Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Thursday, January 27, 2022

RCC plans meetings to discuss building a Reston Performing Arts Center without noting funding issues.

A recent RestonNow article presented a mildly edited press release from the Reston Community Center noting a series of upcoming meetings to discuss what should be included in a Reston Performing Arts Center (RPAC). Terry Maynard responded with an extended comment that noted the article and press release did not mention any cost or financing issues in its construction. Below is a slightly updated version of his comments: 

What neither this article nor the RCC press release behind it say is that this project, if built, would be paid for ONLY by the residents of Reston through the Reston Special Tax District (STD#5). It could cost hundreds of millions to build and tens of millions each year to support. I'm sure that neither RCC (Leila Gordon) or Supervisor Alcorn mentioned that fact. Nonetheless, the first step taken by any prudent executive re a proposal is to examine its feasibility. In fact, it's a fiduciary responsibility. To proceed otherwise is to make a decision based on dangerously incomplete information. 

If you dig deep enough in the County webpage on this project, you will learn that, if BosProp doesn't build the venue (it has only offered the property, not the construction), it will take an STD#5 bond referendum to build it. (Presentation of July 26, 2021, two years after the underlying survey was conducted) In a survey question asking "Do you support RCC financing the building of a new arts venue by means of a bond issue?" only 38% said they were supportive or very supportive.  It should be noted that this questionnaire was responded to by only four percent of Reston's households, according to the US Census

A comment about that question's phraseology: It phrases the question as "RCC financing" the construction when, in fact, it would be "Reston residents financing" or "STD#5 financing." It is not money from the county or manna, just us. 

Based on the experience at Tysons with the Capital One Performance Center, we may reasonably expect an RPAC to cost $100 million to build. Assuming (generously) that a 30-year loan issued today for that construction could be obtained and RCC could garner a AAA bond rating like the county, the annual cost to Restonians to pay off that bond would be more than $5 million. For 2022, RCC's proposed budget is less than $9 million, so the construction alone would increase RCC's tax revenue needs by more than half. This would require an increase in the STD#5 tax rate, contrary to a statement by RCC Chief Leila Gordon in 2019. 

We've seen how similar ill-considered acquisition efforts have been sold by local officials, for example, the RA purchase of the Tetra property. You can bet Leila Gordon and RCC will use every trick in the book to sell this one. 

It is ludicrous to think that such a burden should be placed on Restonians alone or even on the county when we so many other higher priority needs that are going unfilled, including the 20,000 additional kids needing schools under the current Reston Master Plan.  Parks nearby to accommodate the 90,000 additional new TSA residents will also be needed, but are unbudgeted, even unplanned for.

In case you are concerned about a cultural vacuum nearby, Capital One has built a performance center at Tysons--8 miles away--with a 1,600 person capacity main theater, a small theater, and an amphitheater all easily reached by Metro. FYI--it cost at least $120 million to build.