Reston, VA

Tuesday Morning Notes

Design Review Board to Meet Next Week — Reston Association’s DRB will meet via Zoom on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. to discuss a number of requested cluster updates. Information to join the virtual meeting is available online. [RA]

Month-to-Month Count of COVID-19 Cases On Decline — “The coronavirus case trends are looking better in June and July than May for Fairfax County, according to the latest local and state health department data. As of Aug. 10, cumulative cases stand at 16,445. There have been 529 total deaths and 1,939 hospitalizations.” [Reston Patch]

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Awarded Grants — “FCFRD was awarded $78,738 under the Grant Programs Directorate’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program – COVID-19 Supplemental (AFG-S). The funds will be used to purchase critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” [FCFRD]

No-fee Bulk Pickup Extended — “The special collection service available to residents for bulky items that do not fit within their refuse containers (such as furniture and appliances) is free through September 18. Pickups are by appointment only.” [Town of Herndon]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Penzance, a DC-based real-estate firm, is offering a peek into its revitalization plans for Spring Park, an office park located at 455 and 475 Springpark Place.

The office park is located within a mile of the company’s planned major mixed-use neighborhood near the future Herndon Metro Station. The firm acquired 10 single-story buildings for $75 million nearly one year ago.

In an Aug. 5 presentation to the Town of Herndon’s Architectural Review Board, Penzance indicated it is looking into “revitalizing the whole site” and improving its connection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

So far, Penzance has pitched exterior changes to four buildings: 450, 455, 465, 470, and 485. New exterior materials — like terraces with synthetic wood flooring and trimming, buffed cultured stone, and repainted entrances — are planned for several buildings. New signage and wayfinding are also planned, including a new monument sign at the main entrance.

The building that has the most visibility from Spring Street — building 450 — will have the most substantial changes, including a new terrace, metal cladding over parts of the building, a pergola, and new lights.

Building 485, which is located on the southeastern corner of the site, will also include a new terrace, metal awning, and other structural changes. Other modifications to the remaining buildings are minor, according to the application.

Penzance is also moving forward on its new mixed-use project at 555 Herndon Parkway. A suburban-style office building will be transformed into a high-rise office building with a residential tower. Retail space and a garage are also planned.

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Officials from the Town of Herndon and Comstock have declined to disclose information on why the development of downtown Herndon has been delayed from its expected groundbreaking late last year.

In a statement posted on social media yesterday (Monday), Town of Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel offered some insights on what has led to delays. She pointed to market conditions and COVID-19 as reasons that have led to delays.

Comstock and the Town of Herndon have not yet closed on the project. The town’s manager, the town’s attorney and Merkel met with Comstock’s senior staff, including its CEO Chris Clemente late last week to “address a number of outstanding items required prior to closing,” Merkel said.

Both parties are working on strategies to address the pending issues, Merkel said.

She also added that Clemente and his staff stressed their commitment to “expeditiously” move forward with the redevelopment project.

“Both Comstock and the Town are committed to this project and my personal goal as your major is to see these actions completed during this calendar year,” Merkel said.

A promotional website and banner offer a tease regarding what’s to come on the site, which will include 273 apartments, 17,00 square feet of retail, and arts center, and a 787-space parking garage. The $85 million project is a joint venture between the town and Comstock.

More information is expected next month.

Photo via Comstock

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Friday Morning Notes

Bechtel Taps New President — “For the first time in four years, Bechtel Corp. will have a new president and chief operating officer. Executives for the Reston engineering and construction company said Thursday that Craig Albert, president of its infrastructure segment, will take the reins as its president and COO, stepping in for current COO Jack Futcher, who is set to retire at the end of 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

Town of Herndon is Open for Business — “The town has launched a “Herndon is Open for Business” promotional video campaign.  The town with the help of HCTV is visiting 10-15 small businesses a month to highlight the unique and variety of  businesses in the community.” [Town of Herndon]

New State Grant Launching Soon — “A new program, Rebuild VA, will open for applications on August 10 to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by the economic emergency created by the pandemic.” [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]

Reston Firm Going Public — “SOC Telemed has signed a deal to go public through a merger with a blank-check company, 16 years after the Reston telemedicine provider launched as a videoconferencing service for hospitals — and as the coronavirus pandemic stimulates unprecedented demand for virtual care.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo vis Marjorie Copson

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For months, the Town of Herndon and Comstock have remained silent on why the long-anticipated redevelopment of downtown Herndon has been delayed.

Both parties have declined to offer any comment on pending paperwork to close on the sale of the 4.7-acre parcel of town-owned land to Comstock. What’s known is that “further agreement” to protect “town financial interests” is needed to begin preparing construction at 770 Elden Street.

Comstock says it is making progress. The company plans to go through the bidding process this summer, according to a spokesperson for the Reston-based company. A spokesperson for the Town of Herndon said the town had nothing to add.

A promotional website and banner offer a tease for what’s to come on the site, which will include 273 apartments, 17,00 square feet of retail, and arts center, and a 787-space parking garage. The $85 million project is a joint venture between the town and Comstock.

The site itself is ready for construction to begin.

In May, the former car dealership buildings on the site were demolished to prepare for development. Earlier this year, contractors also removed asbestos and other environmental for through a state grant awarded to the Town of Herndon.

Now, the Town and Comstock must work out pending legal issues. Comstock will then apply for building permits and complete its “internal processes” for construction.

Officials originally estimated groundbreaking would begin in late 2019.

Photo via Comstock

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Monday Morning Notes

Reston Association Resumes Youth Swimming Lessons — The association is resting swimming lessons for children between the ages of three and 12. Registration is $80 for RA members and $95 for all others. [Reston Association]

Measuring the Impact of the Silver Line — The Silver Line has caused some riders to change their routes and others to leave Metrorail entirely. Not every Silver Line rider is a new Metrorail customer. Once it opened, some Orange Line riders who frequented the Vienna, Dunn Loring, and West Falls Church stations switched to using the Silver Line for convenience.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Town of Herndon Resumes Inspections — After offering a brief grace period, town officials are resuming the enforcement of motor vehicle safety inspections. The state’s executive order does not apply to local municipalities within the state. [Herndon Police Department]

Around Town: Fairfax County Teachers Revolt — “A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.” [Washington Post]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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The Town of Herndon has been named a bicycle-friendly community by the American League of Bicyclists.  The recognition comes after the Herndon Town Council adopted the Herndon Bicycle Network Master Plan last year.

This year, 38 communities were given the award across the country.

“Undeniably, during the pandemic more Americans ar biking to get around and to experience the joy that comes with being on a bike,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. “The League is proud to recognize these Bicycle Friendly Communities where leaders, both in government and advocacy, have committed to building better places for people to ride, whether they are new or seasoned.”

In the United States, 482 communities have met criteria for the award, which honors areas that demonstrate a commitment to making biking better for communities.

Here’s more from the League about the program:

The Bicycle Friendly Community award process considers a range of elements, including a community’s efforts to educate children and adults about how to bike, plan and build bike infrastructure, evaluate success towards getting more people on bikes, and encourage road safety all through the lens of equity. The application process is an educational tool in itself, laying out for communities what steps they must take to be considered award-worthy. As part of each review, the League and applicants also seek input from local bicyclists and active transportation advocates on their experiences and perceptions of bicycling in their community.

The town’s bicycling master plan, which was created by staff and the town’s Pedestrian Bicycle Advisory Committee, offers policy guidance for the town’s bicycle network planning and design, as well as a longterm plan for connectivity and network improvements.

Photo via Green Lizard Cycling

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The Herndon Municipal Center (777 Lynn Street) is opening its doors to the public for the first time since March.

The lobby, which was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will reopen  tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8 a.m.

Visitors must wear masks, which will be provided if needed. Entrances are open through the doors on Lynn Street. For now, entrances from the Town Green and the garage will remain closed. Additionally, the Town Clerk’s office and second floor of the building will remain closed.

Applications for zoning permits, development plans, and other materials that require review by the community development department are for drop-off only. Bins are available in the lobby and near the exit doors.

The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The Herndon Farmers Market also opens on Thursday (June 18). Last week, park amenities in the town — with the exception of basketball Cours and restrooms — reopened.

The Herndon Community Center and Herndon Police Department’s lobby remains closed.

Image via Google Maps

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A number of amenities are now open for public use at county parks as Northern Virginia enters phase two of the COVID-19 reopening plan today (Friday).

Athletic fields, basketball courts, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and other amenities will be open, but with the following restrictions in place:

Athletic Fields – Athletic fields will open for organized and permitted use based on the governor’s and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines pertaining to use of athletic fields.

Basketball Courts – Outdoor courts will open, but users must stay 10 feet apart.

Volleyball Courts – Outdoor courts will open, but users must stay 10 feet apart.

Dog Parks – Dog parks will open with users urged to maintain social distancing.

Marinas – Marinas will open for rentals at lakefront and riverfront parks.

Mini-golf – Miniature golf courses will open at all locations, except Jefferson District Park (due to construction).

Restrooms – Permanent outdoor restrooms and portable restrooms will open systemwide. We encourage visitors to bring hand sanitizer since these facilities are often without running water.

Picnic Shelters – Shelters within parks will open for permitted use with 50% capacity of regular occupancy limits, not to exceed 50 people.

Playgrounds – Playgrounds will open systemwide including Clemyjontri Park and Chessie’s Big Backyard at Lee District Park. There is no special cleaning; visitors should use at their own risk and must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Currently, recreation centers and other Fairfax County Park Authority facilities remain closed, including nature centers, pools and historic sites. The county is expected to allow more openings when the state enters phase three.

FCPA staff have begun implementing the changes at several facilities. Implementation of the latest openings could take several weeks.

In the Town of Herndon, dogs and playgrounds opened today, but restrooms and basketball courts remain closed. No special cleaning will be conducted of any playgrounds in the town or the county.

File photo

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The roster of candidates for Herndon Town Council and mayor have been finalized for the Nov. 3 election.

Sheila Olem, the town’s current vice mayor, is running against Roland Taylor for mayor. Longtime mayor Lisa Merkel said she no will not seek reelection earlier this year. Merkel, the town’s first female mayor, was elected to the position in 2012.

A total of ten candidates are seeking six seats for the 2021-2022 term, including incumbents Cesar del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, and Signe Friedrichs. The new candidates are Clark Hedrick, Syed Iftikhar, Sean Reagon, Naila Alam, Bessie Denton, Stevan Porter, and Jasbinder Singh.

Election Day is on Nov. 3. Polling locations for town council elections overlap with locations for the national election.

Stay tuned for op-eds from each of the candidates in the coming weeks.

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Restaurants in the Town of Herndon must apply for an outdoor dining permit as Northern Virginia’s reopening today opens up the opportunity for outdoor dining.

The move comes as Fairfax County moved to allow businesses to offer outdoor dining without applying for a permit by expanding outdoors at 50 percent of their indoor capacity.

The temporary permit, which was created specifically to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, will allow Herndon restaurants to reopen and operate with outdoor seating if rules are followed.

So far, several restaurants have been approved for temporary permits. More are expected to be ready to go by the wekeend.

  • Some conditions include:
  • Fencing and barriers must be installed
  • The area must be located next to or within 100 feet of the establishment
  • The location cannot “significantly interfere with pedestrian traffic or otherwise constitute a health and safety risk”
  • Hours of operation limited between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
  • No pets are allowed in temporary dining areas

In some cases, outdoor seating may be allowed on town property. No more than ten patrons may be seated as a party.

Photo via Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern/Facebook

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After revisions to its previous proposal, the Herndon Town Council formally adopted its budget for FY2021 this week.

The $61 million budget was scaled back to adapt to economic fluidity and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The town’s taxes and fees, including real estate and meals taxes, remain changed. But the town’s recycling fee doubled from $8 per quarter to $16 per quarter.

Unlike previous budgets, the document includes $11.5 million in immediately sequestered funds, $5.5 million of which will be attributed to the town’s general fund. Overall, the FY2021 budget allocates $38.8 million for the general fund.

Sequestered funds can be spent if the town achieves its revenue targets through the fiscal year. But if revenues fall below projections, the town may need to consider reductions in personnel costs.

 “While the adopted General Fund budget is $38.8 million, in practice it will be considered a $33.3 million budget,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “Sequestered funds may only be released if and when identified targets are met. This gives us latitude to adapt to the unstable and uncertain fiscal environment we are in. It also gives us the best chance to maintain our exceptional workforce.”

The adopted budget will be posted on the town’s website by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Photo via Herndon Town Council/Zoom

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Local food trucks and food vendors celebrated public works crews (Wednesday) by offering 1,400 free meals throughout the county, including the Town of Herndon.

The initiative, which was made possible by funding coordinated by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, honored public works crews who have quietly continued to perform essential services like water management and trash collection despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

County officials said the program, which was in time for National Public Works Week this week, was a win-win for local businesses and public works employees. Curbside Kitchen and Cureate, two companies that work with local food trucks and vendors coordinated services with FCEDA, which secured funding from a philanthropic couple. Meals were given from 11:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. yesterday (Wednesday).

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted local and county departments to change their operations and modes of service delivery. The Town of Herndon, for example, has shifted to more online services, including accepting engineering drawings online.

In the public works department, crews are more spread out, with one person riding a vehicle instead of two or three individuals. Shifts are now also staggered in some cases, according to Scott Robinson, the Town of Herndon’s public works director.

Robinson says he expects that some changes in how services are provided will continue in a post-COVID-19 world.

For example, the town may consider offering more online services, in addition to in-person services.

“Our town manager said it best. We want to serve customers the way they want to be served,” Robinson said.

So far, he is incredibly proud of how public works’ employees have handled their jobs amid concerns about safety and health. “These folks are literally out there keep the town running and they’ve done it happily and without complaining,” he said. “I’m really proud of the work the department has been doing.”

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Although the groundbreaking of the Town of Herndon’s downtown redevelopment project has not been formally announced, Comstock Companies is offering a peek at what the new $85 million Historic Herndon District will look like.

A fence in front of the former Subaru dealership on 770 Elden Street now bears promotional signage about the project, which has been delayed by several months.

“The revision of Herndon’s historic downtown will bring heart, life, and opportunity back to the neighborhood,” according to a recently released sales brochure.

The project, which is financed through a public-private partnership with the town, features 273 residential units, a new arts center, public space, and new retail options. An eight-level parking garage and 18,000 square feet of boutique, restaurant, and cafe space are also planned.

Comstock says that its apartments — which include studio, one, and two-bedroom apartments — “marry classical elegance with a bohemian twist.”  The company also described the community as a “lifestyle destination that appeals to everyone, from foodie to dog walkers.” Promotional material states the Herndon Metro Station will open in 2020, although it is likely the new station will open next year.

Officials for the Town of Herndon and Comstock have declined to provide specific reasons for why the project has been delayed.

Environmental remediation on the site is currently underway in order to prepare the site for redevelopment. Although a development agreement between the town and Comstock has been signed, the stakeholders have not yet closed on the property.

Images via Comstock

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The Town of Herndon’s proposed budget for next year is slated for major changes, according to Herndon Town Manager Bill Ashton.

At a Herndon Town Council meeting last night (Tuesday), Ashton said that town officials are closely monitoring current expenditures and revenues. The revised budget for fiscal year 2021 will be released on May 1.

“We are making some very dramatic changes to it,” Ashton said, adding that the town’s revenue streams are doing “a little better” than town staff originally projected.

The Herndon Town Council will review the budget at work sessions on May 5 and May 19,  followed by public hearings on May 12 and May 26.

All sessions will be held online due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. The town will release more information on how to make live public comments during the public hearing. Residents can also submit comments on the proposed budget by emailing [email protected].

Image via Town of Herndon

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