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Starting Over on Wiehle Development

Contract between Fairfax County and Comstock Companies falls through.

Fairfax County is starting over in its bid to build mixed-use transit-oriented development on its property at the intersection of Wiehle Avenue with the Dulles Toll Road. The county announced it could not reach a favorable agreement with Reston-based Comstock Companies on the proposed redevelopment of the 9-acre surface parking lot.

According to Beau Schweikert, Comstock’s chief financial officer, the county informed the company via letter received on June 14. The letter did not state specific reasons why the deal collapsed. "We’re trying to figure that out ourselves," said Schweikert. "We’ve had a hard time establishing communication with [the county]." Schweikert said phone calls and letters to the county had gone unanswered as late as Thursday, June 21, a week after Comstock received the letter from the county.

Fairfax County Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said the county considered its financial goals and community’s planning goals in negotiations of the contract. She said she was not a part of the negotiating circuit and is not aware of the specific reason why the contract failed. Hudgins did not have the specific information at her disposal, but said negotiations with Comstock had been ongoing for "At least a good two years."

THE FUTURE OF the 9-acre property is uncertain after the collapse of the contract with Comstock, but so was its future when the contract was still alive. Proposed under a public private partnership, the proposal’s details were not released to the public. Not knowing the specifics of the development plan made it more difficult for a panel of local residents to review access to the proposed Wiehle Avenue metro station, slated to open in close proximity to the property by 2013. Reston Metrorail Access Group (RMAG) chair Patti Nicoson said she was disappointed the contract negotiations did not come to fruition. "I’m disappointed that after all this work they were not able to reach an agreement," said Nicoson. "If there is a way to salvage the deal, I hope they do."

Nicoson said the contract’s collapse would not affect RMAG’s work, and the guidelines for future developers are still attached to the property. Hudgins echoed Nicoson’s thoughts: "Principles of what should happen [develop at the site] are still there, and whoever comes in should have the same goals."

The county will now start over with the process, drafting another request for proposal (RFP) from developers. To her knowledge, there are no developers in consideration at this moment. Hudgins said the property is situated on valuable land, especially given its proximity to the future metro station at Wiehle Avenue. "Hopefully we can invite as much interest as possible" from developers, she said. "It should be a desirable property." Hudgins said she thinks there is still plenty of time for redevelopment to occur before 2013, when the Wiehle Station is projected to be operational. "I think it is enough time. Just think of what was in certain places five years ago," she said.

Although the county will go back to the beginning of the process, Hudgins said it is better to take time and agree on a deal that serves the community than to agree on a deal that does not. "I still am convinced that this is a great opportunity for the county to get what’s best for it and what’s best for Reston," she said.