Since the publication of a half-baked "feasibility" study last summer, Supervisor Alcorn and Leila Gordon, executive director of RCC, have said nothing about the proposal they are advocating for a Reston Visual and Performing Arts Center (VPAC) in Reston Town Center. Their advocacy is based on a proffer from Boston Properties for a small land plat, Block J, across the street from the Metro station. The proffer states, “Block J may only be
used for the Arts Center or as a park open to the public (emphasis added).” The reason Alcorn and Gordon are silent on the matter is that there is an election coming in November and they do not want to upset the public with this hugely expensive and unnecessary project.
In contrast, a park, indeed any meaningful open space, is sorely lacking in Reston’s transit station areas (TSAs). In fact, here is the standards in the county’s framework for urban parks: “New developments generate (park) need at a rate of 1.5 acres per 1,000 residents and 1.0 acre per 10,000 employees. Within urban, mixed-use development areas, a full complement of urban park types is desirable to create robust park networks.” Reston’s draft plan calls for over 40,000-67,000 new residents in the TSAs and 56,000-86,000 jobs in the TSAs depending on the growth scenario. That increase should lead to the creation of 72-106 acres of added public parks in the TSAs, not counting what is already owed for the existing population and jobs in these areas.
Indeed, on the few occasions that the county has mentioned the park alternative, it has always referred to it as “a ballfield.” It is clear that the site is not large enough to accommodate a full-size baseball or soccer field. A softball field alone requires 1.5 acres, not counting seating, etc. A full-size soccer field needs 1.8 acres and a baseball field needs 4.5 acres. With Block J only about 60,000 SF or about 1.4 acres, fitting a real ballfield here appears impossible, especially with its irregular shape.
A real park, one for people to come and enjoy the outdoors and some smaller recreational facilities, such as a playground and maybe some pickleball courts, is not only feasible, but it would serve a far larger cross-section of the TSA’s population than mini-ballfields placed there. And it wouldn't hurt to add some trees for shade and to help the environment. This is a far more useful use of this small area in serving the 60,000-87,000 people planned to live in the TSAs, about half in the Reston Town Center area.
In fact, it could be argued that using Block J for a ballfield of whatever size would not meet the terms of Boston Properties’ generous offer—to be used “as a park open to public.” No one would ever confuse FedEx Field for a park. Why would one do so with Block J?
On the other side of the ledger, building and operating an arts center would be extremely expensive and is unneeded. Hunter Mill District—the area Supervisor Alcorn is supposed to represent—holds nearly one-fifth of the arts centers in the county according to county data. And our neighboring districts—Dranesville and Providence are equally well endowed. That’s over half of the county’s arts centers within ten miles, and many are accessible by the Silver Line—including the new 1,500 seat Capital One Center in Tysons. Why should Restonians or even all county residents pay nearly $240 million to build and operate another small theatre and art center in Reston over the next 30 years--$8,000,000 per year?
Residents need to continue to question Supervisor Alcorn on the choice between an expensive and unnecessary VPAC or a much needed and much less expensive park.