API merged with the Newspaper Association of America.

Sekas Homes is planning to rezone the property to build 34 townhomes and 10 condos. A planning commission staff report earlier this year recommended the project for approval. (more…)

by RestonNow.com June 14, 2016 at 1:15 pm 34 Comments

Front of API BuildingThis is an op-ed by William L. Winter, Executive Director of the American Press Institute from 1987 to 2003. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The many voices now calling for action to save Reston’s historic, Marcel Breuer-designed American Press Institute (API) building from demolition are singing in close concert with the city’s founding principles. This unique planned community called Reston was intended to be, and has, since its creation in the 1960s, been true to its founding principles of “Live, Work, Play, and Get Involved.”

As Reston has grown and matured, its leaders and most prominent institutions have worked hand-in-hand with residents to make sure the community is, in all ways possible, a special place. Reston today thus is a careful reflection of the city’s founding principles. Its parks, schools, golf courses, and other public venues exist comfortably and in careful balance with residential and commercial development, and echo founder Robert E. Simon’s call for a community of, by, and for those seeking immersion in the very best life that a true “community” can offer.

There can be no doubting that the historically and architecturally significant API building on Sunrise Valley Drive has contributed greatly to Reston’s feel of distinctiveness. To have within its borders a classic structure created by the famed designer of the Whitney Museum (now the Met Breuer) in New York City, the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, the headquarters of the U.S. Departments of HUD and HEW in Washington, D.C., and many other noted structures around the globe gives Reston an air of style, class, and grace — a sense that the community truly understands and appreciates the best work of the world’s most talented individuals.

(more…)

by Karen Goff June 10, 2016 at 11:00 am 21 Comments

Front of API BuildingDon’t bulldoze the Marcel Breuer-designed former American Press Institute building in Reston. Turn it into the new Reston Regional Library.

That’s the suggestion of the Fairfax Library Advocates, who are urging citizens to write to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County Planning Commission in support of the idea.

The planning commission will make a decision June 16 on whether to recommend Sekas Homes’ rezoning application to the Board of Supervisors.

Sekas seeks to build 34 townhomes and 10 condominiums on the 4.6 acres off of Sunrise Valley Drive in South Reston. A county staff report recommends approval of the application.But in the last few weeks, there has been concern by historical groups and former employees of the American Press Institute, which was housed in the building from 1974 until 2012. The building has been vacant and for sale for more than four years.

The groups are urging the county and state to consider the building for historic designation, even though it is less than 50 years old.

The library advocates say repurpose it. Reston needs a new library and $10 million in county bonds have been set aside to build one. The current plan is to build in the Reston Town Center North area, close to where the current Reston Regional Library stands.<

Here is what the library advocates have to say on their blog:

Fairfax County’s Architectural Review Board has asked that the county reconsider bulldozing the American Press Institute (API) building on Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston.

They believe the building, designed by Hungarian-born architect Marcel Breuer, has historic architectural significance and should not be taken down and replaced with townhouses. API is the only building in Virginia designed by Breuer.

This building at 48,000 square feet is large enough to house a regional library. It’s in an excellent location. The $10 million library bond approved by voters is enough to purchase and renovate the building.

Current development plans for the library parcel in Town Center North and for the API site on Sunrise Valley Drive need to be paused to consider an adaptive reuse of the API building as a public library.

Please write the Planning Commissioners and the Board of Supervisors as soon as possible to ask that this option be considered.

by Karen Goff June 8, 2016 at 10:30 am 13 Comments

Front of API BuildingSupporters of saving the former American Press Institute building have started an online petition to protect the Brutalist building from the wrecking ball.

The building was designed by noted architect Marcel Breuer, who also planned Atlanta’s Central Library, the Whitney Museum of Art in New York City, and buildings at Yale University and New York University, among others.

The building housed the API from 1974 to 2012. It has been vacant and for sale since 2012.

Sekas Homes is looking to rezone the 4.6-acres of land from industrial to residential in order to build 34 townhouses and 10 condominiums at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr. A county staff report recommends approval of the application.

There has been a last-minute effort, including letters from the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board and state historical society, to stop that process.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission toured the empty building last week and will make a recommendation on June 16.

The building is the only Breuer-designed project in Virginia and should be given historical designation, some say. Others are of the opinion that it is an outdated office building that is ripe for redevelopment. A planning commission public hearing was held last month.

Here’s what the petition says:

The American Press Institute (API) building in Reston, VA, is under the threat of demolition.

It is the only building in Virginia by the internationally acclaimed architect Marcel Breuer, “a master of Modernism” who also designed the Whitney Museum of American Art (now the Met Breuer), UNESCO Headquartersin Paris, and the HUD buildingin Washington, D.C.

For nearly 38 years, tens of thousands of news media executives — representing a “Who’s Who in Journalism” — attended leadership seminars in the nonprofit’s Breuer-designed headquarters in Reston.

  • The API building is historically and architecturally significant.
  • It is a crucial chapter in Reston’s rich history.
  • It should have a second life instead of being torn down.

That’s why we’re asking you to sign this petition to save the API building.

On June 16, the Fairfax County Planning Commission will make a final decision on a local developer’s application for rezoning the property from business to residential and a demolition permit.

If the commission and, soon after, the Board of Supervisors approves this plan, the building will be razed so that single- and multi-family housing can be built on the site.

A growing coalition — local and nationwide — questions this plan given what’s at stake, including:

  • Fairfax County Architectural Review Board (ARB)
  • Fairfax County History Commission
  • Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Historic Resources
  • Reston and other Fairfax County residents
  • Community leaders
  • Architects, historians and preservationists
  • Journalists and other news media executives across North America who attended API programs
  • Former API staff members
  • Those who believe that architectural treasures should be preserved

by Karen Goff May 26, 2016 at 2:45 pm 36 Comments

Front of API Building

To some, the former American Press Institute headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive is a vacant office building on a nice wooded lot. To others, it is a shining example of Mid-Century modernism and should possibly be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Fairfax County and Commonwealth of Virginia Architecture experts have written to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova asking for a last-minute reconsideration of Sekas Homes’ rezoning application for the property.

Sekas Homes application will go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission Thursday night.

Sekas is looking to rezone the 4.6-acres of land from industrial to residential in order to build 34 townhouses and 10 condominiums at 11690 Sunrise Valley Dr. A county staff report recommends approval of the application. (more…)

by Karen Goff May 6, 2016 at 10:00 am 10 Comments

Former API building/Credit: Showcase.com

Developer Sekas Homes is seeking a zoning change in order to build townhomes and condos across from Reston National Golf Course.

But the proposed development would be the end of the former headquarters of the American Press Institute, a 42-year-old Brutalist-style office building that has been empty for several years.

If approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the plan means tearing down the 48,200-square-foot building designed by noted modernist architect Marcel Breuer.

Sekas’ plan was in front of the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Thursday. The commission will make a decision May 26 on whether to recommend the project for approval to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Seakas wants to rezone 4.6 acres from industrial use to residential in order to build 34 townhouses and 10 condos at Sunrise Valley Drive and Roland Clarke Place.

The residential development would be just east of Reston Heights, JBG’s mixed use development that features hotels, condos and offices.

Unlike many current Reston redevelopment proposals — which are high-rise multifamiliy buildings — this plan is a relatively small one as it is located more than one-half mile from Wiehle-Reston East and the future Reston Town Center Metro station.

According to a county staff report, the townhomes would be four stories tall with agarages on the lower level. Interior units would be about 1,170 square feet, while end units would be about 1,600 square feet.

(more…)

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