Developing Reston

Developing Reston

Proposed developments worry some residents.

Cranes are a big part of Reston’s skyline today. Developments, especially around Reston Town Center, are springing up, building Reston to higher density and its buildings to new heights.

Joe Ritchey, a commercial real estate consultant from Reston, said the area would become the center of Northern Virginia over the next 30 years.

“Population is growing much faster to the west of us,” said Ritchey, citing points east, such as Washington, D.C., Arlington, and Alexandria, which are already densely populated. Numbers show Loudoun County, west of Reston, will experience the largest population boom in Northern Virginia, with its population projected to increase 128 percent over the next 30 years. Ritchey also cited improvements Dulles International Airport is undergoing to accommodate a higher number of passengers as a sign of the area’s growth, and Reston’s positioning in the center of it all.

In a presentation to the Reston Association (RA) Board of Directors, Ritchey highlighted some of the developments coming to Reston. KSI is developing Midtown Towers, a residential community planned to add approximately 1,000 residential units to Reston Town Center. Construction at the site has begun, and most of the units have already been sold.

The average price per square foot in the Midtown South building is more than $600. The plan is to build 133 residential units per acre in that building. In 1994, Oak Park development at Reston Town Center was completed, with 26 units per acre, and an average price of $120 per square foot.

KSI ALSO PLANS to build a public park with an amphitheater on the site, which Ritchey said would be a “fabulous” public space. The project is designed by Bob Stern, whom Ritchey called the “foremost living American architect.” The fact KSI hired Stern says a lot about the quality of the project, said Ritchey.

However, it is not only residential developments that are rising in Reston. Ritchey's figures estimate nearly four million square feet of office space will be added to Reston by the year 2015, bringing total office space in Reston to 19,000 million square feet. It is also estimated that 500,000 square feet of office space is absorbed annually, meaning that office space becomes occupied. The four million additional square feet means there is enough supply for companies to move into Reston for eight years, if the absorption rate stays the same.

There is also mixed, commercial and residential, development proposed for the Reston area. Mark Looney, of Cooley, Godward, presented a plan by developer Boston Properties to RA’s Planning and Zoning Committee to build two buildings in Reston Town Center. Boston Properties is amending its original application, to build two 10-story buildings for commercial use, to building two 12-story buildings. One of the buildings would be for commercial use, while Boston Properties is hoping to have an option of adding residential use to the second. The amendments have been sent to the Fairfax County staff for review. “The mix of uses is really what makes the town center go,” said Pete Otteni, of Boston Properties.

THE AREA AFFECTED by the proposals is currently occupied by a surface parking lot of more than 500 spaces. Boston Properties is required to offer a parking alternative before it starts work on the site, and eliminates use of the surface parking. The company does have a plan to build a 400-space garage near the site of the before-mentioned Midtown construction. The garage is set to open in September or October of this year. When the two buildings are completed, Boston Properties would incorporate 1,900 parking spaces for commercial and retail use in one building, and an appropriate number of spaces for residential use in the other building.

As far as public parking is concerned Otteni said many parking spaces in the available parking garages are underused, saying that 1,500 of those spaces have never been used. However, Boston Properties at this point does not have a residential developer partner, who would help them with the development of the second building, leaving details, such as the number of units, out of the proposal. The maximum number of residential units would be 400.

The Planning and Zoning Committee of the RA voted to support Boston Properties in its bid, with an amendment that Boston Properties makes a contribution to the county’s Affordable Housing Fund. Some discussion was generated as to whether a contribution could be earmarked for affordable housing near Reston Town Center, so the amendment included that the contribution be earmarked for a specific project if it is appropriate to do so. Members of Reston Interfaith, present at the meeting, offered to cooperate with the Planning and Zoning Committee as well as the developers to provide and preserve affordable housing in the area.

THE OVERALL DEVELOPMENT picture for Reston is that by the year 2015 Reston will be a home to over 65,000 people, and have nearly 20 million square feet of office space. “There are roughly 2044 residential units under construction now [in the Town Center],” said Looney. The president of the RA Board of Directors, Rick Beyer, said he would like to incorporate the residents of Reston Town Center into the processes of the RA, because the association’s membership is stagnant, and new members would help keep the costs of assessments down. New membership, said Beyer, would also give the community a stronger voice. Currently the Town Center is not a part of the RA.

Another issue is traffic. The new office space will bring commuters into Reston, while the new residential units will bring more local vehicles onto the area’s roads.

“There are two interchanges that need immediate attention and loud attention from all members of the community,” said Ritchey. He urged the RA to request assistance from county and state officials on roads that are likely to bear the burden of the additional traffic created by the development, which ought to boost the area’s economy.

One is the intersection of Wiehle Avenue with the Dulles Toll Road, where a Metrorail station is to be built. An estimated 8,300 passengers will be boarding trains from this location per weekday. While some of them may use public transport to get to the station, some will also use their own cars. The roads near the intersection will have to be able to support the new volume of traffic.

Another intersection Ritchey pointed out is the one at Sunrise Valley and Reston Parkway. Already a usually backed-up intersection will be a home to an office complex of over 300,000 square feet of space, with possible future development to 600,000 square feet of office space.

“This is an exciting time for Reston,” said Ritchey, “and it definitely is the center of the future.”

However, not all are excited about the development in Reston. “I’m sorry to see Reston go,” said Robert Poppe, at-large director on the RA Board. His sentiment was echoed by Jennifer Blackwell, the association's secretary and at-large director, who said Reston will begin to look more like Rosslyn after all the development. She said Reston is a place where people come to work, live, and play.

The recent toll hike, imposed without much input from Restonians, Blackwell added, is a small showing of what could happen to Reston in the future. “We need to figure out how to keep our voices strong on the county and state level,” she said.