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Looking Into Herndon’s Future

Downtown, Metro development in store for Herndon.

New picnic tables are just one of several improvements in downtown Herndon designed to make the area friendlier for cyclists and other visitors.

New picnic tables are just one of several improvements in downtown Herndon designed to make the area friendlier for cyclists and other visitors. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

— Long known as a destination for several of Herndon’s signature restaurants, the historic downtown is beginning to shape up into a focal point for people of all kinds.

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Stephanie Belle examines the new map of downtown Herndon that gives the name and locations of restaurants and other businesses. The map is part of several recent improvements designed to make the downtown more user-friendly.

“Over the last few months, especially with the addition of Green Lizard [Cycling], Herndon’s downtown has become a hotspot for bikers who are riding along the W&OD Trail,” said Hollis Lippman of Reston, who rides the trail every day. “On any nice day, you can stop by the depot station for a break and a drink of water, and chat with cyclists who are there doing the exact same thing.”

The downtown’s latest addition, Green Lizard Cycling, has made an impression on cyclists and non-cyclists alike. “I’m glad the spot where Green Lizard is is a place where people can sit and enjoy the scenery downtown. I’m not a biker, but I stop by a few times a week,” said Ben Garrett of Herndon. “The bar by the front window is a great place to just sit for an hour and watch the day go by, watch how people go to and from downtown.”

THE HERNDON DEPOT, maintained by the Herndon Historical Society, is located mere feet from the W&OD trail, making the benches and tables nearby a perfect resting spot.

“We recently installed new picnic tables next to the depot, and umbrellas for the tables are on their way, which is another step making downtown a place to stop and enjoy,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “We also added a new map to the kiosk right there, one that includes the names and locations of all the businesses, and especially the restaurants downtown.” The signs have helped at least one customer find new places to eat downtown.

“I’ve been to Jimmy’s, to O’Sullivans and to the Ice House, mostly because they’re right next to the town parking lot, but I hadn’t really gone much beyond that before,” said Kari Varpe of Centreville. “But the last time we stopped by the map and looked at all the different places that are within walking distance, and ended up going a little farther down the block to Russia House.”

Herndon recently launched www.dineonherndon.com, which allows users to browse for restaurants in the town by name, category, location, type and even places with free wi-fi.

“The new site is great when it comes to saving time before you go out,” said Karl Sinclair of Herndon. “Before we had children, there was plenty of time to explore, but now it’s all about having a game plan. So we look up the place we want, check out the menu, and go right there, it’s perfect.”

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The location of the proposed Herndon-Monroe Metrorail station, which will lead to new redevelopment on the other side of the Dulles Toll Road from the existing park and ride garage.

Merkel said the town is also exploring possibilities for downtown redevelopment.

“We’re currently in the process of reaching out and marketing to developers to get offers for developments on town-owned property downtown,” she said. “We figured those would be the properties that can be developed most quickly if someone comes in with something we like.”

THE PURPOSE of redeveloping the downtown is to maintain the small-town atmosphere that currently exists, which is meant to contrast with the high-density development that will occur in the 38 acres of land north of the proposed Herndon-Monroe Metrorail station.

The town approved a plan in February 2012 that would allow for higher density development near the metro station, with the idea of turning the business parks in the area into mixed-use areas with open space.

“The high-density development will provide a contrast from the small-town atmosphere of downtown, with high-rises and office, residential and retail being within walking distance of the station,” Merkel said. “Our challenge is going to be making transportation between downtown and the metro easy so residents and visitors can experience the best of both worlds.”

Various options, including a circulator bus along Herndon Parkway, are being discussed. Merkel said that the town is working with the county about possible options, and is open to working with businesses in the area about possible transportation options to and from the station.