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Tapping into Density

Redevelopment aims to revitalize Lake Anne.

Most discussion over Lake Anne Village Center revitalization concerns how much density to bring to the area, but Guy Rando has a different concern. He wants to make sure the pedestrians at Lake Anne have a safe destination to use.

"Complete separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic" is what Rando, a landscape architect and urban designer who was involved in the original plan for Lake Anne Village Center, wants. "We have the opportunity to do it," said Rando, who has lived on the lake since working on the original project in the 1960s.

Rando was a member of the technical advisory panel, appointed by Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) to advise a team of consultants in the process of creating the land use text and land use guidelines for Lake Anne Village Center. He participated in all six of the group's meetings. Since seeing the draft of the land use text, Rando has some concerns regarding pedestrian connectivity.

One vision in the draft, in particular, draws Rando's attention. Under the "Development Vision" section, the text calls for "a continuous ground level, north-south, 'Main Street' style corridor connecting the northern boundary of the [Lake Anne Village Center] to Washington Plaza." Rando said that the extension of Washington Plaza towards Baron Cameron Avenue was supposed to be a pedestrian area. "Main Street, I don't know what that means," said Rando, concerned it implies vehicular traffic.

HUDGINS PRESENTED RANDO and some other members of the panel to the press at a briefing last week on Thursday afternoon. It was the first time most of the panel members got their hands on the draft of the land use text and land use guidelines, which was presented two weeks earlier to the Fairfax County Architecture Review Board. The draft will be presented to the community at a meeting on Wednesday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m, at Lake Anne Elementary School.

Kellie Brown, an associate with Basile, Baumann, Prost and Associates, Inc. specializing in land use planning, said the contribution of the panel was key for the consultants' work. She said the draft was almost in its final form.

"The final report will be completed next week and distributed [at the meeting] on the 28th," said Brown. Unlike the draft that was submitted to the county's Architecture Review Board, the final report, according to Brown, will include a number of graphics for the parking lot area, north of the plaza. Some of these graphics were included in the consultants' presentation to the Architecture Review Board, but left out of the draft.

"That is the norm," said Fred Seldon, a staff member with the Fairfax County Planning and Zoning Department. He said the purpose of the presentation to the Architecture Review Board was an educational briefing and not a presentation for an action item.

Hudgins rejected the notion that Lake Anne Village Center could be built into another Reston Town Center, as expressed by some concerned community members. She said the goal of revitalization is to bring more vibrancy to Lake Anne, an area that is well-visited when the weather is nice, but poorly visited otherwise. She said Lake Anne used to have that vibrancy, but it has declined over the years.

"I don't think one needs to be a Reston Town Center in order to maintain vibrancy in the community," said Hudgins.

Brown said the consultants sought to accommodate current, as well as future, needs for the village center. Also, she said, the consultants kept in mind the strong sense of community and history present at the site. "We established development levels that are appropriate for the historic core," said Brown. She said the design guidelines would address details such as types of materials and architecture that would ensure any new development is in tune with the existing structures.

"Mixed use is what we are looking for," said Kurt Pronske, president of the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation. He said revitalization at Lake Anne Village Center should also address the social energy that was present there in the 1970s. Pronske added that this is a time of excitement for those involved in the revitalization process. He said whatever is decided at Lake Anne could serve as a model for the other village centers when they encounter revitalization efforts.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING was also discussed at Thursday's briefing. One of the areas under consideration for redevelopment is the site of Crescent Apartments, a county-owned property that houses affordable housing units. Hudgins said whatever the final product of the plan text and guidelines is, it needs to define a need for diverse housing. "That should be spelled out," said Hudgins. Joe Stowers, also a member of the panel, asked that the 180 units at Crescent be preserved and perhaps even expanded.

Stowers added that bringing density to an area does not necessarily mean also bringing more traffic to it. "If it's done right, it can reduce [the traffic]," said Stowers. The traffic could be reduced, said Stowers, "Not even though you have higher densities, but because you have higher densities."

Hudgins commended the panel as a community group with a lot of expertise. "It is a richness we're lucky to have," she said about the experts living and working in Reston. She said it was important that members of the public attend the March 28 meeting at Lake Anne Elementary School. "It is important the community understands the process and gets engaged," she said.