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by Dave Emke — June 16, 2017 at 11:30 am 2 Comments

Mama Wok (12022 North Shore Drive) at Tall Oaks Village Center has officially closed its doors.

A sign on the restaurant’s front door says Thursday was its last day of operation, and the owners “thank you for all your support since 2005.” A second sign says the restaurant’s equipment, furniture and decor are up for sale.

Speaking with Reston Now earlier this month, owners Cheah and Lisa Lee said their lease was about to expire and they decided to retire. Commenters on that article said the restaurant had “the best Chinese food in the area” and that it would be “dearly missed.”

Just three restaurants now remain at Tall Oaks: Paisano’s Pizza, Vocelli Pizza and Phở Reston 75. All are in the process of planning for the future, as the redevelopment of the village center into a mostly residential area is expected to begin soon. (Paisano’s will stay at Tall Oaks, moving to the former 7-Eleven/Curves building.)

by Dave Emke — June 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm 9 Comments

As redevelopment of Tall Oaks Village Center looms in the coming months, the few remaining restaurants in the plaza are looking forward to the future.

The first big change will come June 15 when Mama Wok closes its doors. According to owners Cheah and Lisa Lee, their lease is expiring and they will be retiring.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the plaza, Paisano’s Pizza plans to stay. Matthew Miller, area manager for the chain, said it has signed on to be one of the retail shops in the new development. The restaurant will move across from its current location to the building at 12056 North Shore Drive that most recently housed Curves Fitness and, before that, 7-Eleven.

“We’ll start construction on that space in about three weeks,” Miller said. “It’s going to have a bigger dining room, much better outdoor space with some seating that will be a little shaded. The building is going to look great.”

Miller said Paisano’s hopes to move into the new location in the fall of this year, closing up shop at its current location one night and opening in the new space the next day.

“We’re looking forward to the changes here,” Miller said. “I wish some of our neighbors were able to stay.”

Among the neighbors who will be leaving is the other pizza shop in the plaza, Vocelli Pizza. Sam Ostovari, part-owner and manager, said the business will stay open through at least October or possibly December. After that, though, he’s not sure where it will be.

“We have good business in Reston, so we’ll stay in Reston but [move to a] different plaza,” he said. “We’re working on it.”

Phở Reston 75 will be leaving Reston when Tall Oaks redevelopment gets underway. Manager Linh Dang said she will close up shop in December. A new location of the business, Phở Dulles 75 on Elden Street in Herndon, has already been opened.

The village center was bought in December 2014 by McLean-based developer Jefferson Apartment Group. Plans to redevelop the property into a mixed-use community were approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in July 2016.

Located on a dead-end of North Shore Drive off Wiehle Avenue, Tall Oaks Village Center struggled for many years before the redevelopment proposal arose. Its longtime anchor tenant, Giant Foods, closed in 2007 and further vacancies followed quickly afterward. The 70,000-square foot center was 86 percent empty by the time the redevelopment was approved.

The redevelopment will include approximately 5,800 square feet of office, 8,500 square feet of retail and 156 residential units.

by Dave Emke — May 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm 8 Comments

Groundbreaking on redevelopment of the Tall Oaks Village Center is getting closer, but it is still at least half a year away.

According to information provided recently from the office of Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins:

“Supervisor Hudgins received notice from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services that the Site Plan for the Tall Oaks development has been accepted. The Plan number is 009550-SP-003-1. It generally takes about 3-4 months for review if all of the stars align and then bonding process begins for the project. At the earliest, it will probably be about at least six months before the groundbreaking would actually occur.”

The village center was bought in December 2014 by McLean-based developer Jefferson Apartment Group. Plans to redevelop the property into a mixed-use community were approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in July 2016.

The plan will redevelop 7.14 acres of the approximately 18-acre village center. It includes approximately 5,800 square feet of office, 8,500 square feet of retail and 156 residential units consisting of:

  • 70 condos in two four-story buildings
  • 42 apartments in units that are stacked two-over-two spread across four buildings that have exteriors designed to look like townhomes
  • 44 four-story townhomes

Green or open space will make up 36 percent of the development. Jefferson has provided an animated virtual tour of the plan.

Located on a dead-end of North Shore Drive off Wiehle Avenue, Tall Oaks Village Center struggled for many years before the redevelopment proposal arose. Its longtime anchor tenant, Giant Foods, closed in 2007 and further vacancies followed quickly afterward.

The 70,000-square foot center was 86 percent empty by the time the redevelopment was approved. Jefferson had conducted a market study that showed attracting a new retail anchor was not an option.

Rendering courtesy Jefferson Apartment Group/Reston Association

by RestonNow.com — March 3, 2017 at 1:30 pm 11 Comments

FCDOT Safety Improvements Public Meeting

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has scheduled a community meeting later this month to discuss proposed safety improvements.

According to FCDOT, “road diets” — converting an existing four-lane undivided roadway segment to a three-lane segment consisting of two through-lanes and a center two-way left-turn lane — are being proposed near Tall Oaks Village Center and on Colts Neck Road between Glade Drive and Sunrise Valley Drive.

In addition, bicycle infrastructure improvements are proposed for North Shore Drive, from Ring Road to Wiehle Avenue. Two options are under review:

  • Keep existing parking but narrow travel lanes to add bike lanes or shared-lane markings
  • Restrict on-street parking to one-side of the street from Ivy Oak Square to Wiehle Avenue, add bike lanes in both directions for this segment; keep existing parking from Ivy Oak Square to Ring Road, and narrow travel lanes to add bike lanes and shared-lane markings.

The narrowing of travel lanes, in the effort to reduce speeding and add bike lanes, is also being proposed on Twin Branches Road between Lawyers Road and South Lakes Drive, as well as on Colts Neck Road between Reston Parkway and Glade Drive. The addition of crosswalks to improve pedestrian safety on Colts Neck Road is also in the proposal.

According to FCDOT, the proposed improvements are limited to changes that can be made with roadway striping as part of the repaving process.

The meeting will be held Thursday, March 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Dogwood Elementary School (12300 Glade Drive).

by Karen Goff — August 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm 36 Comments

Now that Jefferson Apartment Group’s (JAG) plans for Tall Oaks Village Center have been approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, let’s look ahead.

Tall Oaks today has about 75,000 square feet of retail, only about 13 percent of which is occupied.

The new village center at Wiehle Avenue and North Shore Drive will be 156 homes; 6,000 square feet of office space and 8,500 square feet of retail space,

JAG representatives say the retail portion, which will relocate into an existing free-standing office area, will be redeveloped first, and the hope is that the permitting process will be completed within the year.

JAG also hopes that some of the existing tenants (Paradise Nails, Mama Wok, Pho 75, for example) will sign leases to remain at the new Tall Oaks.

Overall, the retail plaza will have room for about five stores to serve neighborhood residents. That’s not a lot of space, but could provide the essentials.

So, what do you think would do well there? Remember, it’s 8,500 square feet, so big-footprint stores like Wegmans, Lowe’s, Barnes & Noble and the like are not fair answers.

Put your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo: rendering of new Tall Oaks retail building/Credit: JAG

by Karen Goff — July 28, 2016 at 4:30 pm 36 Comments

Empty Tall Oaks

It’s a crucial time for Reston. The “new town” is now more than 50 years old. And old, when it comes to structures built in the 1960s and ’70s, sometimes means obsolete — or at least out-of-date or inefficient.

Two great examples of this are Tall Oaks Village Center and the 45,000-square-foot former American Press Institute headquarters on Sunrise Valley Drive.

Both were built in the early 1970s. Both thrived for years, then met a sad decline. Finally, this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to owners to redevelop the industrial/commercial properties into low/medium density residential neighborhoods.

Front of API BuildingEven though Tall Oaks served as a neighborhood retail destination for decades, it never quite was the “village center” gathering place Bob Simon envisioned when he founded Reston.

In the last few years, mounting competition from nearby shopping, particularly grocery stores, led to increased vacancies at the plaza on North Shore Drive. Since Giant Foods left in 2007, many smaller retailers followed, and now Tall Oaks sits only 13 percent occupied.

API too was a vibrant place from 1974 to 2012. Not only was the building designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer, it was a space in which hundreds of well known journalists attended trainings and seminars.

But, perhaps emblematic of the changing news industry, API merged with the Newspaper Institute of America in 2012. The headquarters, a Brutalist building on a nice wooded lot at Sunrise Valley Drive and Roland Clarke Place, has been empty ever since. (more…)

by Karen Goff — July 26, 2016 at 10:00 am 3 Comments

Empty Tall OaksFront of API BuildingTwo items on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ agenda for Tuesday may mean the end of two structures that have stood in Reston for more than 40 years.

Jefferson Apartment Group’s (JAG) application to raze most of Tall Oaks Village Center and turn it into a mostly residential neighborhood will have a public hearing at the supervisors’ meeting (Fairfax County Government Center) at 3:30 p.m.

JAG’s plan for 156 homes (townhomes, 2-over-2 townhomes and multifamily units), 8,500 square feet of retail space and about 6,000 square feet of office was recommended for approval by the Fairfax County Planing Commission last week.

If the Board of Supervisors approved JAG’s plan it will be the first time an original Reston Village Center will essentially disappear.

Tall Oaks thrived in Reston’s early days, but as the community expanded, so did retail options. The center has been failing since Giant Foods left in 2007. The center is now only 13 percent occupied and other anchor stores have no interest in opening at the center, JAG reps have said.

The retail planned for the new Tall Oaks will be neighborhood-serving small shops such as fast food, coffee shops, and dry cleaning, though many residents are still lobbying for at least a small food store. (more…)

by Karen Goff — July 22, 2016 at 10:00 am 5 Comments

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously recommended for approval on Thursday Jefferson Apartment Group’s plans to redevelop Tall Oaks Village Center.

The planning commission held a public hearing on JAG’s plans for 156 homes, 8,500 square feet of retail space and about 6,000 square feet of office space last week. However, the commission deferred a decision until last week so some development conditions and contributions could be met.

One of the conditions: Reston Association’s request for money to improve the Tall Oaks Pool, which is across North Shore Drive from the village center.

RA CEO Cate Fulkerson said last week that JAG should contribute for ADA (Americans With Disability Act) accessibility upgrades; improvements to the parking lot; the addition of bike racks; and improvements to the underpass that connects Tall Oaks to the pool area.

Mark Looney, land use attorney representing JAG, said Thursday the developer has agreed to give RA $20,000 for pool improvements. He also said the developer has agreed to new conditions regarding school contributions and traffic improvements. (more…)

by Karen Goff — July 15, 2016 at 10:00 am 12 Comments

 After a lengthy public hearing on Thursday, the Fairfax County Planning Commission voted to defer decision on Tall Oaks’ Village Center’s redevelopment until next week.

The main issues are development conditions that the county staff has recommended but to which developer Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) has not agreed. Reston Association, meanwhile, wants JAG to pay for specific improvements to the nearby Tall Oaks Pool.

After more than a year and 42 meetings with the county, RA and the community, JAG plans to redevelop the mostly empty village center into 156 residences (44 townhomes; 42 two-over-two townhomes and 70 multi-family units in two buildings); 5,809 square feet of office; and 8,584 square feet of retail.

In the 15 months since first presenting its plan to residents — many of whom were upset that the village center would morph from retail to mostly residential — JAG has made changes. Among them: adding green space; more than doubling the amount of its retail proposal; adding a community gathering place,  and recreational amenities such as outdoor fitness stations for senior citizens and a children’s play area that incorporates natural elements.

RA CEO Cate Fulkerson called out those amenities in her testimony to to the planning commission on Thursday.

“This plan is not ready for your approval,” she told the board. “It does not address leisure and recreation facilities for 156 new families. … The applicant only provides recreation facilities for young children and older adults.”

Fulkerson said RA has asked JAG for contributions for improvements to the Tall Oaks Pool, which is located across North Shore Drive from the new development. Fulkerson said the pool needs ADA (Americans With Disability Act) accessibility upgrades, improvements to the parking lot, the addition of bike racks, and improvements to the underpass that connects Tall Oaks to the pool area.

“Thus far, the applicant has not agreed to assist with the improvements,” she said.

Mark Looney, the land use attorney representing JAG, said the purchase of an office building at Tall Oaks (where additional retail will be located) was a financial stretch for the developer. JAG cannot commit the money at this time, but is open to more conversation with RA about future improvements, he said.

The 156 households at the new Tall Oaks will be RA members and will eventually add more than $100,000 annually in RA assessments, he added. (more…)

by Karen Goff — July 11, 2016 at 11:30 am 0

July was supposed to be a big month for Reston development and redevelopment applications, with about a half dozen scheduled for public hearings and other review by the Fairfax County Planning Commission.

Many of those have been postponed at the developers’ request. This often happens in the summer months.

Here is a look at what is on the docket and what’s been moved forward a few months:

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — The church goes before the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals on Wednesday, July 13 at 9 a.m. The church is seeking to permit for a place of worship on land zoned residential at Hunter Mill and Crowell Roads.

Tall Oaks Village Center — As previously reported by Reston Now, The Jefferson Apartment Group’s plans to redevelop the mostly vacant retail center into 156 homes and 8,500 square feet of retail has a public hearing on Thursday, July 14 at 8:15 p.m. Read about it in this previous story and also check out the planning staff report. (more…)

by Karen Goff — July 5, 2016 at 10:15 am 37 Comments

The Jefferson Apartment Group is finally ready to move forward with its plans for redevelopment of Tall Oaks Village Center.

After more than a year of community meetings — and a few compromises — JAG’s plan has a public hearing date with the Fairfax County Planning Commission on July 14.

JAG bought the ailing village center in December of 2014. It is planning to build 156 residences (44 townhomes; 42 two-over-two townhomes and 70 multi-family units in two buildings); 5,809 square feet of office; and 8,584 square feet of retail.

JAG’s plan has changed several times since it first began envisioning the transformation of the property in early 2015. The first plan had about 3,000-square-feet of retail. It then expanded to 7,000 square feet, and finally, more than 8,000.

What the plan won’t include — an anchor grocery store. JAG says it has done several studies that show no grocery stores want to lease in that location. The 25,000-square-foot Giant left a decade ago, and two international grocers have since failed. The demise of the anchor space (since 2011) is part of the reason the village center is now mostly empty, JAG officials say.

However, some community members say poor center management pushed grocers out and a store would thrive if located there.

(more…)

by Karen Goff — June 23, 2016 at 2:45 pm 8 Comments

Europa Restaurant/Courtesy Europa

Just 18 months after closing his longtime Tall Oaks Village Center restaurant and relocating to Herndon, former El Manantial owner Humberto Fuentes has closed his newer restaurant, Europa.

Fuentes operated El Manantial at Tall Oaks for 11 years, bringing a high-end Mediterranean restaurant to the center. He closed El Manantial in the fall of 2014.

Fuentes told Reston Now in 2014 that he signed a five-year lease, rather than a 10-year lease, in 2009, when he noticed that Tall Oaks was losing much of its vibrancy and tenants.

“I realized this center is not going to get any better,” he said. “I want to operate in a better location.”

Fuentes then leased space on Station Street in downtown Herndon and opened under a new name.

Fuentes said early on that “business is better here than in Reston.” Locally owned Europa received mixed, but mostly positive, reviews from customers.

Europa closed on April 30, Fuentes said.

Meanwhile, Tall Oaks’ future as a retail center looks to be limited. Owners Jefferson Apartment Group will present its plan for a new residential with about 8,500 square feet of convenience retail/restaurant, to the Fairfax County Planning Commission July 14.

Photo: Europa Restaurant/Courtesy Europa

by Karen Goff — May 13, 2016 at 11:30 am 38 Comments

Tall Oaks animation rendering/YouTube

Reston Association Lake Anne/Tall Oaks Director Sherri Hebert says the community should move on from the idea that extensive retail will return to Tall Oaks Village Center.

Tall Oaks owners, Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) showed the community a third version of its redevelopment plan this week. The plan calls for about 150 townhomes and condos, with a parklike entry, public art, a children’s play area and exercise stations.

JAG also plans about 8,500 square feet of retail and services, up from about 3,000 and 7,000 in previous versions. It does not include plans for an anchor grocery store, which a recent market analysis said would not thrive in that spot. The current grocery anchor space has been empty since 2011. (more…)

by Karen Goff — May 12, 2016 at 2:45 pm 15 Comments

Tall Oaks animation rendering/YouTube

The owners of Tall Oaks Village Center set up in the center’s empty anchor space on Tuesday to present both a market analysis of  why no grocery store will be returning to Tall Oaks and what owners Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) have planned instead.

JAG has been planning mostly residential development at the nearly empty center since it purchased it in 2015. Community input to JAG’s plans was not well received in spring 2015, when it showed renderings of residential developments with limited retail (first 3,000 square feet, then 7,000 square feet) to citizens. Citizens also criticized lack of green space for the site.

What JAG plans now is essentially the same amount of housing — about 150 residences, which will be a mix of condos and townhouses.

However, an independent Fairfax County review of the retail analysis says the neighborhood could support up to 8,500 square feet of service and retail. JAG says it will acquire an additional existing office building to develop into service/retail.

Meanwhile, Bignell Watkins Hasser Architects have prepared a pretty cool animated 3D flyover tour of new Tall Oaks. Check it out below.

JAG also envisions well-planned outdoor space to give Tall Oaks a community feel, which was the original goal when Reston’s village center’s were planned. The plans include grassy areas, an outdoor terraced amphitheater area, benches, a children’s play area, and outdoor exercise stations.

The plans do not include an anchor store. The study presented Tuesday showed nearby competition and poor visibility means a grocery store — even a speciality one such as MOM’s Organic Market or Trader Joe’s — would not thrive on the site.

The 25,000-square-foot anchor site, which was the home of Giant Foods from 1974 to 2007, has been empty since Compare Foods (an international grocery) left in 2011. It has led to further vacancies at the 70,000-square-foot center.

by Karen Goff — May 11, 2016 at 4:30 pm 0

It’s been five years since a store occupied the 25,000-square-foot grocery store space at Tall Oaks Village Center.

Giant Foods was in residence from the center’s founding in 1974 until 2007. In the following four years, two international groceries gave it a go, but came and went pretty quickly. Compare Foods, the last tenant, left in March of 2011.

The Jefferson Apartment Group purchased Tall Oaks for $14 million in late 2014. The developer has plans to tear down the strip center and redevelop it as residences (townhouses and condos) with 8,500 square feet of service and retail.

JAG reps say a recent consultants’ study, reviewed by the county, shows that no grocery store will thrive at Tall Oaks because of severe nearby competition (Whole Foods, Giant, Safeway, Harris Teeter and future Balducci’s) and lack of road visibility.

JAG held a community meeting in the store space on Tuesday. With no heat or light, the old bones of the place are far from historic. With all store accoutrements stripped away, what’s left is rust, dust, must, and for Tall Oaks-area residents, memories.

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