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With Amazon’s HQ2 Decision, A Windfall Expected for Reston, Northern Virginia

Amazon’s decision to bring its second headquarters to Crystal City is sure to send an immediate and impactful jolt across Arlington, but what’s less clear is how the coming of the technology giant will impact Northern Virginia as a whole.

Although Reston is couched far from Arlington, the community could see a windfall from the new headquarters, which will be split between Arlington and Long Island City, especially with the community’s onboarding to the Silver Line and a planned expansion in development and redevelopment over the next two decades. 

Business leaders in the area portend the coming of Amazon will help expedite the transformation of communities like Reston from a federal government town to a technology corridor. That transition is already taking place with the coming of new headquarters like Leidos, a scientific research company, to Reston’s new developments.

Mark Ingrao, CEO and president of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, said secondary and tertiary businesses lured by Amazon’s foothold in Arlington may be enticed to set up shop in new and emerging developments in Reston around the Silver Line.

“It is going to be a prime opportunity to relocate here in an area that’s new and right on the Silver Line,” Ingrao told Reston Now.

Additionally, limitations in the amount and affordability of housing stock in Arlington could push some employees and residents to find housing in Reston’s transit station areas, which are in the process of major transformation and redevelopment. The move could also diversify Reston’s workforce, Ingrao said.

But the move is not without challenges, ushering in associated concerns about infrastructure and transportation impacts that have long plagued discussions about future development in Reston.

Ingrao is optimistic that the coming of tech giants like Amazon will help expedite county and state discussions about needed transportation infrastructure improvements and encourage officials to tackle them in a “more direct way.”

“At the end of the day, it should force local government and others to really concentrate on the infrastructure needs and get them addressed sooner rather than later,” Ingrao said.

Here’s more from what county officials and business leaders are saying about the decision.

“Having HQ2 in Northern Virginia will bring important jobs, business diversity and more innovative technology to the area,” said Gerald Gordon, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “We look forward to continuing to work with Amazon Web Services to expand its presence here and are excited to collaborate with other innovative companies that will be putting down roots in Fairfax County soon.”

“We congratulate Arlington and Alexandria on being selected in the process for Amazon HQ2,’ said Buddy Rizer, director of Loudoun Economic Development. “We consider this a win for the entire region. Many of Loudoun’s highly educated professionals will join the Amazon workforce, and many of Loudoun’s wine country and other retail and recreation venues will become favorite destinations for Amazon employees throughout the Northern Virginia/DC Metro region. We will continue to market Loudoun County as a world-class location for global businesses like Amazon, and we look forward to making some exciting announcements about new Loudoun companies soon.”

Photo courtesy Crystal City BID

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Fairfax County Planning Commission Approves Midline Project

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved the Midline, a mixed-use project near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station Thursday night.

The approval sets the project, which would bring 1.8 million square feet of development across 17..5 acres east of Wiehle Avenue and south of Sunset Hills Road, in motion for a Board of Supervisors’ vote on Dec. 4.

John Carter, the Planning Commissioner for the Hunter Mill District, lauded the development team, JBG Smith, EYA and Chevy Chase Land Co., for bringing a diverse mix of low-rise housing to the area, a feature that he said is lacking in other projects recently approved in Reston.

Four blocks with several buildings are proposed on land that is currently used for low-rise office buildings and surface parking. The plan includes 127 independent units, a 33-bed assisted living facility, a 225-unit multi-family building and a mix of townhouses. A 14-story office building and retail is also planned on the site nearer to the Metro Station.

Carter said the mix of affordable and workforce housing units, which is integrated throughout the site, is not intended to serve as a precedent for other projects. Due to the variety of housing options proposed, the developer has integrated several affordable units in the townhouse area and the multi-family building, creating a dispersed mix of affordable housing throughout the project, Carter said. Parking will be offered at a cost reduced by 70 percent of the price for market-rate units. The affordability tiers are also 70, 80, and 100 percent of the area median income — a distribution lower than the typical county requirement of 80, 100 and 120 percent of the AMI. Independent living and affordable units will have shared access for several amenities.

Following concern about limited public amenities, the development team also added additional dog parks, playing areas for children, and agreed to work with area developers to install street lights, updated curbs, and signage along Reston Station Boulevard. That road will extend into the Midline project and pedestrian and bicyclist access to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail will also be provided.

The commission deferred a decision on Woodfield Acquisition’s plan to replace office buildings on Roland Clarke Place with residential units to Nov. 15 in order to allow the developer to devise a better way to create a grid of streets in the area.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Photos: Demolition of Tall Oaks Village Center Underway

Scattered pieces of the skeleton of Tall Oaks Village Center (12022 North Shore Drive) remain as the redevelopment of the property officially begins.

Demolition of the property, which will be redeveloped into a mixed-use project with 156 residential units, 8,500 square feet of retail and 6,000 square feet of office space, is nearly complete.

Construction of the new homes is expected to begin in October and be completed by the end of 2021, according to estimates provided to Reston Now by the development team in September. The development team, which includes Stanley Martin, the contract purchaser of the property, did not return requests for comment from Reston Now.

Stanley Martin’s plan transforms the village center from a predominantly retail-heavy site to a small residential neighborhood with a strip of retail. The center has long struggled with a lack of visibility from the main street and the vacancies left by Giant Foods’ departure in 2007.  The plan calls for 44 townhouses, 42 two-over-two townhouses and 70 multi-family units in two buildings. 

Recently, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering plans to reduce garage size requirements necessary to make the development team’s current plan work.

Tall Oaks’ longtime challenges have been a location on a dead end and lack of visibility from the main street. Its longtime anchor tenant, Giant Foods, moved out in 2007 and vacancies have been mounting since.

Photos by Fatimah Waseem

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County Board to Consider Roland Clarke Project in Reston

Plans to replace a vacant office building at 1941 Roland Clarke Place with a 308-unit apartment building are headed to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for approval next week.

Woodfield Investments wants to demolish a two-story office building and replace it with a 291,650-square-foot multifamily building across around 6 acres of land north of Sunrise Valley Drive, south of the Dulles Toll Road and east of Reston Parkway.

A hearing on the project is set for Oct. 30 at 3:30 p.m.

The property would be developed in two phases. Phase one will include the construction of the apartment building, which has 37 workforce dwelling units. The second phase will retain an 80,000-square-foot office building and the addition of a pocket park. The second phase leaves the option of redevelopment sometime in the future, according to the proposal.

The existing cul-de-sac at Roland Clarke Place will be reconstructed and extended further north to connect two private roads and provide access to the parking garage on the property.

Staff from the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the project.

Photos via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Monday Morning Notes

Developments on development — It’s no secret that mixed-use development is on the way. Reston Association’s acting CEO Larry Butler gives an update on development issues in the community. [Reston Association]

The big drop — Virginia’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.9 percent. The rate decreased for a third consecutive month. [Governor Ralph Northam]

Frost advisory in effect — You’ll likely notice some frost on your windshield today. An advisory is in effect through 10 a.m. Frost could harm sensitive outdoor vegetation. [National Weather Service]

Photo by Flickr user vantagehill

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County Board Approves Lake Anne Fellowship House Redevelopment

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved the redevelopment of Lake Anne Fellowship House, a 240-unit project that offers affordable housing for seniors.

County officials and the development team called the approval, granted on Tuesday (Oct. 16), a win for seniors seeking affordable housing in Reston. For years, community partners and Fellowship Square Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and maintains the current buildings, have contemplated ways to replace the aging buildings with a new facility.

All affordable units, currently distributed between two aging buildings built in the 1970s, will be replaced with a new 240-unit building along North Shore Drive near the intersection with Village Road. The eight-story apartment building is 200,000 square feet and includes a garage. The plan also adds 36 market-rate townhouses to the west side of the property that will help finance the construction of senior housing.

Lake Anne’s current tenants will stay in their apartment during the two-year construction of the new building. After residents move, the old buildings will be torn down and converted into townhouses.

“The residents are excited and they are looking forward to a brand-new facility,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, adding that the addition of townhouses “brings in another neighbor to the community to coalesce with this current group of citizens and those that will come in the future.”

The project is led by Fellowship Square Foundation and the Community Preservation and Development Corp., a nonprofit real estate developer. The development team navigated through many difficult issues to bring the project to fruition, including preserving the number of affordable units and maintaining housing for all current tenants, according to Lynne Strobel, representative of Fellowship Square Foundation. A previous partnership with Novus Residences failed to gain traction in 2004.

The need for the project intensified recently as subsidies from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development expired or will expire within the next five years, Strobel said. The current buildings were also becoming difficult and costly to maintain, she said.

The units offer different levels of affordability, with the first tier beginning at 50 percent of the area median income or about $41,050 per person. The plan also includes eight publicly-accessible parks and transportation improvements. The development team plans to dedicate land for the future alignment of Village Road, which will include a new northbound lane, an eight-foot-wide raised median and 10-foot sidewalks on both sides of the road.

Michael Scheurer, a Fellowship Square Foundation board member, said the redevelopment effort was complicated, difficult and serves as a growing number of aging residents in Reston in need of affordable housing opportunities. The foundation has another 220-unit affordable senior housing project that is undergoing renovations.

“You can see that we have a longterm and substantial investment in the community,” Scheurer said.

Photos via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Decision on ‘Midline’ Delayed to November Again

The Fairfax County Planning Commission delayed a decision on the Midline, a 1.8-million-square-foot mixed-use project, for the second time.

The project by JBG Smith, EYA and Chevy Chase Land Co. aims to create a 17.5-acre development east of Wiehle-Avenue and south of Sunset Hills Road with four blocks of development.

Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said the county is still working with the development team to ensure the development has a sufficient number of workforce and affordable dwelling units, as well as a suitable mix of assisted living and multi-family units.

“The applicant is making progress on this,” Carter said at an Oct. 11 Planning Commission meeting. The development team is meeting the county “halfway” on its requirements for a balanced mix of affordable housing and appropriate services for residents of assisted-living units and multi-family units.

Block A would include one building with 127 independent units and a 33-bed assisted living facility. The second building would include a 325-unit multi-family building and around 103,870 square feet of other uses. Block B would include a 225-unit multi-family building and around 260,000 square feet of office space. The 14-story office building is the tallest in the development.  The plan for blocks C and D is more flexible, with a mix of multi-family units and townhouses proposed. Overall, the residential portion of the development would serve up to 1,500 residents.

A decision was deferred to Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. The case, which was previously deferred in late September to Oct. 11, has not yet been docketed for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Some Members Decry Poor Upkeep of Hidden Creek Country Club

Some members of Hidden Creek Country Club, a 163-acre private country club, are vexed about “deplorable” conditions at the 163-acre private country club, which could be redeveloped into a 100-acre grand park with residential housing.

Issues with maintenance and upkeep of the club, which was established in 1963, have become a flashpoint in the public debate about whether or not redevelopment of the property, which was purchased by Wheelock Communities for $14 million in October last year, is warranted. Some worry maintenance issues signal ownership is unwilling to explore an option on the table: maintaining the country club in its traditional form.

A mid-September letter signed by 104 members demanded that management increase the number of staff, fix bathrooms, improve routine maintenance, fix a broken beverage cart and host a meeting to reiterate the company’s commitment to the club so long as the golf course remains a golf course and membership dues are collected.

In a letter responding to members, Wheelock said it is committed to maintaining the club and golf course, noting that the company has invested more than $300,000 in upgrades to the Roanoke Grill, tavern, Fairway room, lobby, and locker rooms. An additional $200,000 was invested to continuously repair the facility. Company representatives also noted that they will continue to keep the club’s membership informed and involved in discussions about the club’s redevelopment — discussions which several members have been a part of since Wheelock purchased Hidden Creek.

The Club Management is in close contact with us on an ongoing basis. We are aware of the punch list items of needed repairs for the clubhouse as well as maintenance needs for the golf course,” the letter states.

Eric Levin, the club’s general manager, told Reston Now that management was aware of issues flagged by members and was working diligently to address them prior to receiving the letter. This year’s summer weather was also the “most extreme” in many years, leading to poor playing conditions, Levin wrote in an email.

“We have been working tirelessly to rectify the issues outlined. The owners have invested over $500,000 to this point in 2018 with another $200,000+ scheduled over the next few months on both the Clubhouse and the Golf Course,” Levin wrote.

Steve Coniglio, Wheelock’s local partner, declined to comment on a request from Reston Now, noting that he did not believe it was appropriate to turn the issue into a public matter.

“As a private country club, I am happy to provide this information to our members,” Coniglio wrote in an email.

Some members, many of whom have been a part of the club for more than 10 years, are still not satisfied. As stated in the letter, they have threatened to post negative reviews on social media about the golf course, absent progress on maintenance and staffing issues.

One member, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to preserve membership status, told Reston Now that conditions are the club have dipped to a new low.

“People think they’re not putting any money into this golf course. There’s a business case that you can’t support a country club in this economic environment. But there are half a dozen golf course communities that are thriving and commanding just enough money. That can happen here too,” the member told Reston Now. “There are some really good employees and people who work there. We want this place to thrive.”

The letter, which was obtained by Reston Now by a signatory, highlights issues like downed trees, irregular moving, inconsistent trash collection, downed and dead trees and poorly maintained bathrooms. It suggests hiring at least four employees to help with maintenance.

“We want so badly to take pride in Hidden Creek. We see it as our home away from home. We would much rather post positive reviews… before we recommend Hidden Creek to the world, we need the conditions to improve,” the letter states.

Although the company has not filed formal development plans with the county, Wheelock is exploring redeveloping the private country club into a 100-acre public park with amenities and an undisclosed number of residential units.

Redeveloping the property would require a number of changes to county planning documents, which designate the property for private recreational use. Rescue Reston, a grassroots group which successfully fought against the redevelopment of Reston’s other golf course, has committed to opposing any redevelopment plans.

Photos via Hidden Creek Country Club member 

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Final Vote on Residential Project at Reston Arboretum Expected Next Week

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will vote on a plan to add a residential component to Reston Arboretum on Oct. 16.

Pulte Homes Corp. seeks to rezone the property from industrial uses to planned development commercial, which would allow the property to be used for office and residential uses.

The proposal calls for 44 single-family attached residential units and a parking garage. A four-story office building, which was built in 1998, will remain on the property. The site has been marketed as within walking distance from the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride and the future Herndon Metro station.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the project, with one abstention. The project is located at 12700 Sunrise Valley Drive and the vote is docketed for around 3:30 p.m.

Photo via Google Maps

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Fairfax County Planning Commission Defers Decision on Reston Corner

The Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred a decision on an application to rezone 4.3-acres of land to build a 145-unit multifamily building on the southwest corner of Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive.

Reston Corner, the name of the project, would bring a seven-story, $30 million residential building and a 438 free-standing, above-grade parking garage to the area, which is currently the site of surface parking and stormwater management pond. The garage would serve three office buildings next to the property.

Members of the commission flagged several concerns about the project, including the possibility that lighting in the garage would disturb residents in the adjacent apartment building.

Eight business condominiums who own a building directly south of the development said they were concerned the residential building would produce additional traffic for the Cascades South Condominium Association. David Gill, the association’s president, said the development could add up to 200 cars per day on a road next to the association.

The project is also next to the Reston Crescent, a 36-acre project. Residents would cross through that development to walk to Metro.

The developer took issue with providing $10,00 for a traffic preemption device during site plan approval. Instead, Mark Looney, the development team’s representative said it was more appropriate for the developer to offer the money once development was imminent at the time of the issuance of a building permit.

MaryAnn Tsai of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, said the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department often request receiving funds for the devices when site plans are developed.

But Looney said it was unclear why the fire department needs the funds early in the development process but said the development team would be willing to comply with any requests. “If that’s the only point we’re arguing about, then the rest of the project is pretty darn good,” Looney said.

Other planning commissioners said they wanted to see other features of the plan, including the parking arrangement for workforce housing units, whether or not a tot lot would be shared by office tenants and residential units. Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Ellen Hurley also said she wanted to see a space for dog walking — an amenity the project did not yet have.

The commission will vote on the project on Oct. 18.

Photos via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Thursday Morning Notes

Not so thrilled with Metro — Real estate development icon and attorney John Hazel, 87, thinks that Metro is a political failure. Hazel plays a leading role in developing Fairfax County and Northern Virginia. [Washington Business Journal]

Meet the artist event this afternoon —  Cabaret singer Beverly Cosham will perform selected songs from the Great American Songbook and other favorites. Cosham has won numerous awards for her musical performances. [Reston Community Center]

Reston Corner development under consideration — The Fairfax County Planning Commission will consider a proposal to rezone office property allow residential development on the southwest corner of Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive, along with more office space. [Fairfax County Government]

Lots to do at the library — Reston Regional Library has several events of note today, including a downsizing seminar planned for tonight and a book club for millennials.

Photo by Ray Copson

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Reston Corner Redevelopment Plan Heads to Planning Commission

A proposal to build 145 multi-family units and offices is headed to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for approval on Thursday (Oct. 4).

An affiliate of Angelo, Gordon & Co. hopes to rezone office property to build the residential development on 4.3 acres of land on the southwest corner of Reston Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive. A second application is under consideration by the same developer to increase the density of 9.9 acres of adjacent land as part of the same proposal.

The site of the project, called Reston Corner, is currently an office park. The developer hopes to create “a new urban neighborhood” with a seven-story residential building and an 85-foot office building.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department has requested $10,000 from the developer to install one traffic signal preemption device in order to “meet response time goals to emergency incidents,” according to a staff report.

The county estimates the development will generate 16 new students. The developer will contribute $12,262 for each student.

Other features of the plan include the following:

  • A four-level garage with a maximum height of 40 feet.
  • The garage will be screened from view from Reston Parkway by existing office buildings and the residential project.
  • 12 percent of the residential building will be set aside as workforce housing.
  • The developer seeks special exception to increase density across the existing office uses.
  • Outside seating on the western edge of the residential building for “gathering and relaxation.”

A date before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has not yet been set.

Photos via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Decision on ‘Midline’ Near Wiehle-Reston East Delayed

A decision on The Midline, a 1.8-million-square-foot development proposed near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station was delayed to Oct. 11 by the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Thursday (Sept. 27).

JBG Smith, EYA and Chevy Chase Land Co. are partnering to create a 17.5-acre development east of Wiehle Avenue and south of Sunset Hills Road with up to 1.2 million square feet of residential development, 260,000 square feet of office space and up to  250,000 square feet of retail.

The development team plans to design four blocks and has offered the county two development options. The first would include 1,058 residential units and 251,150 square feet of secondary uses and the second plan would include 1,098 residential units and 187,750 square feet of secondary uses.

The case is not yet docketed for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

Photo via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Plan to Redevelop Hidden Creek Country Club Draws Opposition

A developer’s plan to rezone and redevelop Hidden Creek Country Club from a private golf course into a 100-acre public park with between 600 to 1,000 residential units drew passionate opposition from residents Thursday night.

Wheelock Communities, which purchased the golf course in October last year, presented its conceptual plan for the 160-acre property to Reston Association’s Board of Directors. A formal development plan has not been submitted to the county and would require the county to rezone the property. Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan restricts Hidden Creek Country Club as a private recreational use, specifically a golf course. RA also passed a resolution in 2016 that states Reston’s two golf courses are reserved for golfing only, although the approval of the project and required rezoning is determined by the county.

Steve Coniglio, a regional partner with Wheelock, pitched the concept to RA’s board as an environmentally-friendly move that would serve unmet public space needs in Reston and provide for-sale housing stock at a variety of undisclosed affordability levels. Wheelock, which led several work group sessions with area stakeholders about its plans, would also restore several degraded streams on the site and end Lake Anne water rights exclusive to the golf course, creating a community gathering space with input from residents.

In a flashback to its defense of Reston National Golf Course, which was threatened by development several years ago, Rescue Reston, the grassroots organization that seeks to preserve the golf course and push back against unplanned development, challenged Wheelock to sell the site to another owner who can preserve the golf course and help it rebound.

“They throw in their version of a ‘park’ to misdirect and divide us,” said Lynne Mulston of Rescue Reston, adding that Wheelock’s plan makes “insulting assumptions” about Reston. A survey of area residents conducted by Rescue Reston this year found that nearly 97 percent of the 454 respondents want to preserve the golf course for private recreational use.

“It’s a bad swing that takes Reston out of bounds,” Mulston added.

Rescue Reston members, clad in yellow shirts, also said Wheelock’s plan leaves many unanswered questions, including who will maintain and pay for the park and pedestrian access. The group also said Wheelock’s plan is not driven by environmental stewardship because residential development would require tree removal and contribute to stormwater runoff.

“Open space today, tomorrow, forever,” said Rescue Reston’s president Connie Hartke. 

But Coniglio said the golf course is struggling to court members for dues-only membership, forecasting an uncertain future for the golf course. “Everyone says make it better, but it’s a business and its about cash flow,” Coniglio said.

The company spent around $500,000 for capital improvements to the golf course this year and future expenses to maintain the golf course are only expected to rise, he said.

“Yes, it’s a golf course today. That’s absolutely true. But is the golf course the best use of the land as it relates to the rest of the community? I don’t think it necessarily is,” Coniglio said.

RA board members pushed Wheelock for more information, including market analyses, on how the developer determined the golf course’s current use was unsustainable.

“Why would I join a club if the press tells me you’re going to close it?” said RA board member Julie Bitzer, adding that Wheelock’s vision for the property fails to acknowledge Reston’s golf course heritage.

Wheelock’s vision for the property includes between 600 and 1,000 residential units with a mix of townhouses, villas, and multi-family units. Coniglio said the developer designed the project “backwards” by focusing on open, public space. The residential component of the project would generate between $300,000 and $500,000 in yearly revenue for RA.

“We started with the open space, we started with the stream and the environment and that’s why we don’t have a plan with streets and boxes here for you,” Coniglio said, noting that the development would be designed so that it transitions smoothly to surrounding areas.

RA board member Ven Iyer said it was unfair to neighboring residents who could see their backyards jump from a private to public use.

Wheelock’s presentation is below:

Hidden Creek Country Club Presentation by Wheelock Communities by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

Rescue Reston’s presentation can also be found below:

Rescue Reston North Course Presentation by Fatimah Waseem on Scribd

Photo via YouTube

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Wheelock Affiliate Buys Fannie Mae Office Building

An affiliate of Connecticut-based Wheelock Street Capital has bought the office building on 11600 American Dream Way from Fannie Mae further expanding the companies footprint.

The news, first reported by The Washington Business Journal, expands Wheelock Communities’ footprint in Reston. The company purchased Hidden Creek Country Club, which is just next to the office building previously owned by Fannie Mae, in October last year.

The company hopes to convert the golf course into a public park with between 500 and 2,000 residential units. A formal development proposal has not been submitted to the county, but discussions are underway. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reston Now.

Wheelock Street Capital, an affiliate of Wheelock Communities, bought the Charter Oak Apartments, in February. The community is also next to the golf course.

WBJ reported Wheelock paid more than 90 million for the building. Fannie Mae plans to move to Reston Gateway, a major mixed-use project near the future Reston Town Center Metro station in 2020.

Photo via Fannie Mae

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