Development proposals in Reston push for more housing, less office

A central park is proposed at the Commerce Metro Center development (via Fairfax County)

Nearly a dozen proposals to possibly open up Fairfax County’s comprehensive plan for land use changes to allow development in specific areas of Reston and Herndon are moving forward.

The requested changes largely circle around a common theme: aging office buildings are no longer competitive and more housing stock is needed, according to the applications.

Of the 15 nominations in the Hunter Mill District submitted through the county’s Site-specific Plan Amendment (SSPA) process, a handful did not make it to the next screening phase.

Specifically, plans to replace Reston’s two golf courses — Reston National and Hidden Creek Country Club — with residential development and open space did not get a favorable vote from the board.

In a Dec. 6 statement, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn emphasized that he does not support any proposal to change the comprehensive plan’s golf course designations for those sites unless there is support from surrounding communities.

“Even after considerable community engagement and outreach by the owners of the golf courses, nearby residents — by a large majority — and their cluster association leaders contacted my office and clearly stated that they did not support changing the zoning comprehensive plan designation of the two golf courses.  My commitment to community-based comprehensive planning is unchanged,” Alcorn wrote in the statement.

Nine Reston nominations advance

In the Town Center North area (1760 Reston Parkway), RTC Partnership LLC wants to build a 419,000–square-foot residential building instead of the 23-story office building that was approved for the site in 2016.

The developer says the project provides “needed multifamily residential housing,” while boosting “Reston’s economic vitality by helping drive the demand for retail and locally-serving office uses.”

“The proposed nomination would also provide a catalyst redevelopment project in the Town Center North area which would, hopefully, encourage adjacent owners to move forward with similar projects,” according to the application.

Near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station, developers are reimagine the future of aging offices surrounded by surface parking.

On Preston White Drive, the developer says in its application that office buildings built in the 1980s “are struggling to survive’ in their current state.

Instead, the developer is seeking the county’s approval for a project with 60-85% residential uses, 5-10% of office space, 5-10% of retail and up to 5% hotel uses.

Highbrook Investors, the owner of property at 12120 Sunrise Valley Drive, wants to demolish the vacant office building on the property and replace it with a higher density residential building than originally planned.

Although the Property has good pedestrian access to the Reston Town Center Metro Station, it is a real challenge for the existing office building to compete with newer, three larger office buildings at the Metro station that provide more amenities, more usable office space configurations, and easier access to Metro for office employees (who tend to not be willing to walk as far as residents to transit).

In a deviation from the push for more housing, at Commerce Metro Center, the developer wants to up the development intensity and allow more space for offices. CP Management Center would demolish an office building in the development to create a new mid-block road and an urban plaza area with street-level areas.

“The Nominator’s proposal supports the County’s essential economic development objectives and will maximize the region’s substantial investment in the Silver Line,” the nomination states.

The development team behind Reston Corner is seeking flexibility to add a residential component to the office park. Citing skyrocketing office rents and more demand in Reston’s urban core, the development team argues that residential uses are a better fit for the project.

They hope to work with the county to create a two-lane road through the site that can connect Sunrise Valley Drive to the southern portion of the property.

“Reston Corner is able to provide a more affordable rental opportunity for smaller businesses looking to enter the Reston market,” the application states. “All office users are not of the size to afford ‘Reston Town Center rents’ and having a diversity of office buildings and rental rates supports the County’s and Reston’s economic objectives, tenants, users and smaller businesses.

The owners of 1950 Roland Clarke Place also want to remake their site with a more heavily residential project than the currently approved mix of 85% residential and 25% non-residential.

“While fortunate for Fairfax County in a lot of ways, this scenario presents significant challenges for areas like Roland Clarke Place that will likely never have strong demand for meaningful commercial development because they are not proximate enough to transit and not where the future of retail/office uses is headed,” the application states.

Ten low-rise suburban sale office buildings on Association Drive could also see big changes. The developer wants to incorporate more housing than originally approved.

On Samuel Morse Drive, the developer Pulte wants to construct multifamily residential buildings and stacked townhouses by demolishing office buildings. The site is located next to the Lofts at Reston Station.

At Lake Fairfax Business Park, developer EYA wants to retain some office space and build new residential units. The infill development would include seven properties located along on near Business Drive.

“EYA’s vision includes a village-style mixed-use community that complements and builds on Reston’s successful Village Centers, introducing new life and open spaces into the Park,” the application states.

The Hunter Mill District received the highest number of SSPA nominations. Overall, the county received 75 nominations.

The board selected which ones will move forward for review by staff and the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Dec. 6. Their review will evaluate if the proposals are consistent with county policies and priorities relative to other planning considerations.

The nominations will then be evaluated, and public hearings will also be held.