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Three Property Owners Challenge Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

A public hearing before the Herndon Town Council is planned as three appeals surface against Comstock’s plans to redevelop downtown Herndon.

Three property owners filed appeals last month disputing the Heritage Preservation Review Board’s approval of Comstock’s application for new construction. The property owners, who live near the 4.6-acre site, challenged the construction of the structure and specific features of the site.

The application concerns the demolition of buildings on 770 Elden Street and 750 Center Street, as well as the development’s architecture. At a June 18 HPRB meeting, town officials defended the approvals.

Due to the appeals, the council will hold a public hearing to allow appellants to justify their appeals. The approval under question by the HPRB — known in planning jargon as the Certificate of Appropriateness for New Construction — is rendered void due to the appeals.

The HPRB can reverse or change its decision if evidence is presented that the approval was not correct. Through a public-private partnership with the town, Comstock plans to build 274 residential units, 17,00 square feet of retail and a 761-space garage.

File photo

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Construction on New Office Building in Reston Station Begins

Comstock has begun construction on the next office building in Reston Station, located on the southwest corner of the plaza. The eight-story structure, which has not yet been named, is a Class A office building with 180,000 square feet of office space and 8,300 square feet of retail space on the plaza.

The building is designed by HKS Architects with steel and glass structures. The company’s portfolio includes the design of Urumqi International Airport in Xinjiang, China and the King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, Jordan.

Office space will be restricted to six floors, which sit atop an eight-story, above-grave concrete parking deck. It will also include a private patio with a sky garden and gym.

Construction prompted Comstock to close four of eight kiosks on the plaza. According to Maggie Parker, vice president of communications and community outreach for Comstock, the kiosks were intentionally designed to be temporary. Some vendors will relocate into vacant kiosks.

“They’ve given many budding entrepreneurs an opportunity to test their business models and have added a lot of vitality to our emerging development,” Comstock wrote in a statement.

Photo via Comstock

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Fairfax County Commits $1.2 Million for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted today (Tuesday) to contribute $1.2 million for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon — an effort being led by Comstock and the Town of Herndon.

The funding commitment is the largest dollar contribution for economic development to date. Funds are drawn from a funding category designed for one-time, seed money for projects that provide direct economic benefits for Fairfax County. Roughly a quarter of $5 million in available funding has been committed to downtown Herndon.

County officials hope to recoup their investment within the first two years after the project is complete. Estimates suggest the redevelopment will generate $800,000 annually in new property and sales taxes for the county, according to an independent analysis commissioned by the town.

The 4.67-acre property, which is owned by the town, is currently tax-exempt. The new town center would pay real estate taxes and generate additional sales tax from retail elements.

The project includes an 18,000-square-foot arts center, which will serve as the centerpiece of the downtown area. Overall, downtown Herndon will include around 281 apartments, 17,600 square feet of ground floor retail and a 761-space parking garage.

Fairfax County will release its funds only when the Town of Herndon contributes $1.2 million of its own funding. The town plans to pitch in $3.6 million for the public-private partnership.

In prepared statements, local elected officials reacted to the funding commitment:

“I am pleased that funding from the County’s Economic Development Support Fund will help make the Herndon Arts Center a reality,” said Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, who chairs the Fairfax County Economic Advisory Commission. “Activities around the arts create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity in Fairfax County. The Herndon Arts Center will also contribute to the success of a redevelopment project that will significantly increase the tax base of the town and the county. Projects like the Herndon Arts Center also contribute to the county’s economic success by creating a community that will attract a 21st century workforce.”

“Allocation of this grant funding to the town is a tangible, impactful demonstration of Fairfax County’s commitment to economic development in Herndon,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “Redevelopment of Herndon’s downtown creates a new and exciting destination at the county’s western edge, and we greatly appreciate the spirit of partnership symbolized by this grant.”

Photo via Comstock

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Departing from Downtown Home, Herndon Festival to Change Location Next Year

Departing from its longstanding home in downtown Herndon, next year’s Herndon Festival will take place at the Northwest Federal Credit Union campus (200 Spring Street).

Due to a 2017 agreement with Comstock, the property that housed the festival carnival will be under construction beginning late 2018 or early 2019. As a result of limited space, an alternative site was found. Other areas of downtown Herndon are expected to also undergo construction.

It is unclear if the festival will ever return to the downtown area.

Once the redevelopment project is complete, town staff will assess what new events or activities will be appropriate and attractive to the community. The Herndon Festival, as we know it today, likely will not return to the downtown area, due to the loss of the open space to host the carnival and considerable number of vendor, sponsor and volunteer booths required,” according to a statement by town officials.

Sans the charm of downtown buildings as a backdrop and grassy spaces for concert seating, county officials expect next year’s festival will feature different programming that will keep the event “fresh and interesting” for the audience.

County officials will not consider removing the carnival from the festival in order to keep the event in downtown Herndon because the carnival generates 45 percent of total revenues from the festival.

“Without a carnival the event would have to be curtailed in enough ways that it would not resemble what we now know as the Herndon Festival,” according to town officials.

Photo by Mikey Tate

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New Public Art Installed at Reston Station Plaza

A cast bronze sculpture inspired by the power of Mother Nature was installed at Reston Station Plaza this month.

The piece, “The Force of Nature,” is by artist Lorenzo Quinn and is located on the north side of Wiehle-Reston East Station.

A statement from the artist is below:

“We humans think of ourselves as supreme beings, above all others and in absolute control of our destiny and our surroundings. We live with a false sense of security only to be awakened by Mother Nature’s fury, almost as if she needs to remind us of her presence and our responsibility towards her child (The Earth).

After having seen the ravaged coast of Thailand and the Hurricane that affected the Southern States I decided to create a sculpture dedicated to Mother Nature. This would be reminiscent of the early statues made as peace offerings to the Gods in the hope of quenching their anger.  

In essence, people are not very different today from the people who lived thousands of years ago. We still devote ourselves to symbols in order to escape our destiny.”

Photos via Public Art Reston

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Some Metro Users Scramble for Parking Space at the Wiehle-Reston East Garage

Some Metro users say the Wiehle-Reston East garage is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. Limited spaces are available during weekday morning hours as construction continues in the area.

Beginning at 9 a.m., few non-reserved parking spots are available in the 2,300-space garage, Metro users said. The garage (11389 Reston Station Boulevard) includes reserved spaces, which open up to the public at 10 a.m. if they are unused.

Garage users said some drivers park their cars in reserved spots not assigned to them due to the challenge of finding space. Jude J. said police often issue tickets to those individuals ten minutes before the parking space opens up to the public.

“You’re lucky if when you enter the ‘lot full’ light is on, otherwise you’re stuck in a dangerous situation with cars going every direction trying to find a spot,” said Jude. She has been commuting for past year and a half from Leesburg to Washington D.C..

County and transit officials pointed to several possible explanations for the scramble for space. County data indicate the average paid utilization rate in March was 88 percent. The rate for reserved parking is $65 a month and $4.95 on weekdays, except Thursday when the rate is $3.

Robin Geiger, head of communications for the Fairfax County Department of Communications said temporary construction in the garage may explain why spaces are limited. Construction is expected to end next month, Geiger said.

In response to space constraints, the county is promoting other alternatives like the Reston South Park and Ride, as well as Fairfax Connector Routes 553, 557, 559 or 585 to Wiehle.

Comstock, the developer behind Reston Station which sits above the garage, built the garage through a public-private partnership with Fairfax County. The county retains garage ownership while the Washington Metropolitan Area Authority operates the facility.

Maggie Parker, a spokesperson for Comstock, said space may also be limited due to “increased activity” with events like the cherry blossoms in the District. WMATA indicated they have seen an increase in parking demand as a result.

Signs in the garage are programmed to display “lot full” when 15 spaces or less are available.

Parker also said it is possible that people are not driving down far enough into the garage, especially three levels down in the ParkX parking area.

The situation has some hoping for other parking alternatives, especially as summer swings in and the recent opening of restaurants like Founding Farmers and Sweet Leaf attracts more customers.

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Fairfax County Board Approves Expanded Reston Station Project

Major redevelopment is underway as Comstock Partners continue to complete the massive Reston Station development on the northe side of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

On Tuesday (April 11), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an expanded version of the project, which calls for a further 1.7 million square feet of development, including a mix of residential units, a hotel and office towers.

The project is part of a public-private partnership with the county, which owns seven acres of the roughly 12-acre development. Changes include the addition of 362,450 square feet of development for the buildings on the Reston Station Plaza, increases in the heights of building, and the addition of a hotel to respond to “industry feedback,” said Cooley LLP’s Mark Looney.

The Promenade, an extension of Reston Station, would redevelop a Bank of America, medical buildings and 30 office condominiums on the corner of Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue into high rise buildings with up to 540 units, a 14-story office and a 23-story, 280-room hotel with 80 private residences.

Under amended plans, the county’s 1.3-acre portion of the project, previously designated for Reston Station, will be included in The Promenade in order to better unify the block.

Around 17 percent of the units will be affordable at levels of affordability ranging from 70 to 100 percent of the area median income. Comstock also plans to provide $1.9 million to the county’s affordable housing trust fund.

Comstock’s plans also include a woonerf, a shared street system that is used by pedestrians, bicyclists and cars, but does not contain sidewalks, curbs and traffic lights.

The county’s land use plan for the area north of the station includes 2.4 million square feet of development and roughly 1,900 housing units.

“Lots of trees gave up their lives for this application,” said Sharon Bulova, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Comstock plans to begin construction on its next office building at 1906 Reston Metro Plaza this spring. Plans for another 180,000-square-foot office are under county review.

Photos via Comstock

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Comstock’s Expanded Reston Station Project Heads to County Board for Final Consideration

Expanded plans for Comstock’s massive Reston Station development were approved by the Fairfax County Planning Commission Thursday night.

The latest plans add an additional 362,450 square feet to the mixed used development, bringing the total to 1.7 million square feet and adding 155 additional residential units.

Reston Station (1866 Metro Center Drive) includes a mix of residential buildings, retail, restaurants and hotels. The project is located on the south side of Reston Station boulevard, west of Wiehle Avenue.

The commission also approved plans to increase the height of building four from 205 to 225 feet and building seven from 140 to 280 feet. A hotel option was added to building seven.

The amended plans head to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (April 10) for final consideration.

A map of the buildings is below.

Rendering via Comstock

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Man wanted for abduction — Police are searching for Osman Osman, a Herndon resident who police believe assaulted and abducted his wife and child in Chantilly. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Comstock shifts gears — The development company is shifting its business strategy from for-sale homebuilding to commercial development, asset management and real estate. [Nasdaq]

Breathe in, breathe out — Join a longtime meditator for an adults-only meditation workshop today from 2-3:30 p.m. [Reston Regional Library]

The price tag for Sheraton Reston Hotel — Remember the planned renovation we covered? The hotel was bought by Wurzak Hotel Group for $27 million. [Commercial Real Estate Direct]

Open for (more) business — Reston Farm Market has new hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. [Reston Farm Market]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Friday Morning Notes

Construction on office tower in Reston Station to begin — Comstock will begin building a new $95 million office tower this spring. The tower is the third office building that is part of its Reston Station development. [The Washington Business Journal]

A tax(ing) season — Need some tax relief? The county is hosting two tax relief workshops for older adults and people with disabilities in Reston next month. [The Connection]

Police seek suspects in a string of Northern Virginia robberies — “Police are searching for the suspects they believe are responsible for more than a dozen robberies in Northern Virginia over the last few months. Two men have been involved in five commercial robberies in Fairfax and Loudoun counties since Monday.” [WTOP]

Reston Station thinks big — Comstock wants to make its massive redevelopment project more robust. A new hotel and taller buildings could be added to its development plan. [Reston Planning and Zoning Committee]

Local dance company goes to Atlas — Gin Dance Company will perform at the Atlas Festival this year. We hope they’ll break a leg! [The Connection]

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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Founding Farmers Close to Opening in Reston Station

Founding Farmers plans to open its Reston Station location in early 2018.

The opening of the restaurant, originally set for summer 2017, was delayed due after plans to the 10,000-square-foot location (1901 Reston Metro Plaza Drive) were revamped.

No firm opening date has been made public, although the company has begun hiring for all positions and expects to open in the first quarter of this year. In August, a company representative told Reston Now the restaurant will open next month.

A spokesperson for Comstock Partners, the owner of Reston Station, said the company went back to the drawing board to improve the design and layout of the restaurant after opening a new location — Farmers & Distillers — in the District.

“After opening their downtown D.C. restaurant a year ago, they decided to make some major changes to better improve operations,” said Maggie Parker, vice president of communications and community outreach for Comstock Partners. “They can’t wait to open.”

The Reston restaurant rests on the ground floor of a planned 200-room hotel at Reston Station and on top of the 3,500-space Reston Station Transit Facility. A large mezzanine is planned at the site, which sits next to the 45o-unit BLVD at Reston Station.

The farmer-owned restaurant include a full-service menu and bar with breakfast, lunch and dinner and a Farmers Market buffet brunch on weekends. A “First Bake” menu will offer takeaway breakfast and coffee on weekday mornings, according to the restaurant’s website.

Founding Farmers is owned by more than 47,000 family farmers of the North Dakota Farmers Union and is supplied by hundreds of family farms, according to its website.

No update was available on when Sweet Leaf, a locally owned cafe chain scheduled to open next to Founding Farmers will open. Signage on the store front indicates an opening in the winter of last year.

(This post was updated on Friday, Jan. 12 at 10:29 a.m. to include background about Founding Farmers). 

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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Monday Morning Notes

Creditors Take Over Reston Contractor’s Subsidiary — The company, STC Group Inc., received formal notice earlier this month of the default, which cited the company’s failure to comply with financial covenants of an $81.2 million credit agreement from two years ago, according to the report. Top executives resigned as a result. [Washington Business Journal]

Stolen Garage Door Openers Lead to Local Burglaries — According to WTOP, police in Fairfax County are investigating a series of burglaries that happened this week involving stolen garage door openers. The incidents occurred at four homes, two of which are in Reston. In three cases, homeowners said they spotted the suspect, whom they described as a black man in his late teens to early 20s. [WTOP]

Comstock Holding Companies Inc Reports Third Quarter Results — The Reston-based company reported a net los of around $1.5 million as compared to the third quarter of last year, during with a net loss of $1.1 million was reported. [NB Herard]

Farmer-owned Restaurant Coming to Reston Soon — The North Dakota Farmers Union, Agraria LLC and the Farmers Restaurant Group are considering a plan to open their seventh farmer-owned restaurant on the East Coast in Reston. [Bismarck Tribune]

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Herndon Council Strikes Deal with Comstock for Downtown Development Project

The redevelopment of Herndon’s historic center moved forward Tuesday as local lawmakers passed an agreement that would transform nearly 4.7 acres of town-owned land into a mixed use development.

The seven-member Herndon Town Council unanimously approved a comprehensive agreement with Comstock Partners that lays out responsibilities of both parties. Comstock plans to bring 281 residential apartments, 17,600 square feet of retail space, an arts plaza and walkways, an 18,000-square-foot arts center and a 761-space parking garage to the center.

The public-private redevelopment deal states the town will pitch in $3.6 million to help with the redevelopment effort, including $500,000 for environmental remediation, $500,000 for transitional public parking, $250,000 for the relocation of the arts center, $100,000 for culvert repairs and up to $100,000 for any off-site easements. The town will also contribute land purchased for $5.8 million

In return, the developer will provide 339 public parking spaces in the garage, the arts center, an arts work and recreation proffer and $505,000 in proffer funds for town recreational services. The total value of the contributions is roughly $12 million, according to the town.

Construction, which is set to begin in early 2019, is expected to be complete by early 2021. With the green light from the council, the developer must begin designing the project. Once the design is complete, Comstock will submit a site plan to the town for approval and seek design approval from the town’s Heritage Preservation Committee — a process that could take one year.

The site on which the development would take place is north of Elden Street, east of Center Street, west of Station Street and south of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The space in question includes municipal parking lots and the home of ArtSpace, as well as the former Stohlman Subaru building on Elden Street.

As the development moves forward, the town plans to work with Comstock on a transitional parking plan. ArtSpace will be relocated off-site during construction of the project. The future of the Herndon Festival is unclear as the festival’s committee will evaluate options for relocation. During construction, parking will either continue to be located on-site or be transitioned to other locations in downtown Herndon. The town will work with Comstock on the transitional parking plan.

In a release, Mayor Lisa Merkel applauded the council’s decision as a major step forward in the redevelopment effort.

“After decades of discussion, vision and planning, the town is thrilled to be moving forward on a project that will revitalize our downtown and solidify Herndon’s position as a 21st century town where history and heritage are integrated into a thoroughly contemporary setting. We are grateful to the citizens, business owners and others with a stake in Herndon’s future who have dedicated so much time and energy to get us to this point, and we look forward to working with Comstock in bringing the town’s vision to reality.”

County officials project the purchase of the property will bring in roughly $300,000 per year from taxes and fees for licenses. The site is currently exempt from property taxes.

For more information about the plans, visit the town’s website.

Image courtesy of Anne Curtis

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Report: Developers ‘Concerned’ About Number of New Reston Rental Units

At a panel event last week, developers said that filling the thousands of new rental units coming to Reston’s Metro corridor is proving to be a “bumpy road.”

Commercial real-estate news source Bisnow hosted a “Fairfax County State of the Market” event last week, at which representatives of several top area developers spoke about the boom in development in Reston and Tysons. According to Bisnow’s report, the areas are currently in a state where supply is outpacing demand.

“In Reston we’re a little sick, but Tysons is in hospice in terms of the glut of apartments,” said Greg Trimmer, JBG Smith executive vice president of development, according to the Bisnow report. Trimmer is reported to have said that apartment rents in Reston are flat — and in some cases slightly negative — due to the amount of new multifamily construction.

JBG Smith is involved in numerous residential projects around Reston, including the next phase of the RTC West project, which would include 700 dwelling units in two towers. It also has a stake in the 1831 Wiehle project, which would bring in about 1,500 new residents. In addition, Fairfax County has approved JBG Smith’s plans for about 500 more residential units and more at the Commerce Executive Park; however, the developer may be looking to unload that property.

Trimmer is reported to have said that Reston is positioned well to be a residential success, but that it is currently experiencing a “blip.”

“In the long term we’re set up well, but right now we do have a bit of a problem,” Trimmer is reported to have said.

Comstock CEO Chris Clemente is reported to have agreed, saying that the 450-apartment BLVD has not leased as quickly as expected. He says the hope is that will change once the full Reston Station development begins to take shape.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the lack of understanding of what this neighborhood here is going to be,” Clemente is reported to have said. “The new residential buildings will benefit from that lifestyle that only comes when you have a more complete environment.”

Comstock’s additional plans include 460 more residential units where the Sunset Hills Professional Center currently stands.

Mike Henehan, Bozzuto’s senior vice president, also spoke on the issue during the forum. He is reported to have given similar comments about the glut of new apartments and the supply surge in Reston.

Bozzuto is currently leasing apartments at its new 421-unit Aperture building.

“There is still some rent growth in this market,” Henehan is reported to have said. “It certainly doesn’t keep up with construction costs and some of the other costs, so I think there will be a little resistance there over time.”

File photo of Bozzuto’s Aperture apartments under construction, August 2016

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Reston Planning & Zoning Committee To Discuss Three Major Projects at Tonight’s Meeting

At its meeting tonight (agenda), Reston’s Planning & Zoning Committee will hear presentations on three major upcoming projects.

Two projects are scheduled to be voted upon at the meeting:

  • Renaissance Centro 1801 LLC — Currently the 1.51-acre home of a three-story office building, 1801 Old Reston Ave. has been proposed by property owner Renaissance Centro as the site of a 20-story high rise with up to 150 living units. Of those units, 126 would be market-rate and 24 would be workforce dwelling. This project has a Dec. 6 hearing scheduled with the Fairfax County Planning Commission.
  • Kensington Senior Development LLC — Currently the home of Good Beginnings School, 11501 Sunrise Valley Drive is proposed as the new home of a senior-living facility. The 65,000-square-foot building would include 96 beds within 70 units. This project has a Nov. 30 hearing scheduled with the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

The committee is also scheduled to hear an informational presentation on the CRS Sunset Hills LC project. Comstock Partners plans to convert the Sunset Hills Professional Center, a one-story office condo complex at Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue, into a mixed-use development featuring approximately 460 residential units and 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The project would also include two parcels to the east, known as the “Kfoury Parcels,” which would be developed to add approximately 300,000 square feet of office uses. Comstock also plans for an approximately 400,000-square-foot full-service hotel and 80 high-end residential units on another adjacent property. In total, the planned project includes about 1.24 million square feet of proposed redevelopment, exclusive of affordable-housing provision bonuses.

That project does not yet have a county hearing scheduled.

Tonight’s Reston P&Z Committee meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

File image of 1801 Old Reston Ave.

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