Choosing Between Two Downtowns

Choosing Between Two Downtowns

A second proposal to redevelop the downtown is submitted on last day of bidding.

On the last day of a 60-day time period, planners and developers of Herndon Station LLC submitted a public-private partnership proposal for the redevelopment of the core downtown area.

"We chose [Herndon] because we think the town has a wonderful opportunity for the future," said Michael Scott, principal developer and managing member Herndon Station LLC.

"Herndon is the only place in Northern Virginia that has a real downtown," he said. "Right now, everyone's trying to develop [a downtown] but Herndon already has one."

The plan was created by many different companies' planning teams that formed Herndon Station LLC to give town planning staff and the Town Council a comprehensive look at what the current downtown area could look like, said Scott.

The development team includes Norton-Scott LLC — Scott's company; Tritec Real Estate, Inc.; Grand Duke Hotels LLC; Centex Construction and Centex Homes, and Davis Carter Scott LLC.

"We started putting our team together six months ago," Scott said. "We decided to give the town the best offer, it would need to be a team effort."

IN ITS SUBMITTAL, Herndon Station LLC proposes to develop 6.6 acres of downtown property into a mixed-use real estate development.

Included in that space is a proposed community arts center, upscale multi-family residential units, office and retail space and a 141-room inn.

Submitted under Virginia’s Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act, the plan proposes to "transform the downtown district into a more vibrant commercial and residential community and requires no additional taxes or commitment of existing town funds," according to a Herndon Station LLC Sept. 28 release.

In late July, Clark Ventures LLC submitted a plan to the town outlining its proposal to redevelop the downtown.

Under the same Education and Infrastructure Act, the submittal of that plan started a 60-day acceptance period where other companies could submit proposed development plans for the same area. Because of competition, the PPEA also allows companies to withhold information, including cost estimates and complete development details, about submittals so other companies cannot get the information and then create similar but possibly cheaper or more appealing plans, said Mayor Michael O'Reilly.

"Clark Ventures didn't reveal very much in its proposal," said Scott. "This is a public process and there's a constituency in Herndon that's very concerned about what happens in the downtown area. They need to see more options up front."

Herndon Station LLC has revealed much more detail about its plan than Clark Ventures so that residents can offer comments to the council and developer about what they would like to see, said Scott.

More information from the Clark Ventures proposal is scheduled to be made public in the near future now that the bidding period has closed, said O'Reilly.

A 31,000-SQUARE FOOT arts center is proposed to be built across the W&OD Trail from the Fortnightly Library and lined with retail shops along Vine Street, according to the proposal.

The suggested parking area would offer a 1,046-space parking deck that would include 230 spaces in addition to 110 spaces for the arts center. The parking area would be incorporated into the site and include a community green space as its roof.

A public plaza located at the head of Vine Street, adjacent to the W&OD Trail, would offer a space for farmers’ markets and community events, according to the proposal.

Along Elden, Center and Vine Streets a 51,000-square foot retail space is proposed to offer upscale shopping and would be set up to complement shops built into the arts center along Vine Street.

The 141-room inn, currently dubbed The Inn at Herndon, is proposed to be located at Center and Elden Streets. Along with offering rooms, the inn would also offer conference and ballroom space.

A three-story, 83,000-square foot Class A office building is also being proposed to offer housing for employees so they could live and work in close proximity.

Approximately 120 upscale one- and two-bedroom condominiums are proposed for a two-acre site west of Center Street.

Highlights of the Clark Ventures proposal include the creation of a cultural arts center on town-owned land across the W&OD Trail from the Municipal Center. The estimated completion date for the arts center is for 2009, according to a July press release from Clark Ventures.

Fronting the art center would be a new public plaza that would provide "a focus for additional community activity," according to the release. A new permanent home for the Farmer's Market has been outlined, along with a 340-space parking structure — 110 spaces will be dedicated to the arts center.

NOW THAT BIDDING has closed, the Town Council will review the proposals, hoping to choose one plan. A tentative date of Nov. 8 has been set for the council to hear public comment and take action on the proposals to move into the detailed stage of the process.

Although they have the option to choose both proposals, the hope is that they will only choose one, said O'Reilly.

After selecting the plan, a comprehensive agreement would be discussed and then ultimately a bonding contract, he said. During this time, if selected, the proposal — or proposals — will go through the standard public-hearing process before the Planning Commission and council to consider rezoning of the affected properties. The project area is generally bounded by Station, Elden and Center Streets, and the W&OD Trail property. The project area also includes vacant property at Center and Vine Streets, including the former Dominion Virginia Power substation site.

Because of the lengthy process, O'Reilly gave a loose time estimate, saying plans could be narrowed down by late October or early November. The next process of negotiating could take another three months until a firm redevelopment plan is in place.

"When you look at the two, there's a pretty dramatic difference between them," he said. "That's going to make it pretty interesting for council and the community to decide."