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Column: High Density at Lake Anne—A Mixed Bag

Two major development projects in the Lake Anne area moved toward realization last week. The lumbering JBG Fairways Apartments redevelopment and a newly announced public-private partnership (PPEA) redevelopment proposal for Crescent Apartments and Lake Anne Village together would bring up to 2400 new condo homes and significant retail along little North Shore Drive.

The Fairways debacle got a favorable nod, though not final approval, from Reston’s all-volunteer Design Review Board (DRB). The DRB, our only community voice in this process, finally prevailed in getting the worst design features out of the project. After nearly 20 meetings with the DRB, developer JBG finally relented on several of the worst features of a truly god-awful design. For example, JBG will alter the "Texas donuts" (closed circles of apartment blocks with parking in the middle) and will reduce, redesign the 4-5 story, flat-faced townhouses, moving the project into the cosmetically adequate range.

The DRB is to be commended for standing its ground despite political pressure resulting from Planning Commissioner de la Fe’s rushing the proposal to County Planning Commission review and APPROVAL before DRB review was completed. After the Planning Commission blessing engineered by de la Fe, JBG returned to meet with the DRB having made virtually no changes to a design firmly rejected earlier by the DRB. In effect, they said, we’ve gone over your head and now have Planning Commission approval so you have to approve it as is. The DRB stood their ground. Too bad the P & Z did not.

The bad news is that this 850 high-end condo project on little North Shore Drive, far from the Metro station to-be, is excessive for the location and will destroy 230+ affordable dwelling units if the Board of Supervisors gives final approval as expected March 20. Ms. Hudgins will be the first to vote aye!

Meanwhile, Supervisor Hudgins was announcing the County’s Request for Proposals under PPEA (public land, private profit) to redevelop County-owned, 181-unit Crescent Apartments and possibly the Village Center parking lot, Fellowship Square and more. On Crescent alone, we could see up to 935 units (754 high-end condos & one-for-one replacement of the 181 afffordables), and up to 800 homes on other plots. Hudgins assured all that the county wants "…to preserve as well as expand affordable housing." Given the 235 affordable units she is about to sign away at Fairways and the hundreds of others lost on her watch, folks in affordable apartments might want to begin hiding the women and children.

The existing merchants at Lake Anne, ostensible beneficiaries of redevelopment also have cause for concern. One proposal, to maximize profit for the Lake Anne Condo Association, could be their death knell. It would push the merchants existing parking way across North Shore to Crescent. Classy retail could then be built on the current parking lot, between the parking over at Crescent and our merchants. It then becomes a hike thru glitzy new retail to get to them. Growth is needed, but the County should adopt another option, not this one.