Reston, VA

Several Reston-based companies made it to a national list that recognizes employers for dedication to diversity and inclusion.

The yearly list of 500 companies, which is compiled by Forbes magazine, included three Reston-based companies and 13 companies in Fairfax County.

SAIC, an information technology company that stands for Science Applications International Corporation, ranked #91 on the list. Leidos, which is opening up its headquarters in Reston Town Center soon, got the 455th spot while Bechtel, an engineering and construction company, got the 500th spot.

“The workforce today – and the workforce of tomorrow – want to see a commitment to diversity and inclusion by employers, and it is a testament to these Fairfax County companies’ efforts to attract talented employees from all backgrounds and walks of life that they are part of this impressive national ranking,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Forbes’ list was compiled using survey data from a sample of more than 60,000 U.S. employees. Other factors like diversity levels among executives, leadership positions responsible for diversity, and the presence of a diverse company culture were also considered as part of the determination.

Photo courtesy Boston Properties

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As Lisa Merkel wraps up her final term as the Town of Herndon’s mayor, she took a moment to reflect and talk to Reston Now about her experiences in office.

Merkel made town history as the first woman elected into the position in 2012 after serving as Herndon’s vice mayor during the 2010-2012 term.

According to Merkel, her decision to not seek re-election wasn’t based on any specific motive, besides a wish to spend time with her family and dedicate more time to volunteering around the community.

“I still plan on being involved in the town,” she told Reston Now.

Merkel told Reston Now her accomplishments include implementation of the Metrorail Expansion Project, the ongoing development of downtown Herndon and the establishment of the Economic Development Department.

“I’m really proud we’ve embraced the business community,” Merkel said, adding that — due to her efforts — the tax rate is now split evenly between residential and commercial incomes.

Many of the local businesses even give back to the community by acting as sponsors for official events like the annual holiday parade, which Merkel said is the largest event of the year.

In a press release, Merkel said her other key achievements include marking June as LGBTQ Pride Month, adding Circulator buses to Herndon Station, providing online and on-demand Town Council meeting access and approving construction plans for a new fire station.

“Sometimes it’s really the smaller things that get attention,” Merkel told Reston Now, adding that small projects make a huge difference in the town and help to develop a sense of place.

She gave examples of adding tables and umbrellas to the Town Square, lights on the W&OD Trail and gateway signs to announce entry into the town. The tables and umbrellas, especially, gave people a fun and welcoming place to gather, she said.

Merkel has faced some roadblocks, though, during her time in office.

She said she had trouble communicating with the public that development projects in the town won’t threaten the small community feel, which she said is at the heart of Herndon’s identity.

“There was a fear that if we started building like that at the Metro station, it would trickle into downtown,” Merkel said. “We had to reassure people that Herndon won’t be a bunch of highrises.”

During her final months in office, Merkel said she hopes to oversee the groundbreaking on the downtown Herndon project and continue to work on installing underground utilities around town.

Going forward, Merkel said she won’t endorse any particular candidate for the upcoming election. But she hopes the next mayor will be an effective listener, willing to consider other perspectives on topics and won’t be afraid to seek counsel on issues they aren’t familiar with.

She encourages anyone passionate about their community to run, regardless of their political experience.

“Don’t mix national policy issues with town issues because we don’t have jurisdiction over those things,” Merkel said. “You don’t want to alienate any of your constituents with issues that don’t relate to the job. That’s been my philosophy.”

Photo via Lisa Merkel

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The Reston Association recently made several key edits to the draft of the 2020-2022 strategic plan, which is up for final approval on Thursday (Dec. 19).

Potential changes in the plan, drafted in November, include:

  • working with Fairfax County officials to ensure developments align with the Reston Master Plan
  • hosting more public forums to discuss land use and strategize with the community
  • increasing community leadership and RA’s public reputation
  • adjusting the association’s budget plans

RA CEO Hank Lynch will present the latest draft of the strategic plan, which is currently available online, before the final vote by the RA this week.

The draft addresses concerns about efficient and productive land use around Reston.

A section of the strategic plan said that the “RA will be actively engaged in the continuous land-use development process in Reston.”

By 2022, operation costs for the Reston Association are expected to rise to $17.9 million, but revenues are expected to increase proportionally by 2.5% as well, according to RA documents.

In 2019, the RA made $300,o00 more than expected, according to the documents.

“When revenues exceed plan and expenses are below budget, it is an indicator of a well-managed organization,” according to the documents. “Reston Association is such an organization.”

When polled by the RA, 73% of community members said they either considered the organization to be good or excellent, while 13% ranked the condition as poor.

A list of proposed goals included several ways that the association could improve public opinion — including the integration of more public forums.

The RA Board will vote to finalize the matter at its meeting on Thursday (Dec. 19) at 12001 Sunrise Valley Drive beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Data in graph via Reston Association

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The Sunrise Square townhome development in Reston is complete after two years of construction.

The development consists of 34 townhouses and 10 condos, many of which have already been sold.

Only eight townhomes remain on the market and are going for $800,000 and above, Jack Appleman, a spokesperson for the real estate group Sekas Homes, said.

During development, five of the homes were made in a way that would let buyers customize them and choose their own interior designs, Appleman said.

The remaining listings on the website include three bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, featuring 9-foot ceilings and access to nearby trails, Reston Association pools, tennis courts and other community facilities.

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As work gears up on the new fire station in Reston, construction crews will soon tear down the current one.

The demolition on the old facility (1820 Wiehle Avenue) is expected to begin early this December, William Delaney, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, said.

Construction is underway for a temporary station at 1800 Cameron Glen Drive to serve the community until the new facility is completed in 2021.

The existing location is too small and does not suit the needs of the community anymore, another spokesperson previously told Reston Now.

The new station will cost $14.8 million, double the size of the station and feature two stories with room for administrative offices, a dayroom, kitchen, storage and bunk rooms.

“I am sure there will be a grand re-opening ceremony when new station up and running,” Delaney said.

Image via Google Maps 

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The developer of a proposed 13-story apartment building near Reston Town Center has filed an appeal against the county’s decision to deny the project earlier this year.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission denied the project in June due its size and scale. NS Reston is proposing to build a 58-unit residential building on the north side of New Dominion Parkway.

The site, which is currently vacant, is next to the Paramount Condominium building and the Winwood Children’s Center, which is approved for a mixed-use building with 125 dwelling units. The county’s planning documents place a 746 unit cap on the two sites, including NS Reston’s project area.

Planning Commissioners said NS Reston’s proposal would exceed the planned density in that area, which is known in planning jargon as Reston Town Center Park 5. The site was also previously marked as a park for more than 20 years.

“There’s some density left, but not 58 units worth,” said Planning Commissioner John Carter at a June 19 meeting, adding that the proposal does not promote circulation and access in a congested area with a major intersection.

The appeal request heads to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Oct 15.

Renderings via NS Reston/Fairfax County Government

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Town of Herndon officials have launched a process to review the town’s comprehensive plan, a planning document that guides current and future development.

The comprehensive plan, which state law states must be reviewed by the local planning commission at least once every five years, will head to the town’s planning commission for review.

Although dates have not been announced, the commission plans to review public input and make suggestions on changes to the plan. The commission will then draft a resolution for the town council that states the plan’s priorities and direction. By law, the Herndon Town Council is not required to take action on the resolution.

In previous years, the town has incorporated major changes to the plan, including planning for downtown Herndon and areas near the Herndon Metro Station.

The following amendments have been approved in recent years since the original plan was adopted in 2008:

  • Downtown Master Plan
  • Downtown Streetscape Map
  • Metrorail Station Area Plan
  • Cycle Track on Herndon Parkway
  • South Elden Area Plan

Changes to the future plan could include updating the parks and recreation chapter, sustainability policy, multigenerational planning, and economic development.

Residents interested in submitting their comments and suggestions on the plan can email [email protected].

Image via Herndon Planning Commission

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Four proposed condominiums near Woodland Park Crossing are headed to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a public hearing next Wednesday (June 12).

NVR, Inc. had received approval previously for the development of a 210,715-square-foot, multi-family building with 148 dwelling units on the site of a larger, 1.6 million-square-foot, mixed-use development.

Now, the developers want to covert the multifamily homes into four, five-story-tall condominiums totaling 185,000 square feet with 96 units for Block C.

The new plans for Block C in the Woodland Park East development would include three public open spaces and one private open space.

The rest of the development includes:

  • Block A: residential townhomes
  • Block B: residential townhomes and two-over-twos
  • Block D: multi-family building
  • Block E: offices and large urban park

Planning Commission staff recommend approval of the development, according to the staff report.

Development plans via Fairfax County, map via Google Maps 

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Comstock’s redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are heading soon to the town’s Heritage Preservation Review Board.

“A few weeks ago the council asked me at every public hearing to give an update on the downtown even there is nothing to report,” Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Town Council on last night’s public session. “Tonight is not one of those nights.”

Ashton said that the site plan has been approved following months of engineering and zoning reviews.

He added that staff is currently looking at Comstock’s applications to appear before the HPRB, which may happen as early as May.

“That is a major milestone,” Ashton said, adding that he applauds the engineering and zoning staff for their work. “We are on to the next step.”

Comstock’s plan wasn’t the only development on last night’s agenda. The Town Council approved a development plan to change the zoning at 555 Herndon Parkway to allow for Penzance Properties’ proposed mixed-use project, which would create an urban block with residential, office and retail space in three buildings.

“This is the first real transit-oriented development that has come to our 38 acres,” Mayor Lisa Merkel said. “Eight years later, we finally have our first plan.”

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Needle felting — From 7-9 p.m. participants can learn how to make creations through needle felting, which involves poking gathered wool with a special barbed needle. Andrew Black, a Reston resident and artist, will lead the workshop. [ArtSpace Herndon]

RA election results — The Annual Members’ Meeting from 7-9 p.m. at the Reston Association’s headquarters will include the election results for the Board of Directors and update members on new initiatives, programs and opportunities. The meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube. [YouTube]

Development size ranking — The Washington Business Journal has compiled square footage numbers for developments in the D.C. area. Based on metro-area square footage under construction, Orr Partners of Reston nabbed fifth place at 2.75 million square feet, and The Ardent Company of Reston ranked 11th at 1.93 million. [Washington Business Journal]

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Work on a new townhome community is on schedule to add to the growing residential options along Sunrise Valley Drive.

Construction crews are currently framing the 54 open-concept townhomes Toll Brothers’ Valley and Park development, a Toll Brother spokeswoman told Reston Now.

The spokeswoman said that the project is “currently on schedule” with anticipated completion in 2021.

When asked about the sign on the site that says the development is “opening early 2019,” the spokeswoman responded that Toll Brothers expects a late spring or early summer opening.

Work started on the project in 2017 when trucks tore down a six-story office building that was on the site at 11720 Sunrise Valley Drive, which is close to both the Wiehle-Reston East and the future Reston Town Center Metro stations.

The four different townhome plans all feature three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and three half bathrooms and are priced in the upper-$700,000s, according to Toll Brothers.

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The owners behind the major Halley Rise want the county to approve a reshuffling of the square footage on what they say is a crowded block in the project.

Right now, work is underway on the portion of the 4 million-square-foot mixed-use development that will bring Reston its first Wegmans in June 2020. Halley Rise will be adjacent to the Reston Town Center Metro Station, occupying the northwest corner of the intersection of Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive.

One Reston Co. LLC and Two Reston Co. LLC want to redistribute some of the square footage from three denser blocks to two different blocks, “which still have [the] capacity for additional development,” according to the application.

The proposed changes would shift the hotel from block G to block E. Block E also would have a significant chunk of its retail space shifted elsewhere, along with moving all of its residential units to a different block. Meanwhile, block H would shave off about 150,000 square feet of office space.

The largest change would make block D the densest in the development with 100,000 square feet of office space, in addition to 391 residential units and four times more retail square footage.

The proposed changes were spurred by the realization that retrofitting the existing parking structure on block E with more than 400,000 square feet of development “would be more challenging than [the applicant] initially anticipated,” the application says.

“As a result, the applicant’s plan began with redistributing some of the square footage that had been concentrated on block E in order to relieve pressure from its planned over-development.”

The application, which stresses that the proposed changes do not adjust the project’s mix of uses or density, calls the proposal “modest improvements” that will allow for a new pedestrian promenade.

In early March, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ requested the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors speed up the review process for proposed plans that would adjust the grid of streets and accelerate construction of the streets to coincide with the opening of the grocer.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is set to take up the proposal with a public hearing on May 22.

Photos via Fairfax County and Halley Rise/website

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Fairfax County is looking into who should pay for and manage a community-based performing arts center set for Boston Properties’ Reston Gateway project.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a feasibility study with private and public entities at its meeting last week on Tuesday, March 19.

“The community has demonstrated strong interest and support for such a facility,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins wrote in her motion, which Chairman Sharon Bulova read due to Hudgins’ absence.

The 60,000-square-foot performing arts center is slated for the mixed-use project, which includes nearly 2 million square feet of office space, two hotels with 570 rooms and 162,300 square feet in retail and restaurants. Located on the north side of Sunset Hills Road between the Reston and Town Center parkways, the project will connect the future Reston Town Center Metro station to the border of Reston Town Center. 

Block J has been identified as a possible location for the performing arts center, according to Hudgins’ motion. The feasibility study aims to assess if the county or another entity can finance, construct, maintain and program the performing arts center.

Before the board voted, Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth cautioned the board about the upkeep the performing arts will require.

“Having worked through a lot of this sort of thing with the Cap One project in Tysons, we found that operating and maintaining some sort of arts center is costly,” Smyth told the board. “It requires the right people to do it.”

Photos via Fairfax County and Cooper Carry 

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Reston fire earlier today — Updated at 2:15 p.m. — Firefighters were on the scene of house fire in 2500 block of Freetown Drive around 2 a.m. The fire is now out. “Two occupants were home at [the] time. Fire in wall, quickly extinguished. Fire accidental. Cause: electrical event within [the] main electrical panel in [the] basement. No civilian or firefighter injuries. Damages: $5,000.” [Fairfax Fire and Rescue]

Development finds financing — “Rooney Properties secured $29.1M in preferred equity from Parse Capital for the 407-unit Faraday Park development… The project, branded as Faraday, will consist of two seven-story multifamily buildings with 10K SF of ground-floor retail at 1831 Michael Faraday Drive in Reston.” [Bisnow]

Playdate Cafe — The Great Falls Library is hosting a playdate from 10 a.m.-noon for kids under the age of 5 accompanied by an adult. [Fairfax County]

Photo courtesy Adam Smith

 

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Statewide tornado drill today — Don’t be surprised if your neighbors act there’s a tornado, because there’s a statewide drill starting at 9:45 a.m. [Reston Now]

Reston makes the list — Find out which Reston developments made the Washington Business Journal’s “Best Real Estate Deals” roundup. [Washington Business Journal]

Hudgins interview — Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins might be stepping down from her Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s role, but locals can still expect to see her around Reston. Hudgins answered some questions about development, One Fairfax and more. [Inside NoVa]

Photo courtesy @thoroughly.adorable.millie/Instagram

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