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Is Isaac Newton Square Reston’s Next Neighborhood?

Isaac Newton SquareIsaac Newton Square, the aging office park at Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue, could have a future as a residential neighborhood, according to Reston Master Plan Phase 2 recommendations.

“This area represents an opportunity to create a new residential neighborhood organized around a local-serving park,” Fairfax County planners say about the office park in the Master Plan Phase 2 draft.

The complex of low-slung office buildings, which includes Reston Sport & Health, Reston Montessori and KinderCare among other offices and businesses, is in walking distance of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station and backs up to Hidden Creek Country Club’s golf course, as well as the W & OD Trail.

According to the Master Plan Draft, which will be voted on by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on June 2, Isaac Newton Square is planned for up to 2.0 FAR (Floor Area Ratio), a mark of medium density.

Here is what the draft says about Isaac Newton Square, which was built in the 1960s and 1970s:

The opportunity exists to achieve the Residential Mixed Use goal of 75 percent residential uses for the larger area if Isaac Newton Square redevelops in accordance with Plan guidance.

It is planned for up to 2.0 FAR with a residential and hotel component on the order of 90 percent of new development (approximately 3,200 units of the 4,600 units in the Residential Mixed Use area).

In light of the older, very low-density buildings, surface parking lots and undeveloped areas in this business park, a shift to a residential focus for this area can be achieved.

Residential buildings should front on tree-lined streets and be designed with inviting street level facades. This area represents an opportunity to create a new residential neighborhood organized around a local-serving park. This area should also be considered as a potential location for an athletic field to meet the need for the TSA.

In addition, development along the W&OD trail should be oriented and designed in order to create connections to the park property. This regional asset should be assimilated as much as possible into the development pattern in order to create a more urban fabric for the park property. This would include plazas, greens and other public gathering spaces abutting the park property.

Careful attention to design is necessary to maintain safe passage for through trail users and should be coordinated with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority

Isaac Newtown Square currently contains many vacancies, according to commerical real estate listings. It is managed by Lincoln Property Company. Thus far, there are no plans in the works to transform the commercial area.

Phase 2 of the Master Plan will be a guiding document for Reston’s village centers and neighborhoods as Reston grows in the future. Phase 1, which sets guidelines for high-density areas near Reston’s transit centers, was approved by the Board of Supervisors in early 2014.

Isaac Newton Square/file photo

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Planning Commission Vote Will Advance Reston Guidelines

Dock at South Lakes Village CenterJust 10 months after it began, Reston Master Plan Phase 2 — which will cement guidelines on future development — is sprinting towards approval.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Wednesday (8:15 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center) on the document that will organize the rest of the vision for Reston’s future.

The Master Plan Phase 1 took nearly four years of committee meetings before being approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in early 2014.

Phase 1 guides development near Reston’s transit centers, some of which were without previous residential development in the immediate area. Phase 2, which will guide development and redevelopment in neighborhoods and near Reston’s village centers, launched last June. But under the county’s new Fairfax Forward plan, it is already prepared for the planning commission. After that it will go to the Board of Supervisors for final approval on June 2.

Fairfax County officials say the the current comprehensive plan, last updated in 1989, requires revision because Reston no longer has a master developer to update the plan for Reston; the plan for Reston has outdated elements; and with population expected to grow with the arrival of Metro, Reston is evolving as a community.

The Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning completed the draft of the Reston Comprehensive Plan Amendment in early April. Here are some of the highlights:

Village Centers — The amendment establishes general vision and guidelines for redevelopment for any future village center redevelopment proposals. The general vision for Reston’s village centers addresses elements necessary for village centers to achieve the desired goal of becoming a vibrant community gathering space.

The Guidelines for Redevelopment establish a process for developing detailed plans and considering redevelopment proposals.

Redevelopment of Neighborhoods — There is only one active rezoning application, for the St. John’s Woods Apartments near North Point Village Center. While the rezoning application seeks additional density (up to almost 50 dwelling units per acre) and mid-rise residential buildings, the county planning staff’s approach “is consistent with the study’s larger approach, to maintain today’s existing built form, density and overall character. “

In general, the report says “Reston’s clusters and neighborhoods should be protected from pressure to redevelop, which may be caused by growth and redevelopment elsewhere in Reston.” “There are some circumstances may arise that merit consideration of the redevelopment of an existing cluster or neighborhood, such as if a cluster should become blighted. Under such circumstances, the Board of Supervisors may consider proposals to amend the Comprehensive Plan and/or to rezone in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan to allow for the consolidation and redevelopment of such clusters or neighborhoods.”

Tall Oaks — One of the study’s community meetings was devoted to discussing village centers and another portion of a community meeting was spent discussing several limited issues related to Tall Oaks Village Center.

Tall Oaks was recently sold, and the new owners proposed a redevelopment concept that would result in mostly residential uses. If redeveloped, Tall Oaks should follow a “baseline” recommendation that would preclude both additional density and the mix of land uses proposed by the residential developer.

“Staff believes there needs to be additional community and staff discussion, as well as a detailed redevelopment proposal in order to properly consider if a redevelopment recommendation should be added to the Reston Plan,” the report says.

Tall Oaks’ new owners, The Jefferson Group, will present its preliminary plan for a mixed-use development at community meetings April 23 and 27, 7 p.m., at Reston Association headquarters.

Convenience Centers — Existing Reston convenience centers at Soapstone, Lake Newport (the Tetra building that Reston Association is seeking to purchase), Sunrise Valley and Fairways should remain the same density and usage as built.

The Home Depot shopping area should remain retail, but the plan gives guidance for mixed-use development in the future.

Golf Courses — Reston’s two golf courses (Reston National and Hidden Creek) should remain golf courses.

Road improvements — There are several roadway network improvements recommended. Among them:

  • Construct an enhanced street grid networking the transit station areas to increase connectivity Construct an overpass (four-lane bridge) across the Dulles Toll Road from Sunset Hills Road to Sunrise Valley Drive approximately at Soapstone Drive
  • Construct a Town Center Parkway Underpass (four-lane tunnel) from Town Center Parkway and Sunset Hills Road to Sunrise Valley Drive west of Edmund Halley Drive
  • Install an interchange at Fairfax County Parkway and Sunrise Valley Drive
  • Construct an overpass (four-lane bridge) across the toll road from Sunset Hills Road to Sunrise Valley Drive approximately at South Lakes Drive
  • Improve Reston Parkway  with six lanes from South Lakes Drive to the toll road

The draft also addresses bike connectivity, open space, affordable housing, and park facilities. See the entire 300-plus page report on Fairfax County’s website.

Photo: Dock at South Lakes Village Center/file photo

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Hunt Club Residents Want Possible Slave Cemetery Properly Preserved

A former slave cemetery is believed to be located on the grounds of the Fairfax Hunt Club in Reston

Many residents of Hunt Club Cluster have written to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning to remember the possible slave cemetery in Reston when making the final changes to Reston’s Master Plan.

Here is what may be hiding in the woods, according to Hunt Club resident Heather Greenfield, a PR executive and former reporter who has been researching the site, calls Lake Fairfax Unnamed Cemetery #FX242.

“The more we learn about this historic cemetery, the more we see what a fascinating piece of history this is for Fairfax County and pre-history for Reston, and the principles it was founded on,” Greenfield wrote to the DPZ. “This cemetery involves a prominent Fairfax family, the issue of slavery, and how the family matriarch, Mildred Johnson, created a cemetery for those she lived with through treacherous Civil War politics.”

Greenfield and other Hunt Club residents have requested that the wording regarding the Hunt Club property be written with more specifics as to what will happen when/if graves are discovered. The cluster says that when the graves are discovered, the cemetery should be preserved with a 500-foot buffer around it.

The cemetery is believed to be about 200 yards north of the log clubhouse.

The deadline to submit comments to the county was last week, and the DPZ heard from nearly a dozen residents of the housing subdivision near Lake Fairfax Park. Phase 2 of the Master Plan looks at new language for neighborhoods and village centers as Reston goes through its next 50 years.

Previously, the owner of the Fairfax Hunt Club property, which is now used for catering and special events, asked the county if the 309,000 square foot property could be rezoned from recreational to residential under the Master Plan changes. That would allow for the option of future development there.

The Phase 2 draft says that the Hunt Club property, which contains a historic log building, is “eligible for listing in the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites and should be retained and preserved” and should remain zoned for private, recreational use.

But the language of the draft leaves the door open for future housing to be built.

“If it is ever not used for private, recreational use, the parcel may develop as residential use at 0.5-1 dwelling units per acre,” the draft says.

“A lot size of one acre or larger is recommended for the Fairfax Hunt Club clubhouse to retain enough of its cultural landscape in relation to its rural history. In the event this parcel is redeveloped for residential use, then the new residential neighborhood should be incorporated into the planned community of Reston, if possible.”

The draft also mentions preservation of the mystery cemetery. The Master Plan draft says:

“The Cultural Resource Management and Protection Branch of the Park Authority should be consulted about required surveys and studies for the cemetery. If graves are identified, the cemetery should be preserved and state policies and procedures must be followed.”

Greenfield says Johnson was given a 100-acre stretch of land at the time of her husband Thorton Johnson’s death in 1854. But when Mildred died, her 11 children sold the land to public auction in 1882 to split the proceeds. Most of the children already owned land adjacent to their parents’ Fairfax property, covering much of what is now Reston, Herndon and parts of Vienna.

County records show Mildred Johnson’s 100-acre parcel included a cemetery that would not convey to the buyer Mary Chamblin, says Greenfeld. The Johnson family owned hundreds of acres of farmland in Fairfax in 1860 and were Union loyalists. War reparation records mention one son fighting for the Union and Mildred described sewing sacks for the Union. Mildred was captured by Confederate soldiers and accused of being an abolitionist. She was released after pointing out she owned slaves.

Union soldiers camped on the Johnson family farm on their way to Gettysburg, according to Greenfield’s research. They tore down fences and the siding of the family’s schoolhouse for the wood for fires and took Mildred Johnson’s horse. She and several children received war reparations as Union loyalists.

“The longtime rumor among Hunt Club Cluster residents that this is a former slave cemetery holds up,” Greenfield says in her communication with the DPZ. “The Johnson family had one female slave who lived with them for more than 20 years until after the Civil War and she had four children according to the 1860 slave census. While finding the names has been challenging, a freedman named Courtney Honesty, is known to have lived with various Johnson family members in the mid-to-late 1800s.

“Unnamed Cemetery 242 on what used to be the Johnson property appears to have been last surveyed by Fairfax County in 1994 and is on or adjacent to the Hunt Club property. It is described as having five field stones amid cedar trees, rose bushes, which are typical plantings at cemeteries in the mid 1800s . The cemetery is seen in 1937 aerial maps and noted in some tax and survey records.”

The county planning commission will hold a hearing on the final Phase 2 draft on April 22.

Photo: Fairfax Hunt Club grounds.

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RA: Let’s Reconsider Tall Oaks in Master Plan

Empty anchor store at Tall OaksReston Association’s Board of Directors says perhaps Tall Oaks Village Center should be re-envisioned as something else — maybe a convenience center instead of a full scale village center.

The board’s comments came in a mark up of the Reston Master Plan Phase II draft plan. The board made a series of tweaks and changes it hopes Fairfax County planners will keep in mind as it formulates a Master Plan for Reston’s village centers and neighborhoods as the community heads into its second half-century.

On Oct. 20, county planners held the second in a series of community meetings to obtain priorities and feedback on the draft proposal. The Oct. 20 meeting concentrated on the village centers — what works, what doesn’t and what should be considered for the future.

The focus groups seemed to agree — Tall Oaks has been failing for years. With storefronts sitting empty for years and no new ones opening, it may be time to rezone some of the land to something else keeping some of Tall Oaks a “convenience center” or a mini village center.

Reston Association agrees.

From notes issued by RA to the county planners:

Reston was originally planned with Village Centers serving as the focal point of activity for the surrounding neighborhoods.

FOUR of the five existing village centers – Lake Anne, Hunters Woods, South Lakes and North Point (Tall Oaks is crossed out) are planned to continue to serve this purpose in the future. They are planned to allow currently approved intensities and to densities to remain but are envisioned to also accommodate some more intense vertical use redevelopment in the future to fully achieve the goal of being vibrant centers of activity.

Other suggestions from the document:

Senior housing and universal design residences are encouraged to be located within the village centers.

Tall Oaks is the smallest of the five Village Centers. Consideration should be given as a re-designation of this center as a smaller convenience center.

Other opinions of note from RA’s comments:

Reston has, since its inception, been envisioned to be a place to live, work, play and get involved. The overriding goal of the Plan is for Reston to continue to evolve in a sustainable manner over the next four or five decades. … As Reston evolves, it is important to respect and continue the characteristics that have helped define Reston from its inception.

As Reston’s population increases, added capacity should be achieved through development of land and/or facilities to meet the demands (not needs) generated by the development or redevelopment.

Protect the headwater areas and other environmentally sensitive areas through the implementation of innovative stormwater management practices and Reston Association’s stream restoration/preservation program.

Increase senior housing, ensure opportunities are provided for adequate senior housing designed to suit a range of age, income and health needs.

Wherever possible, missing connections in the pedestrian and bicycle networks should be rectified with new sidewalks, bike lanes (shared or separate) or trails.

Should the Hunt Club property be redeveloped residential, it should be part of Reston Association.

The Lake Newport Convenience Center designation should be deleted and the land is planned for office use at the existing density to maintain character.

To see the entire document, visit Reston Association’s website.

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Reston 2020 Has Vision For Master Plan Phase 2

Hunters Woods Village CenterAdvocacy group Reston 2020 says Reston village centers should be be planned in a compact manner to prevent creeping urbanism where it does not need to be.

Fairfax County planners have begun Phase 2 of the process to revise the Reston Master Plan for the areas around Reston’s Village Centers. Phase 1, which looked at the areas surrounding the future transit stations, was completed earlier this year.

In a paper titled “Ideas for Development of the Phase 2 Reston Master Plan,” Reston 2020 co chair Terry Maynard writes that “the village centers are important community gathering spaces that include a mix of locally serving retail, a residential component, and employment opportunities.”

“Redevelopment to augment and enhance the village centers will be pedestrian-oriented, should include a plaza as a central element and provide adequate transition to surrounding neighborhoods. Convenient  public transportation options should link the village centers and the transit stations,” the paper states.

The group says that only the core of the village center areas — the Central Mixed Use Areas (CMUA) — should be allowed to add low-rise dwelling units, above ground-level retail and other business. The new development should also taper withareas of trees and shrubbery, as well as ave no surface parking.

Reston 2020 also suggests that the convenience centers (smaller retail strips) be planned and zoned, “as built,” as should residential neighborhoods.

Fairfax County officials say the the current comprehensive plan, last updated in 1989, requires revision because Reston no longer has a master developer to update the plan for Reston; the plan for Reston has outdated elements; and with population expected to grow with the arrival of Metro this summer, Reston is evolving as a community.

Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said neighborhoods will largely remain untouched. The general plan is to preserve existing development but institute some guidelines in case of future development opportunities.

The county is currently accepting feedback from citizens about Phase 2. A series of community meetings will be held this fall. The county hopes to have a plan framework early next year.

Photo: Hunters Woods Village Center/file photo

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Planners Want to Know Citizens’ Best, Worst in Reston

Fairfax County planners want to know what you know — or at least think — about Reston.

As the process for Phase 2 of the changes to the Reston Master Plan gets underway, think about these things: Where is the most beautiful building here? The place you take out-of-towners? The place where you are most likely to hit a pedestrian? The place most deserving of a bulldozer?

Those questions were posed as part of a community open house at United Christian Parish last month. All of the display boards, including neighborhood and village center profiles, design principles and Phase 2 goals, are now available online.

After more than four years of work, the Reston Master Plan Special Study earlier this year finished Phase 1, in which it formulated a vision for future development around Reston’s three future transit stations.

Phase 2 will look at the areas around Reston’s Village CentersAs Reston embarks on its second 50 years, there needs to be a plan in place for redevelopment, whether that happens next year or in 30 years, says Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins. 

Phase 2 will also be done under Fairfax County’s new “Fairfax Forward” method of comprehensive plan review, which will rely on greater community engagement.

“Whether we develop today or in the future, we need to determine what the county’s role will be in that plan and what the plan should be,” Hudgins says. “Phase 1 changed the rules. Here, we are not changing the rules.”

Fairfax County officials say the the current comprehensive plan, last updated in 1989, requires revision because Reston no longer has a master developer to update the plan for Reston; the plan for Reston has outdated elements; and with population expected to grow with the arrival of Metro this summer, Reston is evolving as a community.

Hudgins said neighborhoods will largely remain untouched. The general plan is to preserve existing development but institute some guidelines in case of future development opportunities.

Lake Anne Plaza previously underwent comprehensive plan changes and is undergoing a separate revitalization process.

The online submission period for land use proposals is open through Friday, July 11. Online submission for community comments is also now open and will remain open until the Board of Supervisors hearing expected next spring.

Tentative Phase 2 Timeline:

September 2014 — County will formulate “strawman” proposals on neighborhoods and village centers and present to residents in community meetings

October 2014 — January 2015 — Community review and comment; possible additional community meetings

February 2015 — Publish comprehensive text and staff report

April 2015 — Fairfax County Planning Commission Public Hearing

June 2015 — Board of Supervisors Public Hearing

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