As the draft Reston master plan for its soon-to-urbanize station areas goes to the Board of Supervisors for approval on Tuesday, it’s appropriate to take a look at how the draft plan stands up against the reality of athletic field availability in Manhattan, America’s most densely developed community.
As a reminder, the draft Reston plan calls for a minimum of three athletic fields in each of the three station areas and, in fact, goes further by saying at least one in each station area. This despite the fact that the County’s “urban parks framework” calls for a dozen athletic fields given the planned for population of 49,118 two or three decades hence (Scenario “G”)—which is about one-third the athletic field standard for the County’s suburban areas. The reality of this “minimum” requirement is that it is highly unlikely that developers will give up any additional acreage (up to 3 acres per field, which could generate some $12 million per year total added developer revenues in today’s market as Class “A” office space) to accommodate the County urban standard of 12 ballfields.
So how does that compare with today’s Manhattan Island, the most densely developed of New York City’s five boroughs? Looking at New York City Department of Parks & Recreation data, here is how Reston’s station areas in 2030-2040 timeframe stack up in comparison:
Athletic Fields: Manhattan vs. Reston
Yes, that’s right. The draft Reston transit station area master plan promises less than two-thirds the playing fields per capita for the totality of the station areas and less than half for the “crown jewel” of Reston—Reston Town Center.
This focused picture is just part of the rather pathetic comparison of Reston’s proposed park space compared with what already exists in Manhattan. Here is a comparison of park accessibility in the same three areas based on percent of area devoted to public parks and acreage per 1,000 residents[i].
It shows that Reston’s crown jewel—the Town Center area—will rank last in comparison with all of America’s major cities, earning a park accessibility score that is one-thirtieth, yes, 1/30th, that of Manhattan. The station areas as a whole earn an accessibility one-third that of Manhattan precisely because so little space will be made available for parks.
These are not the results one would expect for a “world-class” planned community of Reston and, indeed, they violate one of Reston’s basic planning principles detailed in the draft Reston plan:
9. High quality public open spaces will be required.
Abundant open space and a range of recreational and cultural opportunities are essential components of the high quality of life in Reston. The transit station areas and village centers should include a variety of public spaces such as a large urban central park, recreational facilities, urban plazas and greens, pocket parks, playgrounds, and other public amenities within easy walking distance for area residents, workers and visitors. Larger active recreation areas appropriate to Reston‘s residential and commercial populations should be provided outside of the transit corridor.
The impact, of course, will be that Reston’s parks and athletic fields beyond the station areas will be much more crowded. Local athletic leagues will have difficulty scheduling games on athletic fields in Reston, much less in the station areas. Reston Association’s parks, nature trails, recreational, and other facilities will be more crowded. And RA will be forced to meet the need of the excess demand although it will gain not one acre of open space to accommodate the demand created by the new residents and employees in the station areas.
So, contrary to the stated planning principle calling for “high quality public open spaces” throughout Reston, Restonians can expect a major deterioration of their quality of life as their public and community-owned open spaces are saturated with newcomers and little park or recreational space (maybe 20 acres) is added in the station areas.
[i] For the purpose of this comparison, we have included all the privately-owned park space—which are not counted in TPL’s calculations--in the Reston station areas (e.g.—President’s Park, Fountain Square, Sunrise Valley Wetlands, the prospective “town greens,” etc.) as well as the limited public park land (5 acres in Town Center North, the W&OD trail) in these calculations.