Demolition of Old Fire Station Expected to Start in December

As work gears up on the new fire station in Reston, construction crews will soon tear down the current one.

The demolition on the old facility (1820 Wiehle Avenue) is expected to begin early this December, William Delaney, a spokesperson for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, said.

Construction is underway for a temporary station at 1800 Cameron Glen Drive to serve the community until the new facility is completed in 2021.

The existing location is too small and does not suit the needs of the community anymore, another spokesperson previously told Reston Now.

The new station will cost $14.8 million, double the size of the station and feature two stories with room for administrative offices, a dayroom, kitchen, storage and bunk rooms.

“I am sure there will be a grand re-opening ceremony when new station up and running,” Delaney said.

Image via Google Maps 

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Campus Commons Developer Amends Plans Amid Community Concern

After recent community criticism and pushback from some residents, the developer of a proposed mixed-use development near the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station is going back to the drawing board to revisit some aspects of the plan.

TFC Cornerstone, which is seeking to redevelop 12 acres of land into two residential towers and a new office building (1900-1902 Campus Commons), submitted amendments to its plans to the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Thursday (Oct. 3). The plan preserves two office buildings currently on the site. 

The updated plans — which follow revisions made in late September — reduce the square footage of an office building by 86,550 square feet. The building, which is located at the edge of the property and near a neighborhood with single-family homes, drew criticism from neighboring residents for its scale, especially in contrast with the adjacent neighborhood.

Scaling back the building would result in a net reduction of 487 weekday vehicle trips, according to the developer.

TFC Cornerstones will shift most of the removed density to the residential building, increasing the total number of units from 630 to 656 units. The developer also reduced the design of the office building along Sunrise Valley drive to seven stories, two fewer stories compared to the previously amended plan. The portion of the building furthest away from the road will have 10 stories.

The developer also committed to creating a minimum 50-foot setback between the buildings along Sunrise Valley Drive, making space for a new 14,410 square foot linear park.

If approved, the amended plan would also extend the time period for a study group to examine the best way to get pedestrians across Wiehle Avenue and its intersection with the Dulles Toll Road.

The developer’s proposal — an on-grade crosswalk — has raised concerns for its lack of safety in an already busy intersection, according to residents who testified at a late September meeting.

TFC Cornerstone will work with a study group for up to two years to consider the best way to approach the pedestrian crossing.

Other amendments included:

  • Addition of bicycle striping across Wiehle Avenue at the intersection wit Sunrise Valley Drive and across Campus Commons Drive
  • A new proffer to provide bicycle. Stairway ramps on straits through the Sunrise Valley Drive pocket park and the corner park
  • Limited hours for activities in the amphitheater
  • A commitment to include 15 percent tree canopy, despite utility conflicts or other engineering considerations

The project heads to the Fairfax County Planning Commission for a vote on Oct. 10 and is docketed for Fairfax County Board of Supervisor later this month.

Photos via TFC Cornerstone

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After Deferral and Pushback, Planning Commission to Take On Campus Commons Proposal Again

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will take on Campus Commons, a proposal to redevelop property near the Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station, later this month after nearly 50 residents voiced concerns about the controversial project at a meeting last month.

TF Cornerstone plans to bring 630 residential units spread across a mid-rise and high-rise building, an office building, and urban parks to the southeastern corner of Wiehle Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road. 

The project is the last major mixed-use development in the pipeline immediately around he Wiehe-Reston East Metro Station.

In a Sept. 25 proposal for amendments, TFC Cornerstones reduced the height of a 14-story office building to 12 stories and the height of a 29-story residential tower to 25 stories. The developer also added an amphitheater to the development and added language to explore the possibility of a grade-separated pedestrian bridge.

But concerns about the project remain. The project heads to the commission for a vote on Oct. 10.

At a commission meeting in late September, planning commissioners stressed the need for the developer to ensure the project provided strong pedestrian and bicyclist connections to allow people to get to the Metro Station.

Others were unconvinced the project — and prior approvals — have done a good job maintaining synergy with other adjacent projects.

Planning Commissioner Mary Cortina said she was surprised the county’s overall process did not have a strong vision to get people to the station.

An on-grade crosswalk proposed at the intersection of Wiehle Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road has piqued major concerns in the community.

Cortina said she was unconvinced the proposed sidewalk was designed in a safe manner.

“This transition is not at a point where anyone will feel safe going across that many lanes of traffic with all the moving cars coming off [the] ramp,” Cortina said. “They’re going to take the shortest route.”

Residents say the proposed crosswalk, which takes pedestrians to a concrete island in the middle of the toll road’s western exit ramp, poses a major safety risk in an already busy intersection with frequent back-ups.

The project has prompted residents to launch a community grassroots campaign called “Rescue Sunrise Valley.”

Residents also raised concerns about a 25-story office tower on the corner of the site, among other issues. The building would be located immediately next to residential neighborhoods with single-family homes and low-rise townhouses — a mix of uses that residents say is incompatible with the area.

Planning commissioners also urged TF Cornerstones to preserve trees and ensure its renderings — which include significant tree canopy and greenery — will reflect reality. Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter noted that greenery and trees depicted in renderings of recently approved projects disappeared when the projects were built. Instead of trees, developers left utility polls and a row of mud.

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Construction Almost Finished on Temporary Fire Station in Reston

A temporary fire station in Reston is almost ready for fire and rescue personnel to use while they await their new, permanent station.

Built in the early 1970s, Reston Fire and Rescue Station 25 is set to get demolished this fall and replaced with a new fire station at 1820 Wiehle Avenue.

Construction is set to begin later this year on the new fire station, which will more than double the size of the current department. The project is expected to cost $14.8 million.

“We are not planning a groundbreaking as this new permanent station is a replacement station not a new one to Fairfax County,” Ashley Hildebrandt, a fire department spokesperson, told Reston Now. “We will have a grand opening once the station is built.”

Until the new fire station is finished, fire and rescue personnel will use a temporary fire station at 1800 Cameron Glen Drive near the North County Government Center.

The temporary station consists of trailers and a large tent.

“The temporary fire station is in the final stages of construction,” Hildebrandt said. “Personnel are preparing to move into the temporary station in October.”

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Campus Commons Plan Prompts ‘Rescue Sunrise Valley’ Campaign

More than 100 families neighboring Campus Commons, a mixed-use project on the southeastern corner of Wiehle Avenue and the Dulles Toll Road, are voicing their concerns about the proposed development.

Rescue Sunrise Valley, a group that includes representation from residents who live on Sunrise Valley Drive, as well as the clusters of Great Meadow, Winterport, Harbor Court, Whetherfield, Lakeport, and Boston Ridge, say that they are not opposed to development and instead are concerned about safety and the project’s impact on neighborhoods.

TF Cornerstones’ plan includes two residential buildings with a total of 630 units, an office building, and 26,000 square feet of new retail. Two mid-1980s office buildings will remain on the proprty.

Residents say that the proposal misses the mark on pedestrian safety, especially a proposed sidewalk that connects to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station that they say will “logjam traffic and up and down Sunrise Valley and put pedestrians at risk by sending them across nine lanes of traffic and dumping them on a concrete island in the middle of the off-ramp.”

“Anyone who drives, walks, or rides their bikes on Sunrise Valley near the Wiehle intersection knows this is a recipe for disaster,” the group wrote in a statement to Reston Now.

Residents want the developer to delay the proposal under neighborhood concerns are addressed. They created the group in response to the proposal and to inform unaware residents about the plan. Residents say accurate information about the proposal has been hard to come by. Others said the developer has not engaged with all neighboring residents to hear their feedback on the plan.

“We recognize that the developer wants to fast-track their plans because in their industry time is money, but for us, much more is at stake: our families and our neighborhood,” the group stated.

A TF Cornerstones’ representative told Reston Now the company has launched an extensive community engagement process over the last two years, including two meetings with Hampton Meadow residents, one meeting with Boston Ridge residents, and Reston Association. The development team has been before the Reston Planning & Zoning Committee four times since 2017.

We have also broadened our outreach to include additional homes along Upper Lake Drive.  We are hosting a community meeting and have sent notification to the Harborside association, the Winterport association, and residents along Upper Lake Drive without an association,” said Ebony Young, vice president of corporate social responsibility. “We have made significant commitments for the project based on community input, and we look forward to the upcoming community meeting.”

The proposal heads to the Fairfax County Planning Commission on September 25. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to take up on the plan on October 15.

Photos via handout/Fairfax Count Government

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Plan for New American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association Headquarters Moves Forward

A plan to redevelop the headquarters of the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association — which includes the historic A. Smith Bowman Manor House — is underway.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously approved the redevelopment plan on Thursday night. Members praised the developer, AP Reston Campus LLC maintaining manor house — which is currently on the county’s inventory of historic places — while incorporating new architectural and forward-looking elements.

AAFMA is looking to replace two existing buildings on the site with two Class A office buildings and continue to reuse the manor house as office space, primarily to receive visitors. The plan will preserve the existing gazebo and stormwater management pond.

The manor house, which was built in 1899, was the home of A. Smith Bowman, who owned more than 7,200 acres of land in what now includes Reston.

Bowman also owned the adjacent distillery, which originally served as the Wiehle Town Hall and was used as a church, general store and distillery.

Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said the redevelopment plan was “an adaptive reuse of the 19th century house.”

“It will allow a valued existing employer to expand in Reston,” Carter said.

The plan includes an underground garage, a 6,2000-square-foot terrace that connects the two office building.

Andrew Painter, the attorney representing AAFMA, said the development designed the project so that the manor house — which is located in front of the two office buildings — would “pop” in front of the new office buildings.

The developer plans to construct a sidewalk along Old Reston Avenue and provide a connection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. Mary Ann Tsai from the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning , said the developer also agreed to connect the two planned sidewalks at the request of the county.

Dranesville District Planning Commissioner John Ulfelder encouraged the applicant to consider adding the manor house to the state and national registry of historic places.

AAFMA plans to preserve four parking spaces on the northern property line of the development plan. The county asked the developer to remove the buildings in order to reduce the amount of impervious service.

Painter said the developer plans to use the redeveloped site as their future home “for the next half century of longer.”

The project heads to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for approval on September 24.

AAFMA is a financial solutions provider that offers military life insurance, wealth management and survivor assistance and mortgage services.

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No Major Flood Damage Reported at Reston North Park & Ride

Floodwaters at the Reston North Park and Ride have receded, leaving little damage at the site where water pooled up to the windshields’ of cars yesterday (July 8).

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation told Reston Now that there appears to be no damage to the pavement or drains, which were simply overwhelmed with the “massive amount of water.”

“We’re focusing on other areas,” Ellen Kamilakis said. “There are other heavily devastated areas in the county.”

Crews are currently on-site throughout the county to assess damages.

In early September 2011, floodwaters caused major damage at the Reston Park and Ride. Several vehicles were damaged during that storm.

The lot is located at the corner of Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue.

Photo via AlphaPupObie/Twitter

 

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Environmental Approval Still Pending for $170 Million Soapstone Connector Project

State and local transportation officials have been working for more than a year on clearing the Soapstone Connector through the environmental approval phase — one of the latest hurdles for the roughly $170 million project.

The connector — which extends Soapstone Drive from Sunrise Valley Drive over the Dulles Toll Road to Sunset Hills Road — provides a new north-south alternative to tackle increasing traffic congestion on Wiehle Avenue. By the time the project breaks ground, hundreds of additional residential units are expected to come on the market in Reston.

County transportation officials are working with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to determine the next steps for the project after the state determined a group of buildings on Association Drive the project could cut through are considered historic. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation must conduct an alternatives analysis to find possible ways to reduce the impact on the buildings.

Discussions have been ongoing for more than year. The county’s Architectural Review Board first determined the collection of buildings could be historically significant in early 2018. Since then, county staff have been trying to chart the best path forward to minimize the impact on the buildings  — which are considered historic as a collection, but not on an individual basis.

More hurdles are expected as the project goes through design and planning. Construction isn’t expected to begin until the mid to late 2020s.

“Anytime you’re building a new major project in a built environment, it’s more challenging than if we’re working out in a cornfield,” Tom Biesiadny, FCDOT’s director, told Reston Now. “None of them are insurmountable.”

Although funding for the project has not been secured yet, Biesiadny says the county has enough dollars to finish project design, which will move forward once the county receives necessary environmental approvals. The county plans to then tackle right-of-way and land acquisition between 2022 and 2024. Utility relocation is also complicated by the fact that area businesses rely on fiber optic cables along Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.

“At the moment, money is not holding anything up,” Biesiadny said. “It’s several years out before we need the construction dollars.”

So far, the project has $24 million secured from federal, regional and local funds. A $45.4 million grand application for Smart Scale funding has been submitted. The county plans to continue to aggressively apply for grant funding.

The connector has been on the county’s planning books for years. A hybrid design for the project received county approval in 2014.

Map via Fairfax County Government

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‘McTacoHut’ Marks the End of An Era in Reston

For Little Leaguers, kids skipping school, and fast food lovers, McTacoHut — a fast food block that takes its name from food spots on Wiehle Avenue — has a storied past in Reston. For decades, the McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut cornered on that block have served up the finest in fast food and fast casual grub, becoming what former Reston resident Michael Berger calls a “monument” in the community.

In early 2020, Berger plans to bring some big changes: The Pizza Hut, which first opened in 1977 at 1821 Wiehle Avenue, will flip to a Neopolitan pizza restaurant, Pupatella. Berger is a founding partner and head of the company’s real estate and supply chain.

As a former Restonian who played table-top Pac-Man at the Pizza Hut and attended more birthdays than he would’ve liked at the McDonald’s former PlayPlace, Berger says he is excited to “bring back the neighborhood pizzeria” to a place he still calls home.

“The Pizza Hut is a different type of restaurant now than it was 25 years ago,” Berger said. “We’re trying to bring the ‘hut’ aspect of McTacoHut back.”

For the Washington, DC resident, the opening of Pupattella comes full circle. Berger graduated from South Lakes High School in 1998 after attending Sunrise Valley Elementary School and Langston Hughes Middle School. He hopes to preserve most of Pizza Hut’s roof to pay homage to its pizza past while renovating the interior.

“We’re entering something that is a monument,” Berger said. “We don’t take that lightly. It honestly sounds kind of cheesy but it is a great honor to come back to the area and bring our pizzeria to the community.”

The Pizza Hut will operate until its lease ends in early 2020.

Until then, Berger says the community has plenty of time to rename ‘McTacoHut.’ That stretch of Wiehle Avenue has already transformed in recent years due to Metro and transit-oriented development. More change is on the way, as the fire department opposite McTacoHut is rebuilt and the coming.

For the coming era, Berger suggests ‘McTacoTella.’

Photos by Fatimah Waseem

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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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Google Starts Renovation Work at Reston Station Office Building

Google has started fixing up office space at Reston Station a month after the tech giant announced plans to double its workforce in Northern Virginia.

Google filed permits for the spot at 1860 Wiehle Ave — the site of Comstock’s Reston Station mixed-use development next to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

The tech giant is seeking interior alterations with office space furnishings. One of the two permits mentions “peer review,” which is a way to give plans priority status during the building, mechanical, electrical and plumbing plan review process, according to Fairfax County.

Google has not announced exact locations since it revealed last month the expansion plans as part of a $13 billion round of investment in new offices and data centers across the U.S.

News outlets previously reported that Google had purchased sites in Ashburn and Leesburg for two new data centers.

Google currently has an office at Reston Town Center.

Photo courtesy Marjorie Copson

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M&T Bank Set to Open Late Fall Along Metro Center Drive

M&T Bank plans to open a new location near Reston Station about half of a mile away from its current spot along Wiehle Avenue.

The regional bank is set to open late fall at 1886 Metro Center Drive, Maggie Parker, a spokeswoman for Comstock Companies, told Reston Now.

“The office will be on the same level as Metro Center Drive, just inside the front door, across the lobby from the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce,” Parker wrote in an email.

M&T has a branch and ATM nearby at 1861 Wiehle Ave. It is unclear at this point whether or not the Meter Center Drive opening will affect the current location.

Images via Google Maps

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Reston Planning and Zoning Committee to Review Campus Commons, Isaac Newton Square

At its meeting tonight (Dec. 17), the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee will hear presentations on two projects.

1900-1902 Campus Commons LLC’s proposed development, known as Campus Commons, would add an office building and two residential buildings with ground-floor retail space at 1900 and 1902 Campus Commons Drive. The plan retains the two existing buildings at the site on the south side of the Dulles Toll Road and east side of Wiehle Avenue.

“Campus Commons will bolster a pedestrian-focused environment integrated with a system of public urban park spaces to achieve the transit-oriented design goals of the Comprehensive Plan,” the agenda for tonight’s meeting says.

APA Properties No. 6, L.P. and MRP Realty plan to present a redevelopment concept for Isaac Newton Square.

The proposal would convert the office buildings into a mixed-use project, changing the spot into a mostly residential area with a few commercial spaces. The project would include several development blocks and approximately eight acres of publicly-accessible open space, which would include a large neighborhood green that could be used for public events and athletic purposes.

The number of dwelling units and square footage are unknown at the moment, according to the document.

Public hearing dates have not yet been scheduled for the projects.

Tonight’s Reston P&Z Committee meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the North County Government Center.

Images via Google Maps

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New Fire Station Nears End of Design, Moves Towards Construction

With a little less than a year before construction is scheduled to start on the new Reston Fire and Rescue Station 25, project is starting to shift from conception to physical.

Laurie Stone, a strategic planner for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, said residents should start seeing work on the temporary fire station soon.

“The next thing you’ll see is when we start constructing the temporary facility behind the police station,” said Stone. “That will be starting soon… probably by the first of the year.”

After the fire crew moves into the temporary station at 1800 Cameron Glen Drive, Stone said demolition of the old fire station at 1820 Wiehle Avenue and reconstruction will begin in late summer-fall next year. The new fire station is expected to open in spring 2021.

The new station is scheduled to be 17,150 square-feet, over twice as large as the current 7,750 square-foot station. It will include four bays for the fire trucks on the first floor and administrative offices, a day room, kitchen, storage and bunk rooms on the second floor.

Stone said the station is built to facilitate any necessary new equipment or additional staffing required as the area near the Wiehle-Reston East area continues expanding.

The new fire station has also taken into consideration the developments planned nearby, like the redevelopment of Isaac Newton Square just behind the station.

“[This fire station] is in the Reston comprehensive plan for this area,” said Stone, “So we’ve met with the developer before to make sure they’re aware of it, so when their rezoning application goes through [to Fairfax County] it will go through our agency for review.”

As the area becomes increasingly crowded, Stone said it’s important to ensure the vehicles can quickly and safely enter and exit the station.

“This is going to be a drive-through station,” said Stone, meaning fire trucks will be able to leave from either a south or north entrance to the station. “When the development happens behind us at Isaac Newton they are going to work with us to make sure we can access the rear of the station.”

Stone also said the station development is keeping in mind the planned bridge over Wiehle Avenue which will be adjacent to the fire station. That bridge is planned to be built by October 2022.

“We’re ahead of their schedule,” said Stone, “so we’re coordinating construction so that they don’t disturb our operations.”

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Cleanup Underway After Trash Truck Fire on Dulles Toll Road

A stinky situation on the Dulles Toll Road has resulted in a lane closure and a significant cleanup effort.

A garbage truck’s load of trash caught fire this afternoon, shortly after 4 p.m., prompting the truck driver to dump the burning refuse on the side of the westbound Dulles Toll Road near Wiehle Avenue.

The fire was extinguished and the effort to remove the charred garbage is now underway. According to WTOP, the ramp from Wiehle Avenue to the westbound lanes of the toll road are currently blocked.

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