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First Steps To Revitalize Lake Anne

Property owners worry character of Lake Anne could be lost amidst redevelopment.

An eight-year effort to revitalize the Lake Anne area moved a step closer to reality last week, when county and community officials announced a Request For Proposal to assess the area’s economic and infrastructure needs.

The RFP is for a study to provide data about the state of Lake Anne Plaza and the surrounding area, which will be used to determine future redevelopment.

Specifically, the study will evaluate factors such as residential and commercial density, access to the shopping area and the extent to which the infrastructure has deteriorated, said Kurt Pronske, chair of the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation, a non-profit organization spearheading the revitalization effort.

“Lake Anne Village needs an MRI. We need to look at what’s wrong, what’s right and what we need to fix,” Pronske said at a public meeting at Lake Anne last Wednesday. “This needs study will give us a yardstick for residential space and retail space that will be self-sustaining into the future.”

The overall character of Lake Anne Plaza can not be changed because Lake Anne is a designated historic district, though slight improvements can be made. The study is basically the first step toward fixing-up the area surrounding the historical core, said Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill).

“This is very much a beginning step,” Hudgins said.

Fairfax County has allocated $50,000 for the RFP, which should fully cover its cost, said Harry Swanson, the county’s deputy director for revitalization and real estate.

The revitalization effort appears to be driven by several assumptions about the Lake Anne community, including:

* Residential density around Lake Anne is not adequate to sustain businesses throughout the year.

* Parking is insufficient to accommodate increased visitors during peak times, such as weekends and when the weather is nice.

* Lake Anne has to revitalize in order to avoid strangulation by the increased commercial and residential real estate market surrounding the area.

SEVERAL RESTONIANS attending the public hearing Wednesday night, many of whom were Lake Anne business and residential property owners, said they are worried the distinct character and quaintness of the area could be eroded by redevelopment.

Also, most residents and business people are just learning about the revitalization effort now, fueling concerns that the interests of the community aren’t being represented.

Because the process has not been as open as some of the people at Wednesday’s meeting would have liked, it appears that the revitalization effort is barreling forward without public input, several people said.

Eduardo Faubert, president of the Lake Anne of Reston Merchant’s Association and owner of Jasmine Cafe, said property owners have not yet had enough input into the revitalization process, but are eager to be involved from this point on.

“Their intent is very positive and I hope they succeed,” Faubert said. “All I want is for them to make it clear how we can communicate with them.”

PRONSKE, HUDGINS and other officials responded to the concerns raised Wednesday, saying that the identity of Lake Anne will be preserved and that the RFP is just the first step — providing objective data, not recommendations for redevelopment.

“This is the ‘How’ part of it, not the ‘What,’” Hudgins said.

Also, Pronske said, secret deals aren’t being struck behind closed doors. The revitalization project will not move forward without substantial input from every interested member of the public.

That said, the project is clearly moving forward. The RFP will be advertised in the coming weeks and 30 days later, the economic and infrastructure needs study will begin.

At least one developer has already expressed interest in taking on the Lake Anne revitalization project. Atlantic Realty, the developer, is known for its work creating Plaza America and redeveloping the Hunters Woods and Tall Oaks shopping areas.

Pronske said Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation has no say in what developers unilaterally decide to “take a hard look at” and that they are not yet meeting with developers about the Lake Anne revitalization project.