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Votes

One Chance for First Impression

Lake Anne conceptual draft to be presented next week.

It has been more than two years since consultant Basile, Baumann, Prost and Associates, Inc. (BBPA) presented its findings on the economic study of the Lake Anne Village Center to the community. On Wednesday BBPA will have a chance to do another presentation regarding Lake Anne revitalization.

In conjunction with Conklin Costantin Architects and Architecture, Inc., BBPA presented its draft of the land use plan text and land use design guidelines to the Fairfax County Architectural Review Board last week. According to Howard Green, member of the board of directors of the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation (RCRC) — the organization guiding redevelopment efforts at Lake Anne — the ARB was concerned about certain details in the document including aggressive floor to area ratios (FARs), a relationship between the area of the building to the area of the land on which it is located. Hunter Mill District representative on the Fairfax County Planning Commission, Frank de la Fe, said he was not familiar with the draft yet.

“What they’ve been commenting on is premature,” said RCRC president Kurt Pronske. “Architects want to get to the details, and we’re not there yet.”

The document divides the area of Lake Anne that is proposed for redevelopment into five sub areas, leaving the historic core — the plaza and the buildings surrounding it — untouched. It proposes the types of land uses each sub area may want to employ, and a maximum FAR in each sub area. However, no further detail is provided in the text-only document.

“[The draft] establishes guidelines. It’s a set of bookends,” said Pronske. He said a developer would be able to come in with a proposal for redevelopment, and have an idea of what sorts of zoning and land use applications it would need to pursue.

“This is going to be what the doctor ordered,” said Pronske.

WHILE THE DOCUMENT offers no drawings or renderings of possible types of redevelopment, the proposed maximum FARs reveal the maximum possibilities of redevelopment. What is dubbed Sub Area 1, in the vicinity of the parking lot, proposes a maximum FAR of 2.0, or possibly 393,020 square feet of development. It proposes a pedestrian focused plaza flanked by three to four-story mixed-use structures. Sub Area 4, on the site of, and around, Cameron Crescent apartments, proposes a maximum development of 1,513,600 square feet. The proposed land use in this area is residential — a high-rise of at least 14 stories and townhouses — and reserves at least 2.75 acres for open space for active uses.

Two options are presented for Sub Area 5, Fellowship House and woods in its vicinity. The first option recommends a high-rise of at least 14 stories and a low-rise, three to four stories, with row homes and interspersed green space. There is also a provision that two percent of the total development would be reserved for live/work space — an example is an artist studio that is on the ground floor, with a residence above it. The first option proposes a maximum development of 408,930 square feet.

The second option for the same area proposes another high-rise building on top of low-rise mixed-use structures. The maximum development at this site would be 954,170 square feet. The proposed FAR is 3.5. According to Patrick Kane, a Lake Anne resident and a professional planner, the highest FAR in Fairfax County is at the Sheraton Hotel in Reston, which is a 2.5 FAR.

The total possible development in the revitalization area — if the higher-density option 2 is implemented for Sub Area 5 — is a little less than 3.6 million square feet. For comparison purposes, the Pentagon in Arlington is 6.6 million square feet, the Sears Tower in Chicago is 4.56 million square feet, the Empire State Building in New York City is 2.77 million square feet and the Tycon Tower in Tysons Corner – generally referred to as the Shopping Bag building – is 502,000 square feet.

KANE, HOWEVER, WARNS not to get lost in numbers. “It’s the mix, it’s not the numbers” that determine whether the plan is compatible for the area, he said. Kane said he had not had a chance to look at the draft yet, but said that any village center should be a place where spontaneous community intercourse can occur, a place where people can walk into one another. He said the bigger problem facing Lake Anne redevelopment, rather than land use, is multiple land ownership. “We’re going to have to figure out how to organize land ownership if we’re going to redevelop,” said Kane. He said there were too many owners who were too diverse, and it will likely prove difficult to act in the best interest of all of those owners.

The chief of the policy and plan development branch of Fairfax County, Marianne Gardner, said the proposed densities should not necessarily be looked at in terms of the FAR numbers. Rather, she said, the densities will depend on the designs of the buildings in terms of height, and if they are relative to the surrounding area. However, she said, "It does sound like they want to do a more urban plan." Gardner said that with county's recent push towards transit-oriented development, higher densities are being considered for development. "In infil areas developers tell us they need it from an economic standpoint," she said.

Pronske said that the proposed densities in the draft are the absolute maximums, and do not mean that the area would be developed at those rates. Any developer would still have to go through county’s established process of submitting a development plan and a rezoning, which would in turn trigger public hearings in front of the county’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

Also, said Pronske, there are good reasons to bring additional density to Lake Anne. “You need the density,” he said. Other village centers, said Pronske, did not get enough density, which has led to their establishment as strip malls, rather than gathering places village centers were intended to be. Pronske said when Lake Anne was first planned, it was planned for a lot higher density than is present there now. “There were five more high-rises [other than the Heron House] in the original plan,” he said. Pronske added that roads around Lake Anne were built according to a plan that called for a lot more people to live in the village center than currently do. He said Reston was planned as a community for 90,000 people, which is what its infrastructure was built to handle.