Autumn on Lake Audobon

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Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

JAG's redevelopment plan calls for the end of Tall Oaks as a Reston Village Center.

Jefferson Apartments Group (JAG) submitted their redevelopment plan for the Tall Oaks Village Center (see overview and embedded plan below) to the county about three weeks ago. An examination of the plan suggests it is no way consistent with the Reston Master Plan guidance on Village Centers nor does it satisfactorily address community concerns expressed by the RA Board of Directors and the Tall Oaks community.

What JAG has proposed is a multi-family residential development with the equivalent of a convenience center.   In fact, the 7,000 SF of retail space in two small buildings is less space than is occupied by the current few tenants of the existing shopping center.  

The JAG proposal fails to meet the following village center design principles laid out in the latest Reston Master Plan:

 
As much as our late founder focused on the importance of plazas in village centers, the failure of the JAG to provide any space that might be called a plaza is abysmal.  At best, there is a narrow "green" part way down the middle of the proposed development that will become little more that a dog waste dump.
 
There is absolutely no transition in the proposed village center redevelopment to the neighboring areas.  The entirety of the residential development is 45'-50' high.  The effect is to create a wall of mid-rise development as one enters the Tall Oaks and Bentana Woods area along North Shore Drive, hanging there like a fortress on the hilltop above Wiehle Avenue.
In a letter to Supervisor Hudgins, the RA Board made a straightforward declaration:  JAG's plan "falls woefully short of meeting even minimum standards sought for a village center.”   President Graves continued:
The existing elderly housing residents should be supported in the Village Center's design, amenities, and uses.  An amount and mix of commercial uses to serve the surrounding community should remain.  The community has an opportunity to transform this nearly vacant  plot of valuable Reston land into an enduring treasure that will highlight our stature as a premier "place to live."  Let us not squander this opportunity.
But squander they did.  The most we can see that JAG did in response was to add a second small retail building near the village center entrance and shift the blocks of residential buildings around so the same limited green space looks like a narrow lawn and asphalt spine through the center of the development.  There is no plaza or central green that serves as a neighborhood focal point; what is proposed barely serves the development.

And the Tall Oaks Village Center neighborhood very thoughtfully surveyed their neighbors and offered some constructive suggestions for improving the redevelopment plan, including a presentation presenting their findings.  According to RestonNow, these include:
  •  Require a minimum of 10,000 square feet of retail. The retail that is currently operating successfully at Tall Oaks, to include Paisanos, Paradise Nails, Fur Factory, Pho 75, Vocelli, Kumon Learning, and Tall Oaks Veterinarian easily fill the square footage. They have expressed interest to stay and have been successful for years in the village center. 
  •  Require community green space/meeting space in a village or plaza-like setting.
  • Require adequate parking so overflow parking isn’t along North Shore or it becomes impossible for customers to park for the retail services.
  • Require a traffic study and feasibility of an exit onto Wiehle westbound.
  • Require design of housing and retail building fit into the community and the Reston nature feel.
  • Push for LEED certifications, green roofs, reuse of rain water, etc.
  • Consider building above retail if needed.
  • Require plaza/village space, multi-generational gathering space.
The submitted JAG plan falls short in just about all, if not all, of these areas of community concern.

So what we are left with is the conclusion that the public meetings held by JAG were just a large-scale sham to make the community think that they were listening when, in fact, they cared little about what the community thinks is important in retaining Reston's and their neighborhood's character and vision.  The meetings were merely a public relations gambit with a dash of a sales job thrown in on the minor modifications they conceded.  Indeed, here is what JAG's attorney says about the development in his "letter of justification," including typos:

The development willbe focused around a new plaza/open space area offering leisure and community spaces to attract residents from neighboring clusters to visit the development, enjoy time with friends and family, and patronize commercial services. Particular attention has been paid to enhancing the Property's pedestrian circulation system to and through the Property, with strong emphasis. on improving its relationship to the adjacent office building and assisted living facility. Indeed, the Applicant'B design of the plaza area includes benches and .outdoor seating/tables to encourage the assisted living facility's senior population to enjoy modest exercise and engage in "people watching" in ways the current retail center configuration does not permit. The Applicant proposes an off-leash dog walk area, climbable structures for kids and other amenities that will be available for use by residents of the surrounding clusters. Similarly, the Applicant's plans include improvements to the existing trail network linking the Property to various Reston Association facilities, including walking and biking trails and the Tall Oaks pool across North Shore Drive. The Applicant's design proposes to maintain the existing vehicular ingress and egress points while vastly improving the pedestrian environment, a key component ofthe original Village Center concept.
The attorney has the right words; the developer just doesn't have a product that meets them.

The specifics of the JAG plan call for the construction of 154 residential units allocated as follows:
  • Two 35-unit four-story (plus "penthouse") condominium buildings (50 feet tall),
  • 50 "2 over 2" multi-family units in the center of the tract (50'), and
  • 44 4-story  townhouses (45') mostly around the perimeter of the tract.
  • Two new small retail buildings (3,500 GSF each) near the existing privately-owned office building, which will be retained.
If the proposal is approved, Reston will have lost one of its village centers to a housing development, despite the fact that village centers are ostensibly the focal point of our various neighborhoods across this once-planned community.

JAG expects the redevelopment to take about 36 months to complete if it is approved.

JAG's Submitted Plan Overview for Redevelopment of Tall Oaks Village Center


2 comments:

  1. What a great summary. Four story buildings do NOT fit in the neighborhood and would be an obnoxious site to see everyday. I hope the DRB does their job and rejects this plan.

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  2. This is the best summary of the potentially disastrous future of the Tall Oaks Village Center.to date. I would like to add that I sat down with Bob Simon a few months ago and put his vision for Tall Oaks on paper. It includes a written summary AND a site plan (which looks nothing like JAG's). See what Mr. Simon envisioned https://www.restonnow.com/2015/08/24/letter-viable-options-exist-for-tall-oaks-village-center/.

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