Prior to the Democratic primary last month, a controversy over Comstock’s campaigning restrictions prompted local elected officials to push back against the developer’s longstanding policy at Reston Station Plaza.
But there has been little movement on the issue in recent days.
In a June 7 letter, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova threatened legal recourse against Comstock, which she said was unfairly restricting public access to the property and possibly infringing on First Amendment rights. The county’s Commonwealth Attorney and the local American Civil Liberties Union also stepped in.
Bulova’s chief of staff Clayton Medford told Reston Now that Bulova plans to meet with Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, to discuss access issues.
“The county is committed to looking into public spaces issues countywide to ensure members of the public have equal access,” Medford said.
No meeting has been scheduled yet. Clemente did not return requests for comment from Reston Now.
The issue stemmed over access to Reston Station Plaza, which was built through a public-private partnership.
Two candidates running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor complained about Comstock’s policies.
The plaza is atop the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.
Photo by Fairfax Connector
Updated at 2:30 p.m. — The Herndon library event was canceled due to “facility issues.”
Learn About Feathered Friends at the Library — Kids ages 6-12 can learn about birds from wildlife ambassadors, who will bring a parrot, owl, crow, duck and rooster. The event runs from 10:30-11:15 a.m. at the Herndon Fortnightly Meeting Room 1. [Fairfax County]
Reston-Based Bechtel Wins NASA Contract — “Bechtel has been awarded a 44-month, $383M contract to design, construct, test and commission a second mobile launcher at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center… It will use the platform to assemble, process and launch the Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft on missions moon and Mars.” [GovConWire]
King Teddy Brings Modern Swing to Reston Tonight — People can enjoy free modern swing with dance instruction to music from the band King Teddy at the open-air plaza atop Wiehle-Reston East Metro station tonight from 7-9 p.m. [Reston Community Center]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
In anticipation of the Democratic primary tomorrow, Comstock Companies is now allowing campaigning and electioneering for two days at Reston Station Plaza after the county threatened legal recourse due to potential free speech violations.
Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, told Reston Now that the company is inviting all candidates on the June 11 ballots to campaign at the plaza today and tomorrow “on their own schedules and without the need to coordinate schedules with Comstock.”
The temporary change comes after Comstock came under fire for its longstanding restrictions on soliciting, including campaigning and electioneering, at the plaza. The county says the forum qualifies as public space — even though Comstock leases the property from the county through a 99-year ground lease. Comstock disputes this claim.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova lashed out against the company when she learned about the policy late last week. Bulova accused the company of favoritism and civil rights violation after she said it allowed Maggie Parker — Comstock’s vice president of communications — to post campaign signs but barred her opponents from approaching voters.
“Allowing one’s own employee to engage in such highly protected activity in a public area, while excluding other candidates from doing the same, is clearly wrong and cannot be tolerated,” Bulova said in the letter, which threatened legal action.
Parker said that she never campaigned at the plaza and purchased large advertisements from the company at the plaza and on Comstock’s building — a possibility that she said is open to all other candidates.
Ads cost between $2,000 and $3,500 per week.
Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia chapter, said the lease to the private company does not renege individual’s free speech rights.
Ray Morrogh, the county’s commonwealth’s attorney, directed the Fairfax County Police Department to decline any requests to prosecute individuals for campaigning at the train station and the plaza above it.
“It would not be appropriate to prosecute anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in public areas,” Morrogh wrote in a May letter to the police department.
Clemente did not indicate what led to the two-day allowance for campaigning.
“Although we had hoped to provide the residents of the Hunter Mill District an opportunity to meet all the candidates in a casual setting during these last days of the campaign, we were unable to secure commitments from all candidates to participate in a coordinated event,” he said.
The debate over whether or not the plaza qualifies as a public forum was catapulted into the county spotlight after candidates running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor attempted to campaign at the plaza.
Over the past several weeks, candidates, volunteers for their campaigns, and a representative for a local advocacy group said they were kicked off the property and told to apply for permits.
Photo via Fairfax Connector
Lane Closures Planned on Eastbound Sunset Hills Road — The road near the Wiehle-Reston East Station will be closed several days this week to allow Silver Line Phase II crews to complete stormwater management work. Closures are in effect today (Monday) and Thursday (June 13) from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Friday (June 14) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]
The Post’s Sietsema Reviews Bombay Velvet in Reston — Tom Sietsema writes that the upscale Indian restaurant in RTC West has “fine aspirations with an uneven start.” [The Washington Post]
Reston-based SAIC Has “Stout Revenue Growth” — “Amid the torch-passing between outgoing CEO Tony Moraco and CEO-elect Nazzic Keene on Thursday’s first quarter earnings call, Science Applications International Corp. (NYSE: SAIC) delivered stout revenue growth fostered by its acquisition of Engility Holdings Inc. The Reston-based technology contractor reported $1.6 billion in revenue for the quarter, a 37% increase from the prior year, fueled largely by growth attributed to the Engility buy, which closed in January.” [Washington Business Journal]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
(Updated at 5:45 a.m. on May 31 to state candidates did not receiving ad pricing information from Comstock).
Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, will allow political campaigning and electioneering at Reston Station Plaza following a recent debate over the legality of the company’s longstanding policy to bar soliciting on its properties.
In a letter to Reston Now’s editor regarding the May 24 article, Chris Clemente, the company’s CEO, clarified Comstock’s position on the issue. His company’s vice president of communications, Maggie Parker, is running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, and her campaign signs are plastered on the property.
“Given the local nature of the Hunter Mill District race, which is the first contested race since Reston Station existed, and the significant number of Hunter Mill District residents using the commuter facilities at Reston Station, it was decided that it would be appropriate to allow such activities for this political contest,” Clemente wrote.
A spokesperson for Fairfax County has stated that campaigning at the property is allowed by state election law, noting that Comstock leases Reston Station Plaza from Fairfax County under a 99-year ground lease.
“Comstock leases the Wiehle garage plaza from Fairfax County pursuant to a 99 year ground lease. State election law doesn’t prohibit campaign activities including voter registration on private property,” according to the county.
Clemente said the company has barred all types of soliciting “out of respect for the thousands of daily visitors’ time.” He also noted that the county has not raised any issues with Comstock’s policy.
A county spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request from Reston Now about why this was the case.
Parker pushed Clemente to give other candidates running for the seat the opportunity to erect signs at Reston Station, Clemente said. Requests to have signs were submitted by Walter Alcorn‘s campaign on May 25 and Laurie Dodd on May 28. Parker also requested permission to use Comstock’s property for an all-candidate meet and greet event, which Clemente said Comstock fully supports.
Clemente, a former Reston resident and parent of current Reston residents, is backing Parker for the seat. In a 19-point letter to Reston Now, Clemente expressed his support for Parker, who he called a “champion of affordable housing” and a “strong proponent of limiting significant development in the Hunter Mill District.”
In a statement, Clemente wrote the following:
This is why I support Maggie Parker in this important race, because she has the skills needed to create solutions to complex issues that can sometimes be divisive, build consensus, and put the interests of the Hunter Mill District residents first, rather than hurling misleading accusations for political purposes. It’s refreshing to see a political candidate take the high road!
Parker said that she organized the forum because she wants to have all five candidates campaign in a safe and open environment and meet some candidates’ interest in coming to the plaza.
“A free-flowing meet and greet is one way to accomplish both,” Parker said. “I am confident that my message and experience will win out.”
Her campaign manager pitched the meet and greet idea to other candidates running for the seat on May 28. A date has not been set.
Alcorn, whose volunteers were recently barred from distributing campaign materials at the plaza, says the gesture comes too late:
Comstock responded to our community pressure with a token gesture that is too little, too late as Comstock’s candidate has enjoyed weeks of unlimited and exclusive advertising. Democracy does not happen in 3 hour windows. Comstock is attempting to buy a seat on the Board of Supervisors for developers. Voters should also be alarmed that Comstock is using a public private partnership with the County to limit freedom of speech for all candidates but their own.
Both Dodd and Alcorn stated that they have not yet heard back from Comstock regarding requests for the pricing of advertising on the plaza.
The Hunter Mill District primary is set for June 11.
Conflicting stances on the permissibility of political campaigning at the plaza has piqued some concerns about the privatization of public spaces in Reston.
A spokesperson for Fairfax County told Reston Now that state election law “doesn’t prohibit campaign activities including voter registration on private property.”
Comstock leases Reston Station Plaza from Fairfax County under a 99-year ground lease. This public-private partnership does not prevent political campaign activities, the county says.
The company, however, has adopted a longstanding policy that political campaigning is not allowed at the plaza, according to Maggie Parker, Comstock’s vice president of communications.
“It would be like me setting up shop on Walter [Alcorn’s] front lawn,” Parker, who is also a candidate in the race for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, said.
Alcorn, who is also running for the seat vacated by longtime Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, said volunteers from his campaign were recently barred from campaigning outside of the Starbucks on the plaza.
He says a security officer told campaigners that political activity was not allowed at the site.
“It’s unfortunate that what should be publicly usable space is being operated as private space,” Alcorn said. “This is one of the challenging and frustrating things about where we are as a community. We’ve really privatized our public spaces.”
Parker, who has campaign signs plastered along a fence near the entrance to the garage at Wiehle-Reston East, said she is seeking Comstock’s approval for all candidates to campaign at the plaza before the primary election on June 11.
“Given the interest in the campaign, I would like an opportunity to challenge our management and have one day — maybe the Thursday before the primary — for all candidates to come out. I would love to work on that,” Parker said.
Jubal Thompson, general counsel for Comstock Companies, noted that Reston Station Plaza’s unique public-private partnership sets it apart from other Metro stations, which may allow political campaigning.
“Comstock has a 99-year leasehold interest for the exclusive use to the land and the improvements it makes to the property. So effectively Reston Station Plaza is private property with public access rights,” Thompson wrote in an email to Reston Now.
Alcorn also took issue with Parker’s campaign signs on Comstock’s property, which he says muddies the line between private and public interests.
Parker noted that her signs are on private property.
“My company is very enthusiastic and support of the campaign and the signs are all on private property,” she said. “I wouldn’t go stick my signs in someone’s yard without them agreeing.”
Comstock’s marketing team is open to selling sign space to any candidate, she added.
Photos by Fatimah Waseem
It’s time to gear up for Bike to Work Day on Friday (May 17).
More than 100 pitstops are planned from 6:30-9:30 a.m. through the D.C. Metro area, including one in Reston and one in Herndon.
The Reston pit stop will be held at the Reston Station Plaza at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station (1862 Wiehle Avenue). A second pit stop is planned in Herndon near the entrance of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at the corner of Lynn and Elden streets.
The first 20,000 who register and attend will receive a free T-shirt. Registration, which is free, is open online.
If biking alone isn’t your cup of tea, you can join a convoy led by experienced bicycle commuters. Convoys will travel along popular employment centers in the region. You can also try to track down a ride buddy by using the Washington Area Bike Forum.
Thousands of bicyclists are expected to commute via pedal power during the annual event, which is sponsored by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
The event takes place rain or shine.
The redevelopment project by Pulte Homes brings 12 two-level townhouse-style condos and 32 one-level condos just a short walk from the Wiehle-Metro East Metro Station.
Megan Skupien, a spokeswoman for Pulte Homes, said the company has sold out its two-story condos.
Heading into the grand opening weekend, almost 50 percent of the one-level condos, which have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, are sold out.
“We couldn’t be happier as we head into the weekend,” Skupien said.
All infrastructure work has been completed, with the exception of topping off the remaining roads. Other road construction work will happen in cooperation with other developers and land owners.
Construction on the project, which is located at 1825 Michael Faraday Drive, began last spring. The county approved Pulte Homes’ proposal to replace an office building and parking lot with a residential development in November 2016.
Residents of The Lofts will be Reston Association members.
Photos by Fatimah Waseem
The county has logged roughly 16,000 trips every year since the program began in Reston and as more stations are added to the network, that number is expected to increase dramatically over the next several years. Stations in Tysons Corner are also seeing dramatic increases in utilization, especially as more corporate sponsors come on board to back new stations.
Most of Reston’s new stations are planned in south Reston. Exact locations will not be disclosed until the county finalizes places with state transportation officials, according to the county. The corridors at North Shore Drive, Baron Cameron Avenue, South Lakes drive and Glade Drive are likely candidates.
Chris Wells, the county’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager, said that the new stations will help transform the program by expanding their use beyond a quick ride to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station or Reston Town Center.
When a new station was added near Lake Anne, trips indicate that people used the bikes to run errands and pick up groceries at Harris Teeter in Spectrum Center. Wells says this suggest the functionality of the bikes is changing in the suburban community.
So far, the station at Wiehle-Reston East Metro tops all others with 4,743 annual trips last year. The RTC station came in second with 2,650 annual trips. The station at Sunset Hills Road and Isaac Newton Square brings in 1,782 annual trips, according to county data.
The county is considering moving the station at Reston Regional Library — the least popular station with just 16 trips last year — to another site until construction of Reston Town Center North is completed. The newest station and the only one south of the toll road is at Campus Commons.
A pilot program launched last year to bring battery-operated bikes to Reston was also successful, Wells said. Nearly 500 new electric bikes will be added to the Maryland, Virginia and DC network over the next few months.
Overall, utilization dipped slightly last year due to construction at Wiehle-Reston East, Wells said. He hopes to more people using bikeshare in Reston as the network becomes more connected.
“As there are places to go, we expect utilization to get even better organically.”
The regional wood-fired pizza franchise Matchbox just announced plans to move into Reston early next year.
The franchise just signed a lease for 1900 Reston Metro Plaza Drive in Suite 100, according to a statement from a public relations agency representing Matchbox.
“The space is 5,500 square feet and offers expansive patio dining,” the agency said in an email. “The veteran D.C. restaurant group is currently focused on regional expansion within the DMV, targeting smaller, neighborhood-focused properties.”
The email says the restaurant is planning on opening in Reston Station in early 2020.
Other upcoming Matchbox locations include one in Silver Spring opening tomorrow (Friday) and ones in Penn Quarter and Bethesda opening this summer.
If you can’t wait that long, your best bet is the Matchbox locations in Ashburn (44720 Thorndike Street) or the Mosaic District (2911 District Ave).
Photo via Facebook
Common Ground Childcare recently opened its second Reston location earlier this week.
The new location by the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station is the first expansion by Common Ground Childcare, which debuted in Reston in 1972, according to its website. It is geared toward kids ranging from infants up to the age of 2.
A ribbon-cutting on March 30 celebrated the opening of the new spot at 11480 Sunset Hills Road.
The original location at 1700 Wainwright Drive offers before-school, after-school and drop-in care for young kids.
Photo via Facebook
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.
Construction crews are busy working on a new townhome community that will turn part of Sunrise Valley Drive into a bustling residential area.
Work started on the project in 2017 when trucks tore down a six-story office building that was on the site at 11720 Sunrise Valley Drive. Now, 54 open-concept townhomes are on the way in Toll Brothers’ Valley and Park development.
The square footage varies for the four different townhome plans, but they all feature three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and three half bathrooms. They are priced in the mid-$800,000s, according to Toll Brothers.
The site is about a 5-minute drive away from both the Wiehle-Reston East and the future Reston Town Center Metro stations. A sign says that the development is “opening early 2019.”
The residential project was added to the Reston Association around this time last year, which means that the owners will have to pay annual assessments.
The site neighbors the new Sekas Homes development that includes 34 townhouses and 10 condos. Up the road, VY at Reston Heights opened its 385-apartments community early last year and includes space for a handful of retailers, which have not opened yet.
Last seven images via Toll Brothers
As the winter starts to thaw, stands hawking Girl Scout cookies are starting to crop up nationwide. But rather than randomly stumbling on them, a new app can help Restonians with a sweet tooth track their dealers.
Your best bet for cookies today (Monday) will be Troop 524 setting up outside the Giant at 2425 Centreville Road in Herndon from 4-6 p.m.
More options throughout the area start showing up later in the week. On Wednesday and Thursday, Girl Scouts will be selling cookies at:
- Wiehle-Reston East (1862 Wiehle Ave) from 4-6 p.m.
- Lucia’s Italian Ristorante (2531 John Milton Drive) from 4-6 p.m.
- Safeway (11120 South Lakes Drive) from 5-6:30 p.m.
On Friday, there are more than 20 locations within a five-mile radius of the Reston Town Center scheduled to be vending Girl Scout cookies. Keep an eye on the app or the online tracker to find one near you.
Photo via Facebook
Google is significantly expanding its operations in Northern Virginia, as part of a $13 billion round of investment in new offices and data centers across the U.S.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the plans in a blog post Wednesday afternoon.
“With new office and data center development, our workforce in Virginia will double,” Pichai wrote.
The post did not specify exact locations or other details, but Google currently has an office at Reston Town Center and was reported to be considering a major new lease near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.
It was also previously reported that Google had purchased sites in Ashburn and Leesburg for two new data centers.