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Lake Anne Revitalization Gains Momentum

Public meeting introduces plan recommendations.

Most everyone involved in Lake Anne revitalization efforts agrees the village center is a special place that needs some level of redevelopment to ensure its merchants remain competitive. Its historic value and reputation exceed national standards, and any redevelopment that might occur in the area ought to keep that in mind.

“Not only in Reston, but in the country and the world, Lake Anne Village Center is one of the most desirable places in terms of architectural designs and serving the community,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill). “As we look forward we want to build upon what the history of Lake Anne means to the community,” she said.

Kellie Brown, an associate with Basile, Baumann, Prost and Associates, Inc. (BBPA) — consultants, in association with Conklin Architecture and Architecture, Inc., charged with providing recommendations for the plan guidelines for the area — said the preservation of the center’s history was an integral part of BBPA’s work. “Lake Anne should be grounded in its historic roots,” said Brown.

Jim Prost, one of the founding principals of BBPA, said there was a realization in 1998 that Lake Anne was not all that it could be. That is when it was recognized as a revitalization area.

Hudgins held a public meeting last week on Wednesday night at Lake Anne Elementary School with a purpose of introducing the public to the consultant recommendations for the text plan and design guidelines. The recommendations call for a possible build out of as many as 2,071 residential units, 253,250 square feet of office space and 123,250 square feet of retail space on the 47-acre site surrounding the village center. Hudgins said the recommendations would be used in the next steps of revitalization, which would require public input.

Heidi Merkel of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, said the recommendations should not be considered the plan language. She said changes in comprehensive plans typically require an extensive public process. “This is a beginning of what the more typical plan amendment process would be,” she said. The department will now review the recommendations to evaluate them and assess the variety of potential impacts. “We will present what we as staff believe should be the plan,” said Merkel. She anticipates the public hearings in front of the county’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors would take place this summer.

AUDIENCE MEMBERS at Wednesday’s meeting included owners of properties directly and indirectly impacted by any future redevelopment, as well as other Reston residents. The current draft language envisions a number of residential high rise towers to achieve the density needed to support the retail on the Washington Plaza. It also would extend the plaza toward Baron Cameron Avenue. Brown said the original plan for the area called for five high rises, but the land changed ownership and the new owners were not interested in building those high rises.

A question of ownership, both of the property within the 47-acre area and outside of it, came up on a number of occasions at the meeting. Heron House resident John Piper wanted to know who would maintain the extended plaza. “We pay the bill,” said Piper, referring to the Lake Anne Condo Association that owns the plaza. “We consistently struggle to keep the plaza going. What’s in the plan for these new places?” he asked. He also questioned whether the current retail at the plaza would survive the periods of construction.

Hudgins said any construction that may occur would take place in phases, so that the impact on existing residential and commercial space is mitigated. As far as plaza maintenance is concerned, she said the condo association could look to negotiate an agreement on whether the plaza should be maintained as a private space or a public space.

Reston resident Sally Carroll asked whether the ownership of the parking lot near the plaza was considered, an area where the plaza extension would be built. “We all understand it is privately owned space. This does not address ownership at Lake Anne,” said Hudgins.

Another question of ownership came from Cathy Baum, who wanted to know if there was outreach for property owners outside of the 47-acre area. “What’s being done to get owners outside the plaza to participate,” said Baum.

Hudgins said the entire process is dependent on the input of the owners. “There are some that are active, [but] not the entirety. We’re going to need the entirety,” said Hudgins.

Owners of the properties on the outskirts of the revitalization area, most of whom live in clusters of townhouses and single family houses, could face being in the shadows of high rises if the recommendations for the plan are implemented. Brown said those owners were not considered in the plan, because they were not a part of the designated study area. A chance for their input in the process would be provided once the plan went through the county process in front of the county planning and zoning department and the Board of Supervisors. Brown said those owners also use Washington Plaza, which needs those high rises to achieve the economy needed to revitalize the village center.

MARGARET LUNG SPOKE on behalf of at least 12 attendees who live at the Fellowship House at Lake Anne. “We’ve got woods, we’ve got gardens,” said Lung. “We love our space and I’m sure the developers are looking at our building and just drooling,” she said. The area around the Fellowship House is an area that could see a considerable amount of redevelopment if the comprehensive plan follows the language of BBPA’s recommendation.

“Fellowship House is a critical part of Lake Anne,” said Hudgins. The language of the plan, she said, is guidance in case Fellowship House wanted to do something with its property.

Joe Stowers said the comprehensive plan should not only be looked at as guidelines for developers, but rather as guidelines for owners. “It tells the property owner what he can do with his property,” said Stowers.

Lake Anne resident John Lovaas compared the BBPA report to a 2005 economic analysis of Lake Anne Village Center, also conducted by BBPA for revitalization purposes. The economic analysis offered Lake Anne four versions of what might be done in the area to support the merchants on Washington Plaza. The suggestion that provided for most development in the area — “Master Plan Realization” — called for an addition of up to 935 residential units and 105,000 square feet of office space. “A potential Master Plan Realization program on these sites could significantly increase the day and nighttime populations of Lake Anne Village Center,” read the economic analysis. The option would raise retail and food and drink sales to $11.9 million per year, from $7 million reported in 2004.

“How did we get from [935 units] to 2,100 units?” asked Lovaas.

“We did the earlier evaluation for a series of sites, not the entire area,” said Prost. He added that the economic study was conducted for a five-year period, not a plan, which could guide the development of Lake Anne for the next 40 years. The area considered in the economic analysis represents about 72 percent of the area considered in the recommendations for the plan text.

LONG TIME RESTON resident Patrick Kane urged the property owners to stay involved in revitalization efforts. “If the plaza diminishes itself, guess what is going to happen to the rest of the values,” said Kane.

Hudgins said that much of what is present at Lake Anne, and Reston in general, is wonderful. “We’re at a point where we have to react to what happens to Reston as it gets older,” said Hudgins.

Matters of revitalizing the historic Lake Anne Village Center are complicated, but the Lake Anne representative on the Reston Association board, Robin Smyers, said she thinks revitalization will be accomplished. “If it can be done anywhere in Reston, it can be done in Lake Anne,” said Smyers. “It is the keystone of Reston.”

Smyers said there was plenty of time for public input in the process. She said the process would be a long discussion that would ensure the quality of Lake Anne is maintained and improved.