Atlantic Realty, the developer behind Plaza America and several other major Reston projects, is attempting to buy properties in and around Lake Anne Village Center to become what may be the first phase of a major redevelopment of Reston’s historic residential and commercial district.
David Ross, president of Atlantic Realty, said he is in negotiations with property owners to purchase at least two Lake Anne Village Center properties, which currently house the Association of School Business Officials International and Millennium Bank.
If Atlantic Realty successfully buys the properties, it will have gained a foothold into the village center amidst the area’s revitalization and redevelopment project. Ross has already made a conceptual presentation about his plans and has expressed his interest to the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation, which is the liaison between the community and the county on the project.
"It’s our feeling and belief that additional retail, residential and commercial density would complement the existing facilities," Ross said. "It will make a much better Lake Anne for the future."
ROSS’ PLANS are on hold until the completion in the next three or four months of a county-funded study investigating the village center’s infrastructure and economic needs. However, if Atlantic Realty acquires the properties it is seeking, Ross’ plans could be a hint of things to come.
The ASBO property is located along North Shore Drive along the border of the Lake Anne historical district, whereas the bank is located in a building at the plaza’s entrance. Both ASBO and the bank own portions of the village center’s parking lot.
Ross said he would like to build a parking garage at the center, possibly under the existing parking lot.
Also, by owning the bank building, Ross said he would be able to demolish the building to give the plaza a larger pedestrian entrance.
Additionally, Ross would like to add to the Lake Anne area an unspecified number of "mid-rise" residential buildings, to increase the residential density by a few hundred units.
Roughly 60,000 to 80,000 square feet of additional retail and commercial space could also be added — doubling the existing amount of space, he said.
Ross said he wants to make the village center a draw for residents throughout Reston, perhaps by including a 20,000- to 25,000-square-foot specialty grocery store like Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s or Balducci’s (formerly Sutton Place Gourmet.)
"We would like to make Lake Anne more of an attraction," Ross said.
BY COBBLING TOGETHER pieces of property, Atlantic Realty would be accomplishing two goals; it would become the logical choice to take on the Lake Anne revitalization project and it would become imbued with more clout to favorably rezone the area, said Lee Rau, a commissioner on the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
"If you want to redevelop Lake Anne, there’s about four properties you’d want," Rau said.
In addition to ASBO and the bank, the other properties are the soon-to-be-vacant Good Fellowship Lutheran Church and an open parcel of land next to the Fellowship Square senior home, he said.
Representatives from the Lutheran church and Fellowship Square said they had not yet been approached to sell the properties, though they both said they are interested in selling in the future.
A similar situation happened during redevelopment of Bailey’s Crossroads. In that case, a developer bought up properties in the area to give itself a stronger footing for the overarching project, said Kurt Pronske, chair of RCRC.
Little redevelopment can actually take place at Lake Anne until the Master Plan is overhauled — a key portion of the ongoing revitalization planning process. Two weeks ago, the county released a Request for Proposal for the economic study. The RFP said revisions may be needed for the Master Plan to allow a higher residential density in the district.
Pronske said his committee has no control over decisions by developers to move forward with redevelopment plans.
"I can only express our interests," Pronske said. "If they choose to make a unilateral choice, I would personally regret that, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s a free market economy."
Pronske said he is worried that Atlantic Realty’s plans may not conform with interests of the community at large.
Rau echoed Pronske’s concerns, pointing to Ross’ redevelopment projects of the Tall Oaks and Hunters Woods village centers.
"I think David Ross’ other projects in the community have caused concern," he said. "We don’t want to see similar kinds of redevelopment at Lake Anne."
ROSS DISMISSED Pronske’s and Rau’s worries, saying that nothing would happen at the village center without the express approval of the community.
"RCRC needs to continue to do its work and get grassroots support to make this thing a reality," he said. "If Reston wants it, Reston will have it."
To help preserve the character of Lake Anne Village Center, Ross has hired Bill Conklin, one of the plaza’s original architects to assist with the project.
"He’s the one who put Lake Anne together in the first place," he said.
Should Ross succeed in buying up the properties around the village center, he would still need county and community approval before making major changes or increasing density, Rau said.
"That’s the leverage the community has," he said. "We have the final approval to make sure whatever happens is something we’re all happy with."
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D), a supporter of revitalizing and redeveloping Lake Anne, said it is still early in the process, but she won’t approve any proposal that doesn’t primarily consider the needs and wants of the Lake Anne community.
"We want this to serve the community’s needs," Hudgins said.