County Looks to Sell Land to Comstock Near Wiehle-Reston East

The county is planning to sell a roughly one-acre parcel of land north of Reston Station Boulevard.

Under the proposal, which will be considered by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors tomorrow (Tuesday) will consider selling off the land so it can be integrated in the rezoning of Reston Station Promenade, a mixed-use project by Comstock that was approved in April last year.

The sale of the land would “enable a more efficient redevelopment” of that project, according to the county.

If approved, the developer would pay roughly $3 million for the parcel and offer a density transfer of roughly 147,690 square feet to the plaza area near the county-owned Wiehle-Reston East garage.

County officials estimate that transfer would bring in a rental stream of roughly $8.6 million from Comstock, which currently pays an annual base rent of $2.9 million for its leases with the board at Reston Station.

Rents will increase as Comstock builds more pieces of its mixed-use project under a 99-year lease between the developer and the county.

An appraisal states the sale area has a value of roughly $10.8 million.

County staff recommend approval the sale, which would result in more density near the Metro Station, simplify the ownership structure  of Reston Station Promenade.

Approval of the sale will require amending the lease with Comstock.

One major change in the lease includes a requirement for Comstock to permit electoral campaign and voter registration activities on the plaza near the entry to the north entrance of the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station.

Earlier this year, free speech advocates and candidates seeking office raised concerns about Comstock’s restrictions on campaigning and electioneering at the plaza, which is considered a public space. County Concerned about civil rights violations, Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova threatened legal action if Comstock did not take steps to allow campaign activities on the plaza.

The board is expected to make a decision on the sale tomorrow. More information about the proposal is available online.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Global Consulting Firm to Move Headquarters to Reston Station

Global consulting firm ICF International Inc. has inked a full-building lease at Comstock’s Reston Station, according to a company release.

The firm will occupy 1902 Reston Metro Plaza, an eight-story, 250,000-square-foot office building at the mixed-use development atop the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station. The company plans to relocate its headquarters of three decades in Fairfax by the end of 2022.

The glass and steel building, which sits on top of parking and restaurant space, is expected to be complete by 2021.

“We are confident that Reston Station has everything we need to provide one of the best employee experiences in the Washington D.C. metro area,” said John Wasson, Chief Executive Officer of ICF. “Having our global headquarters in the heart of a rapidly expanding technology corridor directly supports our strategic growth plans and provides so many more conveniences to our employees.”

ICF is the latest tenant to join the development. Search engine giant Google has moved into Reston Station’s first office building and other companies like Neustar, Rolls-Royce North America, British Telecom and Spaces by Regus are also in the pipeline.

“We look forward to welcoming ICF and its entire team to the Reston Station neighborhood,” said Christopher Clemente, CEO of Comstock Companies. “Comstock is committed to creating a world-class development that provides world-class companies a remarkable neighborhood and an attractive platform for our tenants to recruit and retain talent needed to grow their business.”

ICF is a global consultancy and digital services provider that has more than 7,000 employees.

Photo via Comstock

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Rolls-Royce North America to Relocate Headquarters from Reston Town Center to Reston Station

Rolls-Royce North America has officially confirmed its plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Reston Town Center to Comstock’s Reston Station development.

The move, which was first reported by Reston Now earlier this month, is expected to take place in early 2020.

The industrial technology company will move into the 16-story glass tower designed by architect Helmut Jahn, the first of three office towers at the Reston Station project near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

“Rolls-Royce has made its impact on the world throughout history and they continue to be a global force in business and manufacturing,” said Tim Steffan, Comstock’s executive vice president.  “Comstock understands the importance that the Rolls-Royce brand means to Reston Station and together our respective executive teams worked to make their new home here a reality.”

The company’s headquarters first opened in Reston Town Center in 2008. Other companies like Appian Corp. and Certipath have also recently announced plans to move their headquarters from the town center.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Exclusive: Rolls-Royce Considers Relocating Regional Headquarters in Reston Town Center

Rolls-Royce North America is considering a lease agreement to relocate its regional headquarters from Reston Town Center to Reston Station.

A company representative told Reston Now the company plans to move from RTC to Comstock’s new development in the first quarter of 2020. The company is not releasing any other information because the lease agreement is still being finalized, the representative said.

The company’s regional headquarters opened in Reston Town Center in 2008.

County permits indicate Rolls-Royce will be located at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza. An application for an interior alteration permit was processed in early October.

A spokesperson for Comstock declined to comment on the deal.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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CVS Pharmacy to Open in Reston Station in December

A new tenant is planning to open its doors soon in Reston Station, Comstock Development’s Reston Station development, which is located at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

CVS Pharmacy plans to open in Reston Station by December 10, a company representative told Reston Now. 

The healthcare giant will lease 8,451 square feet of plaza-level retail space in Reston Station’s third tower, which is slated for completion in January 2020.

The storefront is located at the entrance of Metro’s north pedestrian bridge to the station.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Neustar to Move Sterling Headquarters to Comstock’s Reston Station

Neustar, a global information services company, is moving its headquarters from Sterling to Comstock’s Reston Station Development.

The company will anchor 100,000 square feet of space in Comstock’s second trophy office tower (1906 Reston Metro Plaza), which is one of three office towers at Reston Station. Google is currently moving into its office space in the mixed-use development.

Neustar will consolidate two offices from its Sterling campus, with currently house more than 400 employees. The company serves more than 8,000 clients around the world.

“The technology advances and company growth at Neustar require a world class headquarters that embraces the future,” wrote Neustar President and CEO Charlie Gottdiener, in a statement. “This is a big investment that addresses both our current and future requirements. By relocating into one building, we will provide our headquarters-based employees a more collaborative and connected work environment with the added benefit of an on-site metro station. The new office will also enhance Neustar’s ability to attract and retain emerging tech talent, address current workspace needs and foster future growth in a sustainably-minded environment.” 

The company plans to move into its new offices next year, according to Tim Steffan, executive vice president of leasing for Comstock.

Photo via Comstock

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Trio of Projects Heads to Reston Planning and Zoning Committee Next Week

Three major development proposals head to the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee for a vote on Monday (August 19.

The committee, which meets at the North County Government Center at 7:30 p.m., will vote on plans for Isaac Newton Square, Halley Rise and Reston Station Promenade.

Peter Lawrence Cos and MRP Realty are partnering to redevelop Isaac Newtown Square, an aging office park at Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue, into a mostly residential neighborhood with around 2,100 units. The plan also includes an athletic field.

One Reston Co. LLC and Two Reston Co. LLC’s Halley Rise project — which is the site of the future Wegmans — is also on the docket. The developer is seeking the committee’s approval for changes to two blocks of development, which is located north of Sunrise Valley Drive and south of the Dulles Toll Road.

Finally, the board will consider changes to Comstock’s Reston Station Promenade project, which is north of the BLVD and Comstock’s development atop the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station. Changes are largely limited to one building.

The complete agenda is available online.

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Lack of Affordable Housing in New Developments Near Future Herndon Metro Station Sparks Debate

Within the last five years, more than 500 residential units have been proposed at the door of the future Herndon Metro Station, which is on track to open by the end of 2020 In all three place-making projects that were recently approved by town officials, there are no affordable or workforce housing units.

Comstock’s downtown Herndon redevelopment project — which has 273 apartments — and Penzance’s mixed-use development less than one-tenth of a mile from the future station — which has 455 residential units — will not have any ADU or WDU units. Stanley Martin’s Metro Square project — which has 64 two-over-two condos — also has none. Prices for those units start at $679,990.

Newly elected town council members Cesar del Aguila and Pradip Dhakal are currently mulling ways to create more new affordable and workforce housing. They plan to discuss policy instruments with the county’s Board of Supervisors, the town’s legal staff, and other town and county officials to decide next steps. 

“If we do not interfere now and talk to builders, it will be very difficult to manage later. This is the time for the change,” Dhakal said. “We need to work with the county and work independently as a town to see what we can do.”

It’s unclear if the town has enough workforce housing to meet the demands of people who work within or near the town’s borders. The number of residential units in Herndon is expected to increase by 30 percent over the next 25 years, according to county data. Major growth is anticipated in Herndon’s transit station areas.

Unlike Fairfax County, the Town of Herndon does not the statutory authority to mandate the inclusion of workforce or affordable housing units. But now, as the Silver Line trains approach, some local elected officials are pushing for the town to explore ways to include workforce units in new developments at a critical juncture in the town’s history.

Policy options could include seeking state-enabling legislation to create an ADU and WDU program for the town — likely modeled after the county’s program.

Others are looking to dip more into the county’s penny fund — which includes tax dollars from town of Herndon residents and has historically been used to preserve and promote affordable.

But some caution that a WDU and ADU program managed by the town could be too cost-inhibitive.

Melissa Jonas, chairwoman of the Town of Herndon’s Planning Commission, said seeking such a change would likely require a town charter amendment, state-enabling legislation, the creation of a housing office, and other administrative requirements that could result in a “net zero” win for the town.

“It’s not easy and it’s not cheap,” Jonas said.

Jonas, who has worked with the county on numerous affordable housing initiatives, notes that affordable housing is a region-wide challenge that cannot be addressed in isolation of other issues and initiatives.

In the past, the town has leveraged its relationship with the county — which has the administrative and financial resources to maintain and preserve older affordable housings units — to ensure inclusion and housing affordability are a priority in the town. Town officials have also made an effort to educate the town’s planning commissioners about housing affordability issues as new applications cross their desk.

The town’s comparative advantage lies in finding other ways to ensure projects are affordable — including working with places of worship to pursue creative new projects on unused land, increased transparency about development approval timelines, and decreased the cost of doing business in the town.

The county currently provides most of the funding for the town’s housing rehabilitation specialist, who finds ways to preserve and rehabilitate current affordable and workforce housing units. The county also provides administrative support for housing vouchers and other federal programs.

Projects like the units set aside for lower-income households at Herndon Harbor House II are a good start to ensure housing affordable is a central part of community planning. That retirement community was partly financed by the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Dhakal says that’s not enough and Del Aguila says that a town-led ADU or WDU program is “the right thing to do.”

“This initiative will provide several benefits: positively impact the future of many people [and] families by providing an option for home ownership in Northern Virginia,  improve the quality of life for people in our town… and create opportunities for financial security for more residents,”  he said.

Not everyone on the council is convinced of the need to enable the town to regulate affordable housing, including town councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

Friedrichs says there is a lack of consensus on whether or not there is enough affordable housing in the town and that the county is better positioned to manage housing affordability programs. Instead of managing its own program, the town should work with the county to maintain and improve affordable housing options.

“I moved to Herndon partly because it was affordable, and I hope it can stay that way while also improving its housing stock. But I also hope we can maintain, improve and possibly expand our workforce and affordable housing without also increasing our budget, the cost of which would cause people to move out of town,” Friedrichs said.

Photo via Town of Herndon Planning Commission
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Downtown Herndon Redevelopment Construction Likely to Begin in Late 2019

The Town of Herndon plans to close on selling nearly 4.7 acres of its land to Comstock in order to begin the redevelopment of downtown Herndon later this year.

Comstock, the developer of Reston Station, was selected by the town three years ago to redevelop the property into a mixed-use project.

The $85 million redevelopment project includes 273 apartments, 17,000 square feet of retail, a new arts center, public space and a new parking garage for public and private use.

Construction on the project is expected to begin in late 2019.

The town and Comstock have several hurdles to clear before groundbreaking. An application for building permits is pending and an additional agreement to “protect town financial interests” must be determined, according to the town’s website.

The project was approved by the Heritage Preservation Review Board in mid-May.

The town will provide $3.6 million for the project, which is described as a public-private partnership.

Photo via handout/Town of Herndon

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Following Democratic Primary, Little Movement on Comstock’s Campaigning Policies

Prior to the Democratic primary last month,  a controversy over Comstock’s campaigning restrictions prompted local elected officials to push back against the developer’s longstanding policy at Reston Station Plaza.

But there has been little movement on the issue in recent days.

In a June 7 letter, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova threatened legal recourse against Comstock, which she said was unfairly restricting public access to the property and possibly infringing on First Amendment rights. The county’s Commonwealth Attorney and the local American Civil Liberties Union also stepped in.

Bulova’s chief of staff Clayton Medford told Reston Now that Bulova plans to meet with Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, to discuss access issues.

“The county is committed to looking into public spaces issues countywide to ensure members of the public have equal access,” Medford said.

No meeting has been scheduled yet. Clemente did not return requests for comment from Reston Now.

The issue stemmed over access to Reston Station Plaza, which was built through a public-private partnership.

Two candidates running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor complained about Comstock’s policies.

The plaza is atop the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

Photo by Fairfax Connector

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Following Allegations of Civil Rights Violations, Comstock Grants Campaigning Rights for Two Days

In anticipation of the Democratic primary tomorrow, Comstock Companies is now allowing campaigning and electioneering for two days at Reston Station Plaza after the county threatened legal recourse due to potential free speech violations.

Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, told Reston Now that the company is inviting all candidates on the June 11 ballots to campaign at the plaza today and tomorrow “on their own schedules and without the need to coordinate schedules with Comstock.”

The temporary change comes after Comstock came under fire for its longstanding restrictions on soliciting, including campaigning and electioneering, at the plaza. The county says the forum qualifies as public space — even though Comstock leases the property from the county through a 99-year ground lease. Comstock disputes this claim.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova lashed out against the company when she learned about the policy late last week. Bulova accused the company of favoritism and civil rights violation after she said it allowed Maggie Parker — Comstock’s vice president of communications — to post campaign signs but barred her opponents from approaching voters.

“Allowing one’s own employee to engage in such highly protected activity in a public area, while excluding other candidates from doing the same, is clearly wrong and cannot be tolerated,” Bulova said in the letter, which threatened legal action.

Parker said that she never campaigned at the plaza and purchased large advertisements from the company at the plaza and on Comstock’s building — a possibility that she said is open to all other candidates.

Ads cost between $2,000 and $3,500 per week.

Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia chapter, said the lease to the private company does not renege individual’s free speech rights.

Ray Morrogh, the county’s commonwealth’s attorney, directed the Fairfax County Police Department to decline any requests to prosecute individuals for campaigning at the train station and the plaza above it. 

“It would not be appropriate to prosecute anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in public areas,” Morrogh wrote in a May letter to the police department.

Clemente did not indicate what led to the two-day allowance for campaigning.

“Although we had hoped to provide the residents of the Hunter Mill District an opportunity to meet all the candidates in a casual setting during these last days of the campaign, we were unable to secure commitments from all candidates to participate in a coordinated event,” he said.

The debate over whether or not the plaza qualifies as a public forum was catapulted into the county spotlight after candidates running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor attempted to campaign at the plaza.

Over the past several weeks, candidates, volunteers for their campaigns, and a representative for a local advocacy group said they were kicked off the property and told to apply for permits.

Photo via Fairfax Connector

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JUST IN: Bulova Suggests Possible Legal Recourse Against Comstock’s Campaigning Restrictions at Reston Station Plaza

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Fairfax County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova is pushing back against Comstock’s restrictions on campaigning at Reston Station Plaza.

In a strongly-worded letter sent to Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, today, Bulova said she was very shocked and disturbed to learn that Comstock was unfairly restricting public access to the property.

The company has allowed Maggie Parker, its vice president of communications and also a candidate for the Hunter Mill District Seat, to campaign on the plaza, Bulova said.

“Allowing one’s own employee to engage in such highly protected activity in a public area, while excluding other candidates from doing the same, is clearly wrong and cannot be tolerated,” she wrote.

But Parker says that she has not campaigned at the plaza because of Comstock’s policies.

“I think the letter is unfounded because I don’t think the chairman has all of the facts,” Parker said. “I am doing nothing that the other candidates are not able to do. I am tired of being bullied and I’d like to step forward with the elections and the people’s business.”

The free speech issue has sparked recent debate on the legality of the developer’s longstanding policy to bar soliciting, including electioneering and campaigning, at the plaza.

Bulova has directed the county’s attorney to evaluate legal remedies against Comstock, noting that the plaza may constitute a public forum. As a result, free speech rights may be violated.

“As the county attorney completes her research and the board evaluates its legal remedies, I ask Comstock to do the right thing without necessity of legal action,” Bulova wrote.

Several candidates running for the seat of Hunter MIll District Supervisor and residents have told Reston Now they’ve been told to leave the plaza after attempting to distribute campaign materials or campaign.

Laurie Dodd, a candidate who was concerned about the policy after friends campaigning for other candidates were  told to leave the property and apply for a permit, pushed state and local officials to take a stance on the issue. Although the state and county’s election bodies said the issue was not within their jurisdiction, Dodd said Bulova was open to discussing the matter. At her request, the American Civil Liberties Union took the matter to Bulova’s office.

Walter Alcorn, also a candidate running for the seat, also expressed concerns about restrictions on campaigning at the plaza.

In previous days, county officials told Reston Now that state election law allows campaign activities on the property, but declined to discuss the issue further. The plaza was constructed through a public-private partnership and Comstock leases the plaza from the county through a 99-year ground lease, according to the county.

Clemente told Reston Now that its policy is out of respect for Metro commuters and others who come to Reston Station. He previously noted that he was open to scheduling a candidate meet-and-greet on the plaza as an exception to the policy.

This story will be updated.

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As Primary Election Nears, Confusion over Campaigning at Reston Station Remains

Some residents are concerned that restrictions on political campaigning at Reston Station Plaza raise free speech issues. But local and state officials versed in state election law say the question of whether or not campaigning is allowed on the plaza is a gray area.

That’s because Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, leases the plaza from Fairfax County through a 99-year ground lease. The county says that state election law still allows campaign activities, including voter registration, on the private property.

Several residents who have unsuccessfully tried to campaign and distribute leaflets on the plaza say they’ve been told to request permits from Comstock before distributing materials.

But Comstock’s CEO Chris Clemente says that Comstock has no such policy for requesting permits.

“I cannot respond to the reports you have received about a days-long permit process since that is simply not true,” Clemente told Reston Now in a statement.

He clarified that Comstock has not revised its policy prohibiting soliciting on its private properties “out of respect for the privacy of residents, visitors, and commuters.” Instead, Clemente said Comstock’s policy revision was restricted to scheduling a candidate meet-and-greet for a few hours at the plaza. Candidates would get the chance to meet with voters and distribute campaign materials with no cost.

To date, we have not seen any indication of interest from any of the campaigns (except Maggie Parker’s) to participate in such an event. What we have seen from some of the candidates is public criticism of Comstock for not allowing random soliciting of Metro commuters. It makes me think that the candidates, with the exception of Maggie Parker, have no interest in discussing their vision for the Hunter Mill District with members of the public,” Clemente said.

Parker, who is Comstock’s vice president of communications, is a candidate for the Hunter Mill District seat and has campaign signs on the property. 

Other candidates can purchase advertising space for either $2,000 or $3,500 per week on two plaza locations. Parker said she paid for her ads on Comstock’s property. Comstock and Comstock-linked entities have filled up more than half of her campaign coffers — which exceeds all of her challengers’ fundraising for the latest reporting period combined.

Joanne Collins, a representative for Herndon-Reston Indivisible, said Comstock’s security told her to leave the plaza after she tried to hand out leaflets about Tuesday’s primary. Collins said she requested a permit from Comstock, but was told the process would take several days — possibly after the June 11 Democratic primary.

Residents say that the Fairfax County Board of Elections and the Virginia Department of Elections are mum on the issue. Laurie Dodd, a candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s Hunter Mill District seat, lodged a complaint with the state’s elections department, but was told the issue wasn’t within its jurisdiction.

Dodd said she was told the department only addresses issues within 40 feet of voting machines. The Attorney General of Virginia’s office offered the same statement, she said.

Others said they would file complaints with the county’s election board after the election in order to spend more time campaigning in other parts of the Hunter Mill District.

Dodd also noted that the cost of purchasing signage at the plaza was too high, especially since the election is just days away and the process would require Comstock’s approval.

The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney is looking into whether or not free speech rights are at risk of being violated.

File photo

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Report: Architect Helmut Jahn to Design Companion for Existing Reston Station Building

World-renowned architect Helmut Jahn will design another office building at Reston Station to complement his existing work at Reston Station.

According to the Washington Business Journal, Comstock Companies retained Jahn to build the second building across the Dulles Toll Road opposite from the first building at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza. The building is part of Comstock’s development plan for Commerce Metro Center.

Although the buildings are similar, the new structure is expected to be more of a parallelogram than a trapezoid.

Here’s more from the May 31 story:

“He wants to sort of match the angles. He likes the direction of that design,” said Tim Steffan, executive vice president of development and asset management at Reston-based Comstock (NASDAQ: CHCI). “There’s an angular similarity to it.”

The building, still in the concept stage, could be 17 to 23 stories and between 375,000 and 500,000 square feet. 1900 Reston Metro Plaza is 16 stories and 365,000 square feet.

Jahn and his firm, Chicago-based Jahn Architecture Inc., originally submitted a proposal for a residential concept at Reston Station as part of an international design competition but were not selected. Comstock later commissioned him to design the 1900 Reston Metro Plaza office building.

The architect convinced Comstock’s CEO Chris Clemente that the office building needed a companion across the toll road, Maggie Parker, Comstock’s vice president of communications, said.

Comstock does not expect to break ground on the building for at least another year, according to the report. Two buildings at 1902 and 1906 Reston Metro are currently in progress with a delivery date of mid-2020. No major leases have been announced for the office buildings.

Photos via Comstock/Washington Business Journal

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JUST IN: Big Buns and matchbox Coming to Reston Station by 2020

Two new restaurants are coming to Comstock’s Reston Station by early 2020.

The company signed leases with matchbox, a D.C.-based wood fire pizza restaurant, and Big Buns Damn Good Burger Co., a D.C.-based burger and craft beer restaurant.

Matchbox will take up a 6,000 square feet in Comstock’s Helmet Jahn building at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza. Big Buns will occupy 3,000 square feet in the BLVD apartment building at 1908 Reston Metro Plaza.

The latest tenants join other businesses like Starbucks and Founding Farmers in what Comstock is now calling the “Metro Plaza District.”

Comstock issued the following in a release today (Monday):

“We are delighted to add matchbox and Big Buns to our best-in-class merchandising at Reston Station,” said Tim Steffan, EVP/Asset Management at Comstock. “In choosing Reston Station, these popular brands will benefit from the high-traffic and upwardly mobile demographics of one of the largest mixed-use, transit-oriented developments in the Washington region.”

Strategically located midway between Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport, Reston Station is among the largest mixed-use, transit-oriented developments in the Washington, D.C. area. Covering nearly 40 acres spanning the Dulles Toll Road and surrounding the Wiehle Reston-East Metro Station at the terminus of Phase I of Metro’s Silver Line, Reston Station is already home to more than 1,000 residents, numerous corporate headquarters, multiple retail establishments, and several restaurants. Comstock recently announced that Google has leased several floors in the Helmut Jahn designed office tower and anticipates additional announcements regarding additional leases in the near future. 

The restaurants are expected to open later this year or by early 2020.

File photo

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