0
Votes

What Comes Next?

Lake Anne charrette offers development choices, without answering how to proceed.

Three weeks ago, on the last day of the Lake Anne charrette, Kimberly Dillard asked the session’s facilitator a two-part question that has yet to be determined.

“What is the process for moving forward and how do we know we’re attracting the right developer?” said Dillard.

An answer from Supervisor Cathy M. Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), at the time, was to remind the participants that the land was privately owned and that those owners, with public input, would be making decisions on how to move next.

Then Martha Green, president of the Lake Anne Resident Condominium Association (LARCA), spoke to Dillard’s concern.

“The property owners have begun to meet together in effort to move forward together,” said Green.

While most charrette participants agree that the three-day think-session was a positive step toward Lake Anne revitalization, they have a fuzzy idea at best of what will follow and what their role will be.

THE PROBLEM for the 40-year-old village, which was designated a county revitalization area in 1998, is a lack of retail space, pedestrian traffic and commercial attraction to support long-term viability.

“I think [the charrette] accomplished something very important and that is many people are convinced that something has to be done when before they were perfectly content to do nothing,” said Robert E. Simon, Jr., founder of Reston.

Hudgins agrees. “People recognize that something needs to happen there for Lake Anne to remain attractive,” she said.

Moving forward and building on the accomplishments of the charrette, which attracted nearly 200 different participants, is difficult partially because of complex village ownership, which includes parking agreements and easements that are difficult to decipher.

“I have no preconceived idea of how this [process] might go,” said Kurt Pronske, president of the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation (RCRC), a non-profit whose mission is to promote the economic and social vitality of Reston’s neighborhoods. “There are a certain number of things that must take place by law before a contractor can get a permit and begin construction.”

Most of RCRC’s board members are representatives of private property owners and stakeholders in the Lake Anne revitalization area, including the Lake Anne Condominium, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Washington Plaza Baptist Church, Millennium Bank, Reston Association, Association of School Business Officials (ASBO), Fellowship Square Foundation, the Coffee House, and the Lake Anne Merchants Association.

Pronske said that the RCRC, in conjunction with the county and the department of housing and community development, will be grappling with these issues in the coming weeks.

“My opinion is that at some point in time you’re absolutely going to have to have a developer come in, and that is because there is no other entity involved that is willing to take the risk that development requires,” said Pronske.

The charrette, according to Lee Rau, member of Fairfax County redevelopment and housing authority (Hunter Mill), allowed the community to voice concerns and move toward consensus. “I think that among the options given that option E was the best,” said Rau. “I think that that’s the one that the people coalesced around and I think that’s the starting point for the process.”

Option E eliminated the ASBO building for better visibility, realigned Village Drive to line up perpendicular to the waterfront, and converted the current surface parking lot into a walking plaza with retail on two sides leading with “Spanish steps” into Washington Plaza.

In addition, option E moves the Reston Community Center site to make way for a small, specialty grocer, like Trader Joe’s. A 720-parking space lot would be constructed adjacent to the old surface lot and the Millennium Bank building would be made into a taller tower.

Density would be increased with new development at Crescent Apartments with 720 additional housing units, at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church site with 110 additional units and at the village with 130 additional units. There would also be a 24,000 square foot increase in retail space.

LOOKING FORWARD, Rau said the county has been asked to evaluate “the extent to which we need to amend the master plan to implement the charrette results.”

“I think we need to know what is allowed by the master plan,” said Rau. “I anticipate that as the process moves along, there will be other opportunities for community participation.”

The road to revitalization for a while was following what seemed to many like a natural progression: first the economic study, then the focus groups and then the charrette. But the plan ahead hasn’t been decided.

“We will wait to see what the report [on the charrette] has to say,” said Hudgins. Meanwhile, Hudgins said, stakeholders have the opportunity to address some of the immediate problems at Lake Anne identified at the charrette, such as a lack of signage.

Pronske said that the results of the charrette should not be taken out of context. He said that the public accepted more density and expansion of mixed-use development. “In the very near future, we should be looking at a method that will bring a developer on board,” said Pronske, speaking for himself and not the RCRC.