Column: Reston Marches to Support Neighbors

Column: Reston Marches to Support Neighbors

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon, ideal for marching to support our neighbors in Lake Anne’s Crescent Apartments and support some old-time Reston values. The march consisted really of walking and stops for speaking of personal memories by past and present Crescent Apartment residents and pleas to protect affordable housing and Crescent residents by Reston faith community leaders.

An impressive turnout of about 150 people grew to over 200 as the walk proceeded from Temporary Road to brief stops at Lake Anne Elementary School, where many Crescent children attend, and Washington Plaza at Lake Anne, before culminating on the hilltop at Crescent Apartments. Walk organizers (seven Reston houses of worship and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement [VOICE]) emphasized general support for Lake Anne redevelopment and for the substantial “affordable housing” called for in Fairfax County’s Request for Proposals detailing redevelopment criteria. The winning developer will be granted rights to take over and redevelop our county-owned Crescent property in exchange for achieving public policy objectives—in this case, presumably revitalization of Lake Anne and indeed the provision of affordable housing.

However, faith leaders and Crescent residents, past and present, expressed concern that income guidelines defining “affordability” for the majority of tenants in the new development could make current tenants and tenants of equivalent income levels ineligible to live in the new development. VOICE and faith leaders want a county agreement with the developer selected for Lake Anne redevelopment “that accommodates current residents.” They also called for assurances that low-income applicants for the new housing be subject to current income eligibility criteria, and that Crescent “tenants and Reston faith and community leaders” have a seat at the table “to ensure affordability for the current tenants and others like them is central to final developer negotiations.”

I’ve done many marches in my many years. I must say this “One Reston Walk” was one of the most positive, uplifting I’ve ever seen. The tone was perfect. Indeed, there are legitimate concerns for the current tenants of the Crescent and more broadly for families like theirs in need of truly affordable housing at their income levels. But, speakers acknowledged that Fairfax County was making a good effort to assure that affordable housing is an important part of the redevelopment—181 units replacing the existing 181 units, plus 12 percent of the other 700 or so units to be built on the Crescent site. They applauded the goal of revitalizing businesses at Lake Anne. At the same time, they said a bit more was needed, consistent with our founding principles and Reston values.

Shortly after the walk ended, I was told by walk organizers that Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova had announced that she and Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins would be communicating in writing with Crescent residents assuring them of their eligibility to return to units in the new development. Pending a peak at the actual letter, this sounds like progress.