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Initial Spectrum Designs Revealed

Reston P&Z hears proposal to redevelop shopping center.

Plans are in motion to give the Spectrum Shopping Center, across the street from Reston Town Center’s urban core, a complete makeover. Whereas Spectrum currently holds a variety of stores and some restaurants and office space, conceptual designs propose a mixed-use development.

“What is there today was presented as interim use until the market was allowed to get caught up,” said Mark Looney, a land-use attorney with Cooley Goodward Kronish. Looney is representing Lerner Enterprises, a developer seeking to redevelop 275,000 square feet of Spectrum’s retail into a property featuring a hotel, five residential and two office buildings with some ground floor retail space. Parking is designed to go under the new buildings and be below grade, but the landscape of the property might leave the top levels of some parking garages above ground. New Dominion Parkway and Baron Cameron Avenue border Reston Spectrum to its south and north, respectively, while Fountain Drive and Reston Parkway border it to its west and east, respectively.

Karen See, a member of the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee was concerned about what stores would replace the current retail on the property. “It is convenient having a Barnes and Noble and a Best Buy there,” she said. Another member of the committee, Sue Straits, said she shops in every single store in the shopping center. “Where am I going to have to drive to” to visit those stores, she asked.

“Hopefully right there,” said Looney. He said the same type of retail currently at Spectrum could thrive in the environment of the new development. “You can accommodate that type of retail in this development. A lot of what you already got there would meet the needs of the residents,” he said.

Although Lerner would not have to go through a rezoning process to accommodate the currently proposed 455,961 square feet of office space and 1,443 dwelling units, other challenges have presented themselves. The 19-acre property is long, but narrow, and Lerner does not own the entire site. There are also differences in the landscape’s elevation that make it difficult for the developer to sidestep some of those other challenges. For example, building a cross street from Reston Parkway to Fountain Drive would be impossible at some points of the property, because the slope of the hill between the two streets is too steep.

“One thing that is critical [for development’s success] is the grid street pattern,” said Looney, as he presented Lerner’s design concept to the Reston Planning and Zoning meeting on Monday night. In order to create such a grid, Lerner is proposing a throughway from New Dominion Parkway to Baron Cameron Avenue, the long way down the middle of the existing shopping center. “Currently, we don’t have these opportunities because of the layout of the retail,” said Looney, pointing out as an example that the building containing Best Buy and Barnes and Noble, among other stores, is blocking the way for such a street.

THE CONCERN on the part of some of the committee members was that the through street was too narrow to support a safe pedestrian environment and ground floor retail space. “That is a terrible layout,” said Ron Weber. He urged Lerner to reconsider using that street as a throughway for cars, but rather a more pedestrian friendly passage, and perhaps shift some of the buildings in the current design.

Looney said the throughway is not intended to be a fast street, but rather one designed for slow moving cars. The street would not be completely straight either, as it would have to curve around a corner of an office building. The Harris Teeter grocery store and its parking lot are also proving difficult to maneuver around, leaving the architects with little choice on the design of the development.

“We went through 30 different versions of how to arrange this,” said Looney.

Another concern raised was that the proposed retail sites on the property are too far apart from one another. In an area that would be difficult to navigate with a car, because of its narrow through street, some committee members argued that it would not be convenient for shoppers to park near a store on one end of the property and then walk to a store on the other end of the property.

“[The shoppers] are already doing that. If you’re going from Best Buy to Office Depot, you’re driving,” said Looney. David Vannell, committee chairman, said vehicular traffic should be minimized inside the development itself, and parking should be accessible from outside streets. Another committee member, Richard Eckhardt, said the key to the development’s success would rely on how easy it would be to walk from the south to the north of the property. “That [the current design] is not at all enticing to a pedestrian,” he said.

ROB WALKER WAS concerned that there is a lack of connectivity between Reston Town Center’s urban core, just south of the property across New Dominion Parkway, and the proposed development. “I look at this development and I can’t find a connection to the Town Center,” said Walker.

Vannell added that there also had to be safe crosswalks across New Dominion Parkway at its intersections with Fountain Drive and Reston Parkway. These were the areas where people would enter the development from, or leave the development to go to, Reston Town Center’s urban core.

The Reston Spectrum development is in the conceptual design stage. Looney said he felt Lerner has made a very good first step. He said market conditions and lease terms with businesses currently on the property will determine when, if, Reston Spectrum would be redeveloped. He said if portions of the 19-acre property become vacant, due to lease terms that expire, Reston Spectrum would be built in phases. Lerner has not yet developed a construction management plan. The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hear the Reston Spectrum proposal on May 10.