After Appeal, Heritage Preservation Review Board OKs Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

In a flashback to its hurried approval of the downtown Herndon redevelopment project last year, the town’s Heritage Preservation Review Board unanimously approved Comstock’s application to demolish several buildings to make way for the mixed-use project last night (Wednesday).

The board granted Comstock, which is leading the public-private partnership, Certificates of Appropriateness that allow the developer to proceed with the project. The HPRB’s approval last June prompted several property owners neighboring the project to file an appeal on the grounds the project was approved prematurely.

Last year, the HPRB approved the certificates to demolish buildings at 770 Elden Street and 750 Center Street, as well as the exterior architecture of the development, despite staff’s recommendations to defer the decision to a later date.

Mike McFarlane, who was the lone dissenting vote on the board last year, voted in favor of the project last night. After discussions with staff, McFarlane said the reasons why he initially opposed the project — the size, mass and scale of the building — were not within the purview of the board.

“There was more than gentle arm twisting from some elements in the town that I resented,” he added.

Residents who testified at last night’s hearing overwhelming supported razing the buildings, including the site of the former Stohlman Subaru, which one resident said had a roof that was “flapping in the wind.” Supporters urged the HPRB to approve the project, which they said would give the town a sense of place and has been anticipated for years.

Noah Klein, Comstock’s legal representative, noted that the properties under question were not historic landmarks and did not contribute significantly to heritage preservation. He said Comstock would continue to work with residents to incorporate some elements of the to-be-demolished buildings.

“The concept is to present a new and vibrant design but also connect it to the historic heritage,” Klein said.

John Vassello Jr., one of the appellants who challenged the HPRB’s decision last year, said he was still dissatisfied with the project. Although he noted he does not oppose the development, Vassello said he was vexed about the lack of public involvement and questioned whether the HPRB’s vote was influenced by town officials, who have a vested interest in the project.

The town’s attorney cut off Vassello’s remarks after he reached the maximum allotted time of three minutes. A resident who supported the project read Vassello’s remaining testimony.

The meeting concluded with applause from the audience. The vote was unanimous.

Photo via handout/Town of Herndon

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Heritage Preservation Review Board Dives into Downtown Legislation — The Town of Herndon’s board will hear public feedback on Comstock’s proposal to develop downtown Herndon. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Herndon Council Chambers Building. [Town of Herndon]

Lunch with the Four Mrs. Hemingways  Hear each of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives tell their story about a man who changed literary history. The performance is set for noon today at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods. [Reston Community Center]

Volunteers Needed for Taste of Reston — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce needs to fill more than 300 volunteer positions for the event, which is set for June 14 and 15. Each volunteer gets a free T-shirt and 12 taste tickets. [Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce]

Reston Hospital Center Helps Sterling Teachers Make Their Dream Classroom — The local hospital and Stone Springs Hospital purchased $5,000 in supplies to help teachers at Sterling Middle School afford their dream classroom. [WUSA 9]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Heritage Preservation Review Board to Consider Comstock’s Downtown Herndon Plans

Comstock’s redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are headed to the town’s Heritage Preservation Review for a possible vote this month.

The HPRB dove into details of the proposal on May 1, setting the stage for a May 15 public hearing.

At the May 1 meeting, HPRB members encouraged Comstock to ensure it provides proper notice of public events and activities to residents neighboring the property as the development proceeds.

Members also asked Comstock to look into the visibility of shafts from public streets and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Staff have recommended approval of the project. A public hearing is set for May 15 at 7 p.m. in the Herndon Town Council Chambers.

File photo

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Comstock’s Revised Plans for Downtown Herndon Project Under Review

After hitting delays with multiple revisions, Comstock’s newest redevelopment plans for downtown Herndon are now back under review.

Town Manager Bill Ashton told the Herndon Town Council at its public meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 12) that the staff started reviewing the revised site plans on Friday (Feb. 8).

“The fourth revision of the site plan is back in staff hands as of late last week,” Ashton said, adding that the Town of Herndon has “gone back and forth” with Comstock to refine the proposal and site plan.

The proposed project for Herndon’s downtown has stalled several times since the Herndon Town Council and Comstock agreed to the mixed-use development in 2017.

Plans for the redevelopment were withdrawn and then resubmitted last summer after property owners next to the site of the redevelopment effort filed three appeals.

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Reston Then and Now: Elden Street in Herndon

This week on Reston Then and Now we take our first foray into Herndon, moving a little west of the Reston Town Center. Fairfax County’s aerial photography shows how the shopping venues on Elden Street west of the Fairfax County Parkway have evolved over the years.

Herndon is a historic town, but the shopping centers along Elden Street are a relatively recent addition that followed the rise of Reston to the east.

The first of the shopping centers to spring up along Elden Street was Herndon Pines Shopping Center, which was established in 1959 but recently has faced continuing vacancies.

Further east, the the Herndon Centre was anchored by a Kmart built in 1976. The building was demolished in 2017 and is expected to be replaced by a Sprouts Farmers Market.

New development continued to spring up along the southern side of Elden Street from the 1990s onward, including the addition of the Safeway, SunTrust, and various shops in Herndon Marketplace.

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Mile 20 Brings Beers On Tap to Downtown Herndon

The Breeze Sports Bar and Restaurant in downtown Herndon is going the extra mile by adding a new venture to their popular restaurant in downtown Herndon.

Mile 20 (781 Station Street) will offer 24 taps and bottle beers for customers to try. The business, which is part of The Breeze, is located in the lower level of the restaurant in the patio area — space formerly occupied by a hair salon.

A grand opening party is set for tomorrow (Oct. 6) from noon to 11 p.m. 

The owners had the following to say about their new venture, which offers many beers from local breweries like “Optimal Wit” from Port City Brewing in Alexandria and “Choosy Mother Peanut Butter Porter” from Isley Brewing Company in Richmond.

Mile 20 is taking a step back from all the beer that you can get at anywhere. American light lagers are not what we are about. We are about supporting local and small breweries. There are amazing beers in your backyard, and you shouldn’t have to go far to find all of them. Mile 20 has 24 taps and dozens of bottle beers for you to try. Rotation is key so there is always something new and interesting. Whether your thing is IPAs, Sours, Porters, or anything in between; we got you covered. If you are new to the craft beer world, come on in and try a flight; specially picked out by our knowledgeable bartenders or build your own.

Photos by George Nikolopoulos

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Monday Morning Notes

‘Muscle Up Mondays’ continue today — Crunch Fitness will continue to offer free group fitness classes on Mondays through October 29 at 6:30 p.m. in Reston Town Center. [Facebook]

Delays on Orange, Silver and Blue lines continue –Metro commuters are encouraged to seek other transportation options this week as major construction work continues through August 26. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Ramp and lane closures in effect this week — Several local lanes and ramps will be closed this week as work on phase two of the Silver Line continues. Impacted roads include the Dulles Toll Road, Sunset Hills Road, Sunrise Valley Drive and Herndon Parkway. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Let’s talk finances — Reston Association’s Board of Directors will meet with the organization’s fiscal committee to review the first draft of the operating and capital budgets, as well as the PRC zoning amendment. [Reston Association]

In summary: Downtown Herndon redevelopment — Comstock Partners has officially withdrawn its application for a Certificate of Appropriateness to the Town of Herndon’s Heritage Preservation Review Board for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon. But plans are in the works to resubmit the proposal, which calls for roughly 17,600 square feet of retail, 200+ apartments, and a 761-space parking garage. [Fairfax County Times]

Photo by Beth Allgaier

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Despite Appeals, Residents Voice Strong Support for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment

At a public hearing Tuesday night, local residents voiced strong support for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon as town officials work to address appeals against the project by local property owners.

Three property owners filed appeals against the project, citing concerns related to the development’s impact on traffic and inconsistencies with heritage preservation guidelines, including density increases above standards laid out by the town.

On Tuesday, a majority of Herndon residents testifying about the appeals reaffirmed their support for the project. Speaking on behalf of Neighbors for Downtown Herndon Redevelopment, a group supporting the project that has rapidly grown in the last several weeks, Donielle Scherff said that while the appeals raise “reasonable” concerns, they have put residents’ “dream for this downtown in jeopardy.”

“We stand to lose the vibrant, thriving small town of the future, one that exudes this Herndon exceptionalism that we all love so much,” Scherff said.

In November 2017, Town of Herndon officials entered into an agreement with Comstock to breathe new life into 4.7 acres of in the Historic Downtown District. Plans proposed in June include a parking garage, 274 residential units, an 18,000-square-foot arts center and 17,00 square feet of retail space.

Earlier this year, the town’s Heritage Preservation Board approved the project, despite staff’s recommendations to defer action on the overall project. Filed appeals following the board’s decision rendered the project’s Certificate of Appropriateness void. The town’s council will consider the appeals in the coming weeks. The agreement for the project is unaffected by the voided certificate, which delays the implementation of the project.

File photo

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Comstock, Town Officials Withdraw Application for Redevelopment of Downtown Herndon

Plans for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon were officially withdrawn in late July following the filing of three appeals from property owners next to the site of the redevelopment effort.

The appellants are challenging the June 18 decision of the Heritage Preservation Review Board to approve the redevelopment plan, which is presented through a public-private partnership between the developer, Comstock, and the town, which owns the property.

The appeals allege the HPRB approved the project prematurely and failed to apply the town’s requirements for historical preservation, including whether or not the proposed development, which would require demolition of some buildings, was compatible with buildings in the heritage preservation district. Of particular concern is the demolition of the old Stohlman Subaru building on Elden Street, the preservations status and significance of which was misrepresented to the public and the board, according to the appeals.

One appeal charges that the town exercised “undue influence” on the HPRB and attempted to limit its power by clarifying town officials’ expectations of how the board would handle the redevelopment proposal. The appeal also states the town officials’ presentation of the application to the HPRB was biased.

Discussions are underway between town officials and the developer to determine the next steps. “We continue to work with the town and trust that things will stay on track,” a spokesperson for Comstock told Reston Now.

In a statement, Lisa Merkel, the mayor of the Town of Herndon, said she was disappointed the project was being stalled despite years of planning, outreach and public comment, especially since the demolition of the old Stohlman Subaru building was evident in proposals since the original request for proposals.

I hope this delay doesn’t cost Herndonians the opportunity to have the vibrant, arts-focused, smalltown downtown so many have dreamed of and worked to make happen for decades. I am hopeful, but worried,” Merkel wrote.

Going forward, the town’s zoning administrator must schedule a hearing at the next town council meeting. During the meeting, appellants will discuss their appeals before the council. The town council will decide whether or not it will reverse the HPRB’s decision on the development.

Other concerns raised in the appeals include the impact of the development on traffic, overflow parking needs for residents of nearby apartments, and the high-density nature of the development.

The filed appeals are below:

Heritage Preservation Review Board Appeals by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

File photo

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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, 17,000 square feet of retail and a 761-space garage.

File photo

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