Taste of Reston and More This Weekend in Reston

Our weekend pick is Taste of Reston — Northern Virginia’s largest outdoor festival — which kicks off today and runs until tomorrow (Saturday).

Here’s a recap off the festival, which will bring food vendors, local restaurants, and others together for two days of food-related fun.

Parking will be free during the event.

Tomorrow (June 15)

  • Family Fun Entertainment Series (10-10:45 a.m.) — Enjoy the Uncle Devin Show, an interactive musical experience, that takes kids on a magical journey through the land of percussion. Parking is free on weekends at Reston Town Center.
  • Stop-motion animation workshop (1-3 p.m.) — Exhibiting artist Stephanie Williams will lead workshop participants on stop-motion animation at the Greater Reston Arts Center. Registration is $30 and all materials are included.
  • Trip to Nationals vs. AZ Diamondbacks Baseball Game (2:15-8:15 p.m.) — Reston Association is organizing a trip to Nationals Park. Registration is $54 for RA members and $62 for all others.
  • Bookworms Club (11 a.m.) — Young readers will dive into “PAR-TAY!: Dance of the Veggies” at this weekly bookclub. Younger readers are welcome to join at any time.
  • Summerbration Fun Brunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — Enjoy flow circus at the Reston Station Plaza in this free event for all ages. Parking is free on weekends in the Metro Parking garage.

Sunday (June 16)

  • Bird Walk (7:30-10:30 a.m.) — Beginner and expert birders are invited to scout for birds in this walk, which is cosponsored by Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and The Bird Feeder store. Registration is not required and the walk is for adults only.
  • Summerbration Fun Brunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) — Meddle in mad science during this free event at Reston Station Plaza. Parking is free on weekends in the Metro Parking garage.
  • Chess Club for Kids (2-3 p.m.) — Learn tactics and end game strategies at Reston Regional Library. Players of all strengths are welcome to join.
  • How to Stand Out in the College Admissions Process (2-3 p.m.) — InGenius Prep will give a presentation on how to standout in the admissions process, and Susan Shifflet, a former assistant director of admissions at Yale, will also offer her insights.

Photo by Don Renner

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Following Allegations of Civil Rights Violations, Comstock Grants Campaigning Rights for Two Days

In anticipation of the Democratic primary tomorrow, Comstock Companies is now allowing campaigning and electioneering for two days at Reston Station Plaza after the county threatened legal recourse due to potential free speech violations.

Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, told Reston Now that the company is inviting all candidates on the June 11 ballots to campaign at the plaza today and tomorrow “on their own schedules and without the need to coordinate schedules with Comstock.”

The temporary change comes after Comstock came under fire for its longstanding restrictions on soliciting, including campaigning and electioneering, at the plaza. The county says the forum qualifies as public space — even though Comstock leases the property from the county through a 99-year ground lease. Comstock disputes this claim.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova lashed out against the company when she learned about the policy late last week. Bulova accused the company of favoritism and civil rights violation after she said it allowed Maggie Parker — Comstock’s vice president of communications — to post campaign signs but barred her opponents from approaching voters.

“Allowing one’s own employee to engage in such highly protected activity in a public area, while excluding other candidates from doing the same, is clearly wrong and cannot be tolerated,” Bulova said in the letter, which threatened legal action.

Parker said that she never campaigned at the plaza and purchased large advertisements from the company at the plaza and on Comstock’s building — a possibility that she said is open to all other candidates.

Ads cost between $2,000 and $3,500 per week.

Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia chapter, said the lease to the private company does not renege individual’s free speech rights.

Ray Morrogh, the county’s commonwealth’s attorney, directed the Fairfax County Police Department to decline any requests to prosecute individuals for campaigning at the train station and the plaza above it. 

“It would not be appropriate to prosecute anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in public areas,” Morrogh wrote in a May letter to the police department.

Clemente did not indicate what led to the two-day allowance for campaigning.

“Although we had hoped to provide the residents of the Hunter Mill District an opportunity to meet all the candidates in a casual setting during these last days of the campaign, we were unable to secure commitments from all candidates to participate in a coordinated event,” he said.

The debate over whether or not the plaza qualifies as a public forum was catapulted into the county spotlight after candidates running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor attempted to campaign at the plaza.

Over the past several weeks, candidates, volunteers for their campaigns, and a representative for a local advocacy group said they were kicked off the property and told to apply for permits.

Photo via Fairfax Connector

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JUST IN: Bulova Suggests Possible Legal Recourse Against Comstock’s Campaigning Restrictions at Reston Station Plaza

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Fairfax County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova is pushing back against Comstock’s restrictions on campaigning at Reston Station Plaza.

In a strongly-worded letter sent to Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, today, Bulova said she was very shocked and disturbed to learn that Comstock was unfairly restricting public access to the property.

The company has allowed Maggie Parker, its vice president of communications and also a candidate for the Hunter Mill District Seat, to campaign on the plaza, Bulova said.

“Allowing one’s own employee to engage in such highly protected activity in a public area, while excluding other candidates from doing the same, is clearly wrong and cannot be tolerated,” she wrote.

But Parker says that she has not campaigned at the plaza because of Comstock’s policies.

“I think the letter is unfounded because I don’t think the chairman has all of the facts,” Parker said. “I am doing nothing that the other candidates are not able to do. I am tired of being bullied and I’d like to step forward with the elections and the people’s business.”

The free speech issue has sparked recent debate on the legality of the developer’s longstanding policy to bar soliciting, including electioneering and campaigning, at the plaza.

Bulova has directed the county’s attorney to evaluate legal remedies against Comstock, noting that the plaza may constitute a public forum. As a result, free speech rights may be violated.

“As the county attorney completes her research and the board evaluates its legal remedies, I ask Comstock to do the right thing without necessity of legal action,” Bulova wrote.

Several candidates running for the seat of Hunter MIll District Supervisor and residents have told Reston Now they’ve been told to leave the plaza after attempting to distribute campaign materials or campaign.

Laurie Dodd, a candidate who was concerned about the policy after friends campaigning for other candidates were  told to leave the property and apply for a permit, pushed state and local officials to take a stance on the issue. Although the state and county’s election bodies said the issue was not within their jurisdiction, Dodd said Bulova was open to discussing the matter. At her request, the American Civil Liberties Union took the matter to Bulova’s office.

Walter Alcorn, also a candidate running for the seat, also expressed concerns about restrictions on campaigning at the plaza.

In previous days, county officials told Reston Now that state election law allows campaign activities on the property, but declined to discuss the issue further. The plaza was constructed through a public-private partnership and Comstock leases the plaza from the county through a 99-year ground lease, according to the county.

Clemente told Reston Now that its policy is out of respect for Metro commuters and others who come to Reston Station. He previously noted that he was open to scheduling a candidate meet-and-greet on the plaza as an exception to the policy.

This story will be updated.

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As Primary Election Nears, Confusion over Campaigning at Reston Station Remains

Some residents are concerned that restrictions on political campaigning at Reston Station Plaza raise free speech issues. But local and state officials versed in state election law say the question of whether or not campaigning is allowed on the plaza is a gray area.

That’s because Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, leases the plaza from Fairfax County through a 99-year ground lease. The county says that state election law still allows campaign activities, including voter registration, on the private property.

Several residents who have unsuccessfully tried to campaign and distribute leaflets on the plaza say they’ve been told to request permits from Comstock before distributing materials.

But Comstock’s CEO Chris Clemente says that Comstock has no such policy for requesting permits.

“I cannot respond to the reports you have received about a days-long permit process since that is simply not true,” Clemente told Reston Now in a statement.

He clarified that Comstock has not revised its policy prohibiting soliciting on its private properties “out of respect for the privacy of residents, visitors, and commuters.” Instead, Clemente said Comstock’s policy revision was restricted to scheduling a candidate meet-and-greet for a few hours at the plaza. Candidates would get the chance to meet with voters and distribute campaign materials with no cost.

To date, we have not seen any indication of interest from any of the campaigns (except Maggie Parker’s) to participate in such an event. What we have seen from some of the candidates is public criticism of Comstock for not allowing random soliciting of Metro commuters. It makes me think that the candidates, with the exception of Maggie Parker, have no interest in discussing their vision for the Hunter Mill District with members of the public,” Clemente said.

Parker, who is Comstock’s vice president of communications, is a candidate for the Hunter Mill District seat and has campaign signs on the property. 

Other candidates can purchase advertising space for either $2,000 or $3,500 per week on two plaza locations. Parker said she paid for her ads on Comstock’s property. Comstock and Comstock-linked entities have filled up more than half of her campaign coffers — which exceeds all of her challengers’ fundraising for the latest reporting period combined.

Joanne Collins, a representative for Herndon-Reston Indivisible, said Comstock’s security told her to leave the plaza after she tried to hand out leaflets about Tuesday’s primary. Collins said she requested a permit from Comstock, but was told the process would take several days — possibly after the June 11 Democratic primary.

Residents say that the Fairfax County Board of Elections and the Virginia Department of Elections are mum on the issue. Laurie Dodd, a candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s Hunter Mill District seat, lodged a complaint with the state’s elections department, but was told the issue wasn’t within its jurisdiction.

Dodd said she was told the department only addresses issues within 40 feet of voting machines. The Attorney General of Virginia’s office offered the same statement, she said.

Others said they would file complaints with the county’s election board after the election in order to spend more time campaigning in other parts of the Hunter Mill District.

Dodd also noted that the cost of purchasing signage at the plaza was too high, especially since the election is just days away and the process would require Comstock’s approval.

The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney is looking into whether or not free speech rights are at risk of being violated.

File photo

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JUST IN: Big Buns and matchbox Coming to Reston Station by 2020

Two new restaurants are coming to Comstock’s Reston Station by early 2020.

The company signed leases with matchbox, a D.C.-based wood fire pizza restaurant, and Big Buns Damn Good Burger Co., a D.C.-based burger and craft beer restaurant.

Matchbox will take up a 6,000 square feet in Comstock’s Helmet Jahn building at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza. Big Buns will occupy 3,000 square feet in the BLVD apartment building at 1908 Reston Metro Plaza.

The latest tenants join other businesses like Starbucks and Founding Farmers in what Comstock is now calling the “Metro Plaza District.”

Comstock issued the following in a release today (Monday):

“We are delighted to add matchbox and Big Buns to our best-in-class merchandising at Reston Station,” said Tim Steffan, EVP/Asset Management at Comstock. “In choosing Reston Station, these popular brands will benefit from the high-traffic and upwardly mobile demographics of one of the largest mixed-use, transit-oriented developments in the Washington region.”

Strategically located midway between Tysons Corner and Dulles International Airport, Reston Station is among the largest mixed-use, transit-oriented developments in the Washington, D.C. area. Covering nearly 40 acres spanning the Dulles Toll Road and surrounding the Wiehle Reston-East Metro Station at the terminus of Phase I of Metro’s Silver Line, Reston Station is already home to more than 1,000 residents, numerous corporate headquarters, multiple retail establishments, and several restaurants. Comstock recently announced that Google has leased several floors in the Helmut Jahn designed office tower and anticipates additional announcements regarding additional leases in the near future. 

The restaurants are expected to open later this year or by early 2020.

File photo

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Free Summer Concert Series Kick Off in Reston

Reston’s outdoor venues will come to life this summer as Reston Community Center puts on six entertainment series over the next several weeks.

“Everyone likes to get outside in the fresh air during the summer months,” said RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon. “RCC is taking our ‘show on the road’ with these series and bringing people together right where they are. We want families and friends to enjoy the spirit of Reston all summer long.”

In addition to traditional staples like Thursday dance nights at Lake Anne Plaza and performances at Town Square Park in Reston Town Center on Saturday mornings, RCC has added two new entertainment series to its line up.

In “Lunchtime with the Arts at Mason,” student performers from George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts offer free lunchtime concerts on select Thursdays until October 24 at Reston Town Center’s Town Square Park from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Performances range from show tunes to euphonium ensembles. The series kicked off  on May 9.

Reston Station will be home to the “Summerbration Fun Brunch” series, which brings entertainment and activities to Reston Station Plaza starting tomorrow (June 1). Attendees will get the chance to enjoy music and engaging activities on Saturdays and Sunday through August 25. The program takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Parking is free on weekends in the Metro garage.

Summerbration” concerts, which take place on Fridays from 7-9 p.m. at Reston Station, will continue this year. The concert schedule includes familiar groups like Scott Kurt & Memphis 59 and the band Oasis Island Sounds. Several concerts will also include professional dance instruction. Three hours of validated parking is available in the ParkX garage. The series ends on August 23. RCC presents this series in cooperation with MSE Productions, Inc. and Reston Station, the event’s host.

A Family Fun Entertainment Series in Reston Town Center’s Town Square Park also continues on Saturdays from 10-10:45 a.m. This series is geared toward kids and begins on June 15. The series is presented by RCC in cooperation with MSE Productions, Inc. and is hosted by Reston Town Center Association. Garage parking is free on Saturdays.

On Sundays, Sunday Art in the Park with the Shenandoah Conservatory continues at Town Square Park. The first performance is set for Sunday (June 2) from 7-8 p.m. This series is presented by RCC and Reston Town Center Association in cooperation with Shenandoah University.

All series are free and open to the public.

Photo courtesy Reston Community Center

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Comstock Revises Campaigning Policies at Reston Station Plaza

(Updated at 5:45 a.m. on May 31 to state candidates did not receiving ad pricing information from Comstock).

Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, will allow political campaigning and electioneering at Reston Station Plaza following a recent debate over the legality of the company’s longstanding policy to bar soliciting on its properties.

In a letter to Reston Now’s editor regarding the May 24 article, Chris Clemente, the company’s CEO, clarified Comstock’s position on the issue. His company’s vice president of communications, Maggie Parker, is running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, and her campaign signs are plastered on the property.

“Given the local nature of the Hunter Mill District race, which is the first contested race since Reston Station existed, and the significant number of Hunter Mill District residents using the commuter facilities at Reston Station, it was decided that it would be appropriate to allow such activities for this political contest,” Clemente wrote.

A spokesperson for Fairfax County has stated that campaigning at the property is allowed by state election law, noting that Comstock leases Reston Station Plaza from Fairfax County under a 99-year ground lease.

Comstock leases the Wiehle garage plaza from Fairfax County pursuant to a 99 year ground lease.  State election law doesn’t prohibit campaign activities including voter registration on private property,” according to the county.

Clemente said the company has barred all types of soliciting “out of respect for the thousands of daily visitors’ time.” He also noted that the county has not raised any issues with Comstock’s policy.

A county spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request from Reston Now about why this was the case.

Parker pushed Clemente to give other candidates running for the seat the opportunity to erect signs at Reston Station, Clemente said. Requests to have signs were submitted by Walter Alcorn‘s campaign on May 25 and Laurie Dodd on May 28. Parker also requested permission to use Comstock’s property for an all-candidate meet and greet event, which Clemente said Comstock fully supports.

Clemente, a former Reston resident and parent of current Reston residents, is backing Parker for the seat. In a 19-point letter to Reston Now, Clemente expressed his support for Parker, who he called a “champion of affordable housing” and a “strong proponent of limiting significant development in the Hunter Mill District.”

In a statement, Clemente wrote the following:

This is why I support Maggie Parker in this important race, because she has the skills needed to create solutions to complex issues that can sometimes be divisive, build consensus, and put the interests of the Hunter Mill District residents first, rather than hurling misleading accusations for political purposes. It’s refreshing to see a political candidate take the high road!

Parker said that she organized the forum because she wants to have all five candidates campaign in a safe and open environment and meet some candidates’ interest in coming to the plaza.

“A free-flowing meet and greet is one way to accomplish both,” Parker said. “I am confident that my message and experience will win out.”

Her campaign manager pitched the meet and greet idea to other candidates running for the seat on May 28. A date has not been set.

Alcorn, whose volunteers were recently barred from distributing campaign materials at the plaza, says the gesture comes too late: 

Comstock responded to our community pressure with a token gesture that is too little, too late as Comstock’s candidate has enjoyed weeks of unlimited and exclusive advertising. Democracy does not happen in 3 hour windows. Comstock is attempting to buy a seat on the Board of Supervisors for developers. Voters should also be alarmed that Comstock is using a public private partnership with the County to limit freedom of speech for all candidates but their own.

Both Dodd and Alcorn stated that they have not yet heard back from Comstock regarding requests for the pricing of advertising on the plaza.

The Hunter Mill District primary is set for June 11.

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Summerbration Series Kicks Off at Reston Station Next Week

Summerbration, a live entertainment series at Reston Station’s plaza, kicks off on Friday, May 31.

The series features live entertainment under the stars at the open-air plaza atop of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. Concerts are on Fridays from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Parking is free at ParkX with validation during the event. The first concert kicks off with entertainment by Battery Lane, a classic rock band. The last concert is on Aug. 23.

The complete schedule is below:

The series is presented by Reston Community Center in cooperation with MSE Productions, Inc.

Photo via Reston Station/Facebook

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Here’s a Look Around Google’s New Reston Station Office Space

Google’s Reston employees will have quite the view once they move into their new office space next to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

The tech giant will have the top four floors of the 16-story, Helmut Jahn-designed building at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza, Maggie Parker, a spokeswoman for Comstock Companies, told Reston Now.

Reston Now took a tour of the top floor for a look at Google’s future workspace.

On a clear day, Google employees will have views of Tysons to the east and Dulles International Airport to the west, Parker said. Looking south, they’ll be able to see the Fairfax County Government Center. The building offers a glimpse of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.

The area around the building is also set for some changes in the future. Plans for a hotel, two residential buildings and an office building will give a new look to the land between Reston Station Blvd and Sunset Hills Road, Parker said.

While Google hasn’t officially announced its new Reston residence (the secret is out, thanks to permits), the company previously said it will significantly expand its operations in Northern Virginia as part of a $13 billion round of investment in new offices and data centers across the U.S.

“With new office and data center development, our workforce in Virginia will double,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a blog post on Feb. 13.

Parker said she does not know how many workers from nearby offices (there’s one in Reston Town Center) or new jobs will fill the Google space.

Google won’t be moving into an empty building — a workspace called Spaces currently occupies the fourth and fifth floors.

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CVS Pharmacy to Open in Reston Station

CVS Pharmacy is the latest tenant to sign a lease with Comstock’s massive Reston Station project near the Wiehle-Reston Metro station. 

The healthcare giant will lease 8,451 square feet of plaza-level retail space in Reston Station’s third tower, which is currently under construction. The $95 million tower features 180,000 square feet of office space and completion is slated for January 2020.

The storefront is at the entrance of Metro’s north pedestrian bridge to the station. Christopher Clemente, CEO of Comstock Holding Companies, Inc., said the tenant, which signed a twenty-year lease with three five-year options, will bring “virtually every item one needs for daily living” to residents, tenants, and commuters in the area.

“Bringing CVS to the Reston Station neighborhood is another great step forward for the Reston Station neighborhood,” Clemente wrote in a statement.

The company joins other retailers like Starbucks, Founding Farmers and Sweet Leaf Café on Reston Station’s Metro Plaza.

The new urban neighborhood includes the BLVD, a 447-unit high-rise, a 350,000 square-foot office tower, and Bozzuto’s residential building, Aperture. Additional development is planned and approved in Reston Station.  

Photo via Comstock

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Friday Morning Notes

Word on the street — StreetShares, a financial technology startup, has moved to new headquarters in Reston. It offers a marketplace to provide financing for small business. [Technical.ly]

Calling all volunteers — Reston Association is looking for volunteers to help out with the multicultural festival at Lake Anne Plaza on September 22. To volunteer, contact [email protected]. [Reston Today]

The weekender — Looking for things to do in Fairfax County this weekend? Local officials offer the following roundup of events in the area. [Fairfax County Government]

Summerbration concert tonight — Enjoy a free concert as part at Reston Station Plaza from 7-9 p.m. This week’s event The Swingin’ Swamis. [Reston Community Center]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Friday Morning Notes

Easy, fun and raw — A professor offers tips on how to add more raw food to your diet from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. tomorrow at Reston Regional Library. [Fairfax County Government]

Rename Rock N’ Skate — The Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion is looking for new names for its weekly ice skating series. The grand prize winner will receive 10 free admission tickets. [Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion]

Summerbration concert tonight — Enjoy Latin music with free dancing and instruction as part of the weekly “Summerbration” concert series. Parking is free from 6:30-9:30 p.m. [Reston Community Center]

Nearby: If you have the energy for it — “Fairfax County has pledged to reduce the energy consumption of its facilities by 20 percent per square foot over 10 years as part of an operational energy strategy adopted by its Board of Supervisors on July 10.” [Fairfax County Times]

Search for missing woman continues — Susan Carstens, 51, was last seen in Reston on Wednesday. A search continues for the woman, who police believe may be endangered. [Reston Now]

Photo by Ruth Sievers 

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Friday Morning Notes

Silver Line concrete problem may not be criticalPreliminary tests on concrete panels show that major re-networking of the Silver Line extension to and beyond Dulles Airport might not be necessary. A whistleblower lawsuit raised concerns about improperly mixed concrete at Silver Line stations set to open in 2020. [WTOP]

Summerbration concert tonight — This week’s concert in Reston Station Plaza features the Jason Masi band. Parking is free from 6:30-9:30 p.m. [Reston Community Center]

Local company cracks cases — Parabon NanoLabs has helped solve five cold cases since early May with a new approach to genetic analysis. [NBC News]

Nearby: Local weekender — Need a roundup of what to do this weekend? From ice cream making to a concert with a mix of jazz and Indian classical music, there’s a lot to do this weekend. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo of Lake Thoreau’s public art display, submitted by Russ Evans

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Friday Morning Notes

Discovering hidden gems — There’s a lot to discover at Reston Association’s trails, each of which is color-coded. [Reston Association]

Oasis Island Sounds concert tonight — In this week’s “Summerbration” concert, enjoy Reggae on the open-air plaza atop Wiehle-Reston East Metro. Parking is free from 6:30-9:30 p.m. for these concerts. [Reston Community Center]

Parked — July is National Parks and Recreation month, but Restonians actually live in a park 12 months of the year. [The Connection]

Nearby: New fire chief — John Butler, former chief of the Department of Fire and Rescue Services in Howard County will take on his new role. he hopes to address complaints that management isn’t doing enough to address sexual harassment and discrimination in county firehouses. [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo via vantagehill

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Construction on New Office Building in Reston Station Begins

Comstock has begun construction on the next office building in Reston Station, located on the southwest corner of the plaza. The eight-story structure, which has not yet been named, is a Class A office building with 180,000 square feet of office space and 8,300 square feet of retail space on the plaza.

The building is designed by HKS Architects with steel and glass structures. The company’s portfolio includes the design of Urumqi International Airport in Xinjiang, China and the King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, Jordan.

Office space will be restricted to six floors, which sit atop an eight-story, above-grave concrete parking deck. It will also include a private patio with a sky garden and gym.

Construction prompted Comstock to close four of eight kiosks on the plaza. According to Maggie Parker, vice president of communications and community outreach for Comstock, the kiosks were intentionally designed to be temporary. Some vendors will relocate into vacant kiosks.

“They’ve given many budding entrepreneurs an opportunity to test their business models and have added a lot of vitality to our emerging development,” Comstock wrote in a statement.

Photo via Comstock

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