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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Development Plan Seeks to Build 2,100 Residential Units in Isaac Newtown Square

A redevelopment plan before the county could transform Isaac Newton Square, the aging office park at Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue, into a residential neighborhood with around 2,100 residential units.

Peter Lawrence Cos. and MRP Realty submitted plans in late August to redevelop two-thirds of the office park with 2.8 million feet of development, nearly 90 percent of which would be residential. The development would be spread across roughly 32 acres that Peter Lawrence Cos. controls.

“We spent a lot of time developing the project vision, and we’re proud of it,” said Andrew Painter, the development team’s legal representative. The plan is in line with the county’s comprehensive plan, which has long envisioned the office park’s future as entirely residential. The project is north of the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

Painter told Reston Now that the development team intentionally designed the project to serve as a transition between the higher density areas close to the Metro Station and established residential communities towards the north and east of the property. The site is bounded by Hidden Creek Country Club, a gas station and a fire station, which will be rebuilt.

Building heights will generally taper down as one moves from south to north, and our planned “Nature’s Edge” area rings the proposed neighborhood, which provides a landscaped buffer and path along our northern and western edges adjacent to Hidden Creek,” Painter said.

Residential units will be a mix of apartments, condominiums, flats and townhouses, which 14 percent of the total number of units being set aside as affordable units.

The proposed neighborhood will contain up to 10 development blocks with a mix of residential, retail and office uses. The heights of buildings and the intensity of the development will taper off near the existing woodlands near the southern edge of the property.

The developer plans to preserve the property’s row of mature Willow Oak trees, by creating a new “Willow Oak Park.” The 1.45-acre park will serve as the “heart of the neighborhood’s public realm,” according to the proposal.

A full-size athletic field open for active recreation activities will also be included in the plan. Roughly 25 parking spaces will be reserved for field visitors during designated times. A neighborhood green, just under half an acre, will sit next to the athletic field.

A 0.75-acre east-west pedestrian walkway, called the “community mews,” will serve as a mid-block crossing connecting Wiehle Avenue and parcels to the west. Unlike the athletic field and community green, this “mews” will be reserved for residents only. The plan also calls for “The Commons,” the neighborhood’s commercial center.

The developer will create a connection to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. Infrastructure on the property will also support cycling.

Although an overwhelming majority of the development is residential, 260,000 square feet of office uses will be present nearest to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station. Roughly 68,884 square feet of retail uses are also proposed.

The plan hasn’t been accepted for review by the county yet, according to Brian Worthy, a spokesperson for the county.

Photos via Google Maps and Andrew Painter

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Bridge on W&OD Trail Over Wiehle Avenue Approved

An aerial bridge on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail over Wiehle Avenue could be constructed by October 2022.

Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved final design plans for the project, which is expected to cost $11.4 million, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The bridge includes retaining walls and directional access to Wiehle Avenue for trail users. Wiehle Avenue would be widened from Sunset Hills Road to the Reston Fire Station property in order to make way for future on-road bike lanes.

Plans have long been identified by the Reston Metrorail Access Group’s plan to improve vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access near the new Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station.

Robin Geiger, a spokeswoman for FCOD, said design plans are currently 90 percent complete. The project timeline expects utility design and relocation to take a little over a year-and-a-half, land acquisition to take a year, construction authorization and permitting to take eight months and construction to take one year.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the project faces the challenge of ensuring the bridge maintains synergy in the midst of urban properties that are coming together down the street.

The developer of the Isaac Newtown properties, which are being redeveloped, said they were concerned the project’s scale interferes with the development. County officials said they would work with the developer to mitigate any concerns.

However, according to FCDOT, the height of the bridge is necessary because the design of the bridge uses existing infrastructure in order to cut cost costs. The height is also vital to meet grade requirements and requirements stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rendering via FCDOT

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Pedestrian Bridge Project at Wiehle Avenue and W&OD Trail Moves Forward

A grade-separated crossing and bridge at the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at Wiehle Avenue could be coming closer to reality.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider a motion tomorrow (July 10) to allow the county officials to move forward with land acquisition and final design plans.

The project, which is expected to cost $10 million, aims to address safety concern at the intersection. Changes include a new bridge, retaining walls and directional access to Wiehle Avenue for trail users.

Wiehle Avenue would be widened from Sunset Hills Road to the properties near the Reston Fire Station. The pavement would be widened for on-road bike lanes in the future.

Improvements were contemplated in Reston’s Metrorail Access Group’s plan to improve access near the new Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station. The new fire station planned in the area would be built before the pedestrian bridge.

An exact timeline for the project has not been set.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Fairfax County Seeks $132 Million for Soapstone Connector

Nearly $132 million is being sought to fund the Soapstone Connector, a long awaited, half-mile-long extension between Sunrise Valley Drive and Sunset Hills Road.

The funding request for the $169.2 million project comes roughly five years after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a hybrid design for the project, which will provide an additional overpass over the Dulles Toll Road and ease traffic on south Reston roads.

Major development in the Wiehle-Reston East area, including Comstock’s Reston Station mixed use project, is expected to generate additional traffic on area roadways.

Local and state officials have long identified the need for the project, which aims to alleviate bottlenecks along Wiehle Avenue at Sunset Hills Road and Sunrise Valley Drive and improve connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists to the Wiehle-East Metrorail Station.

According to preliminary plans, the new road will include a three-lane cross section with one travel lane in each direction and a two-way, left-turn-only lane. Other features include five-foot wide bicycle lanes on each side, a five-foot wide sidewalk on the west side and a 10-foot wide path on the east side.

Construction is not anticipated until after 2023. Additional design, engineering and environmental work is expected to continue through 2022.  In 2014, the county’s board placed the project on its list of high priority projects for 2015 to 2020.

A funding gap of $25 million remains to complete the project. Requests to the Commonwealth Transportation Board have been made. Construction is expected to cost $45 million.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority will review the request, which is one of 60 candidate transportation projects in the area. NVATA is seeking public comment on the project on May 10 at 3040 Williams Drive, Suite 100 in Fairfax. Online comments can be submitted through Sunday, May 20.

File photo

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Looking Back at Reston’s Fire Station as County Prepares for Replacement Facility

Check out these “Throwback Thursday” photos of the early days of Station 25, Reston, posted on Twitter today by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue.

Soon, the station as it has been known by longtime Reston residents will change forever.

The station, at 1820 Wiehle Ave., was built in 1972 and last renovated in 1986. It was one of five fire stations approved for replacement and/or renovation under the county’s 2015 Public Safety Bond Referendum. The new fire station on Wiehle Avenue, according to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, will cost about $13 million. It is needed due to “outdated infrastructure and critical operational space deficiencies.”

The work on the new station is estimated to take place from spring 2019 through late 2020.

While the permanent station is being replaced, a temporary fire station will stand at 1800 Cameron Glen Drive. The Fairfax County Planning Commission unanimously gave its OK to the plan for the temporary fire station earlier this month, and the County Board of Supervisors did the same at their meeting this week.

You can see more historical photos of the Wiehle Avenue station at the FairfaxFirefighters.org website.

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