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Massive Redevelopment for Spectrum?

The plan for the 23-acre site includes 1,400-plus housing units and more than 500,000 square feet of office space.

A sign hanging in the window of a large vacant building at the Spectrum Center, formerly the site of Sutton Place Gourmet and Zany Brainy, says, for leasing opportunities, call Lerner, the center’s developer and manager.

But with massive redevelopment plans recently submitted for Spectrum, new leases may not be very lengthy.

The company that owns the site, Reston Spectrum, LLP, affiliated with Lerner Enterprises, revealed a plan early this month to redevelop the vibrant 23-acre retail complex into 1,400-plus condos or apartments and more than half a million square feet of office space. The plan also includes extensive ground-floor retail and structured parking.

The proposal seeks to amend the conceptual plan for the center, but does not seek any more density than would already be permitted on the site.

THE DEVELOPER HAS not attached a timetable for implementing the plan, but the Fairfax County Planning Commission is scheduled to review it in January of next year. Approval by the Board of Supervisors is not required.

“Nobody is going anywhere anytime soon,” said Mark Looney, an attorney with Cooley Godward who represents Reston Spectrum. “This is an effort to plan for the future of that area with the recognition that rail is coming out there.”

The area is more than a half-mile from the nearest Metro Station, planned to open at the Reston Parkway and Dulles Toll Road in 2015. A half-mile is typically considered the maximum distance that people will walk to a transit station.

Looney speculates that the implementation would be “phased-in” over an uncertain amount of time. “They could choose not to go forward on some of this. It all depends on the market,” he said.

The plans call for the complete overhaul of the center’s southern and northern blocks, which together include more than 20 businesses. The southern block is most widely known as the section with Best Buy and the Barnes & Noble bookstore, while the northern block contains the Men’s Wearhouse, Office Depot and On the Border restaurant, to name a few.

When the center was initially developed, Lerner chose not to build up to the maximum allowable density, said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill). Hudgins said she has not had time to review the plan in detail and could not comment specifically.

THE DEVELOPER’S PLAN for the southern block contains three residential buildings, allowable up to 15 stories, containing 562 housing units, and two office buildings totaling 210,281 square feet of space, and more than 100,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

On the northern block, the plan consists of three residential buildings up to 10-stories with a total of 881 units, more ground-floor retail and more than 360,000 square feet of office space. Structured or garage parking would be integrated into both blocks.

In general terms, the balance of the different components is important to Hudgins, she said. "My concern is about how well it’s done."

Hudgins also said she would like to see the developer be aggressive in building affordable housing, and also workforce housing. "I would hope they've heard us talk about the loss of housing," she said.

The Harris Teeter, which owns its property at Spectrum, is not included in the plan. In addition, the building at 1760 Reston Parkway, home to several businesses and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran’s district office, is not part of proposed changes.

“It is important to plan and it is important to have a vision,” said Reston Spectrum’s Art Fuccillo in a statement. Fuccillo, who is also executive vice president of development and construction for Lerner Enterprises, said the “future plan” has been in the works for over a year.

“Our plan is a clear reflection of the collective thought of many people that have made Reston Town Center one of the most successful mixed-use destinations in North America,” said Fuccillo in a statement.

It’s unclear how Reston’s fast-approaching density cap could affect the plan’s implementation. “The plan was not filed because of that or in response to that,” said Looney. “It was to position the center as the market evolves and implement what [the developer] wants the center to be in the long-term.”

“THE ORIGINAL Spectrum retail center was built as an interim use until development in Reston more closely matched higher densities, intensities, and building heights envisioned by its Master Plan,” says the concept plan’s opening letter dated June 20, written by Katherine Youngbluth, a planner for Cooley Godward.

“The office, residential and retail markets in Reston — as well as land values — are sufficiently strong as to permit Spectrum to transition to uses, densities and urban design,” says the letter.

Some businesses at Spectrum have yet to hear about a possible “transition.” Ali Navidi, a manager at Simply Grill, a family-owned business, hadn’t heard anything from Reston Spectrum. “From my experience, the owners can do whatever they like,” said Navidi.

Navidi said Simply Grill’s lease will be coming up in the next couple of years. “We could always relocate, but do we want to or are we forced to — there’s a difference,” he said.

Representatives of several businesses at Spectrum could not be reached for comment.

Frank de la Fe, the Hunter Mill planning commissioner, who only received the plan last week, said he hasn’t had a chance to thoroughly look it over. “As I understand it, it’s all within what’s permissible within the town center district,” said de la Fe.

—Connection staff reporter Ari Cetron contributed to this article.