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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Plans for the redevelopment of downtown Herndon were officially withdrawn in late July following the filing of three appeals from property owners next to the site of the redevelopment effort.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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Anchored by Downtown Development, Herndon’s 2019 Budget Boosts Spending

The Herndon Town Council passed a $60.2 million budget for next year, a nearly 18 percent increase over last year.

The budget package, which was approved Tuesday night, holds the line on taxes. The general fund budget increased moderately by 1.7 percent to $35.2 million.

A significant portion of the spending boost is tied to the development of downtown Herndon and vehicle and pedestrian access improvements.

The budget includes $2.7 million for improvements on Van Buren Street and Herndon Parkway, $730,000 for improvements at the intersection of Herndon Parkway and Spring Street and $900,000 for improvements at the intersection of Elden Street and Monroe Street. An additional $500,000 is included for downtown parking and an arts facility.

Local officials are considering adding a second story to the Herndon Community Center to create more space for fitness activities and storage. The project also includes plans to upgrade locker rooms and a reconfigured entrance to address issues with HVAC system in the current lobby.

Funding for a 4,000-square-foot nature center at Runnymede Park is also included in the budget.

The complete budget will be available online by July. 1

File photo

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As Metro Goes Live in 2020, Development in Herndon Pushes Bedroom Community to the Edge

Plans are underway to redevelop aging office buildings and mixed-used projects in Herndon as the opening of the nearby Metro station inches closer in 2020.

But as the oncoming train sweeps in more development and corridor activity, local officials and business leaders are grappling with one key question: How will the Herndon Metro stop distinguish itself from others on the Silver Line?

“We cannot have every stop look the same,” said John Boylan, president and CEO of the Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Some are placing their hopes on the place-making character of the Town of Herndon’s downtown, a historic center that is one mile from the Metro station and the only incorporated town on the Silver Line. The town is working with Comstock Partners to redevelop 4.7 acres of land into a mixed use development with 281 apartments, a central community plaza, an arts center and retail. Comstock plans to break ground in late 2018. Construction will take at least two years. 

A 761-space garage will be delivered first and will be free. Maggie Parker, Comstock’s vice president of communication, said the company is excited to work on Herndon’s “jewel.”

“People are hungry for community and that’s what the Herndon project offers and that’s what the Herndon Metro Station offers,” Parker said.

Mixed-used projects in Herndon’s 38-acre transit-oriented area near the Metro station are taking off. By 2050, an additional 2.1 million square feet of office space is planned as part of Herndon’s Metro Station Area Plan.

Just last month, Kiddar Capital announced it acquired 575 Herndon Parkway, a 4.8-acre site at the door of Herndon Metro station platform. The company is holding off on releasing plans for redevelopment for at least three years.

Other mixed-use projects are in the pipeline. The first and furthest development from the Metro Station — Corporate Oaks One (625 Herndon Parkway) — includes 64 stacked condominiums selling for between $500,000 and $600,000.

Penzance Properties plans to build a mixed-use development at 555 parkway, which calls for three or four 225 to 275-foot towers and ground floor retail.

Other projects in Herndon include Tishman’s Woodland Park East Development, which will include 1.6 million square feet of office and residential on roughly 32 acres. A mix of 678 townhouses, stacked condos, and apartments is planned, along with two office towers, 81 affordable housing units and six acres of open space.

“Herndon is strategically positioned for growth,” said Rodney Lusk, director of national marketing for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Waterview at Woodland Park includes 295 multi-family units, 50 stacked townhouses and 32 townhouses. Prices start in the upper $600s for the community, which will open in May.

Arrowbrook Centre will see 2.3 million square feet of development on 54 acres. Houston Office Partners also plans to convert two office buildings into two multi-family residential projects with 866 units. Innovation Center South, which calls for 1.6 million square feet of development, including 1 million square feet of residential and 2,070 parking spaces, is currently under construction.

Lisa Merkel, mayor of the Town of Herndon, said the Herndon area will face a new challenge of transitioning people from cars to mass transit in a community that mostly has single-family homes.

“We don’t want to be a bedroom community,” said  Merkel. “We are a small town with a worldview.”

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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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