Town of Herndon staff are currently reviewing building permits for the stalled redevelopment of downtown Herndon.
At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 14), Town Manager Bill Ashton II said the review should be completed by the holidays.
“It’ll be ready to rock and roll,” Ashton said.
Reston-based developer Comstock paused the development — which is a public-private partnership with the town — in April last year, citing unfavorable market conditions. Movement on the project resumed around August when Comstock submitted a revised site plan to the town.
Once expected to break ground in 2019, the project will transform nearly 5 acres of land into a mixed-use development with 273 apartments, roughly 17,000 square feet of retail, a new arts center, and a 726-space parking garage.
Ashton told the council that he plans to meet with Comstock officials today (Thursday) after nearly three weeks.
The development pause can be in place for up to two years since it went into effect. That means the latest construction would begin is April 2024.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is pressing for more answers on the possibility of a casino at Reston Station.
At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 24), Alcorn emphasized that it’s still unclear if there will be legislation on the issue next year.
In a letter to County Executive Bryan Hill, Alcorn said he wanted more information on the steps necessary to authorize a gambling casino.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay emphasized that “absolutely nothing” has been proposed. The county’s legislative committee will be tracking any bills if they move forward.
“The only thing we know about the casino right now is that there is no proposal,” McKay said.
Sen. David Marsden (D-37) has said that, if reelected to the General Assembly, he would reintroduce legislation to allow a gaming casino in Fairfax County.
He told FFXnow it likely won’t be identical to a bill he proposed — and later withdrew — in January that would’ve open the door to a casino within one quarter of a mile of an existing Silver Line station, outside the Dulles airport flight path, and as part of a coordinated mixed-use project.
If the theoretical bill became law, a voter referendum would be required to officially authorize a casino in the county.
Alcorn — who maintained that he would oppose a casino in Reston since the idea was floated in local media — said he needed information on several items related to the authorization process. Reston Association’s Board of Directors has also voiced opposition to the proposal.
Among several questions, Alcorn is seeking clarification on if the county’s current zoning ordinance includes a casino use, if a county referendum would specify a single casino location or multiple options if the state legislation is signed into law, and how a preferred casino gaming operator would be selected.
Alcorn’s full letter to Hill, as shared by his office, is below:
As we have discussed and as has been reported in local media, I am very much opposed to the gambling casino proposed in SB 1543 and HB 2499. During the past few weeks there has been a lot of discussion on this topic in the community and there are several areas where further information about the process for casino authorization would be helpful to me, and probably my colleagues and the general public, prior to commencement of the 2024 General Assembly session.
Please confirm or provide information on the following:
- Please verify whether all 5 local jurisdictions in Virginia where state law currently authorizes a casino (Danville, Bristol, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Richmond) formally or informally requested that the General Assembly authorize a casino in their jurisdiction, and how that request was made.
- Under Virginia law, what is considered to be a casino, versus, for example, a location or event that has electronic gaming machines?
- What process would the Board of Supervisors use to “select a preferred casino gaming operator” as called for in the state law authorizing casino gambling? What would be the timing of such a selection process as it relates to authorization by the General Assembly and a countywide referendum?
- If a bill such as the ones noted above were ultimately passed and signed by the Governor, would the required countywide referendum be legally required to specify the casino location or could multiple potential locations be authorized in the referendum?
- Does the county’s current zoning ordinance include a casino use, or would it need to be amended
- Would the location of a casino need to specified in an area plan of the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan?
Thank you for providing information on these casino-specific processes. I continue to think this is a bad idea. Please share the answers to these questions with the entire Board of Supervisors.
If Fairfax County were to get a casino, state Sen. Dave Marsden would prefer to see it in Tysons, not Reston, as has reportedly been proposed.
The prospect of a casino has drawn strong pushback from both residents and some elected officials, but Marsden argues that the county needs to consider all options to diversify its commercial tax base, as the office market continues to lag in the pandemic’s wake.
While Tysons has gotten more residents over the past decade, the area’s generally commercial makeup and four Metro stations would make it “the ideal place” for an entertainment district that could include a casino, Marsden says.
“That’s becoming Fairfax County’s downtown, and we want to locate it on the Silver Line because that’s what the Silver Line was built for,” the senator told FFXnow. “…It wasn’t just to bring in commuters from Loudoun County or to get people to the airport. It was designed also to allow for higher density development: high-rise apartments and office buildings and what have you.”
Marsden, who represents parts of Burke, Centreville and Annandale in the 37th Senate District, and Del. Wren Williams (R-9) filed identical bills in January that would’ve added Fairfax County to the small list of Virginia localities authorized to consider hosting a casino.
Though the legislation was quickly withdrawn, the subject reemerged late last month when Patch reported that the developer Comstock hopes to build a casino near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, where it has been constructing the massive Reston Station neighborhood.
A member of the Senate finance committee, Marsden confirmed to FFXnow that he met with Comstock twice — once while drafting his original bill and once since then. He says he otherwise hasn’t been approached by anyone about a casino in Tysons or anywhere else in Fairfax County.
Comstock doesn’t have any properties in Tysons right now, but it pitched a redevelopment of the Koons auto dealerships at 2000 and 2050 Chain Bridge Road last year as part of the county’s site-specific plan amendment (SSPA) process. The nomination didn’t advance after county staff determined a comprehensive plan change isn’t necessary to allow mixed-use development on the site.
The developer — which donated $10,000 to Marsden’s reelection campaign on June 22, per the Virginia Public Access Project — didn’t return multiple requests for comment.
Marsden says he’s “certainly very strongly looking at” re-introducing the casino bill in the 2024 General Assembly session if he wins the election for the newly created 35th District, though it likely won’t be identical to the one introduced this year.
“I do want to talk to some of our elected folks in Fairfax County to see how they would want the bill structured, to take a look at it,” he said.
He stresses that the goal of the bill isn’t to impose a casino on the county, but rather, to give the county an option that’s currently off limits.
As a Dillon Rule state, Virginia localities only have the powers explicitly granted to them by the General Assembly, an approach that Fairfax County officials argue limits their ability to do everything from exploring different revenue sources to lowering speed limits on dangerous roads.
If Marsden’s bill gets adopted by the General Assembly, the county would be required to hold a referendum asking voters whether a casino should be permitted.
“[Comstock’s] idea for an entertainment district, I think, is a reasonable idea that the county needs to consider,” Marsden said. “Ultimately speaking, I will not make the decision as to whether Fairfax County has a casino or where it’s located, but merely give them the opportunity to make that decision for themselves.” Read More
In a statement released yesterday (Monday), RA CEO Mac Cummins lamented what he said was lack of communication with RA’s leadership, board and members regarding potential state legislation that would add Fairfax County to the list of Virginia localities authorized to have a casino.
“We strongly believe that a casino in our community, surrounded by natural areas including lakes, tree canopy and natural trails valued by our residents, would be detrimental to the property values of our homes and inconsistent with our values as a community,” Cummins wrote in a statement.
First, the General Assembly must approve state-enabling legislation. Then, county voters would participate in a referendum on whether a casino should be allowed.
The necessary bills were first introduced — and quickly withdrawn — by state Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and Del. Wren Williams (R-9) this past January, as the Washington Business Journal reported. It specified that the casino should be located within one quarter-mile of a Silver Line Metro station, part of a mixed-used development, outside the Dulles airport flight path and outside the I-495 Beltway.
In a letter to Marsden, who plans to re-introduce the bill next year if he’s reelected, RA board president John Farrell expressed disappointment and shock.
“Reston has just finished a 4-year citizen-led effort to update our Master Plan. The Fairfax Board of Supervisors adopted that Comprehensive Plan Amendment on September 12, 2023,” he wrote. “Nowhere in that plan is a casino contemplated for Reston.”
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn has also publicly stated that he opposes the establishment of a casino in Reston.
Virginia currently only allows casino gambling in five cities. The proposed amendment from Marsden and Williams would’ve expanded that to any locality with over 1 million residents and a county executive form of government — criteria matched only by Fairfax County.
At a Herndon Town Council meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 26), Town Manager Bill Ashton II said building permits for the project have gone to the fire marshal for approval.
The project will transform nearly 5 acres of land into a mixed-use community with 273 apartments and roughly 17,000 square feet of retail. A new arts center and a 726-space parking garage are also planned.
Staff have also sent comments and revisions back to Comstock after the developer submitted revised plans for the project. The revisions are not substantive updates, instead simply bringing the delayed project up to code.
Ashton II said Comstock’s representatives noted “there was nothing difficult in the comments.”
That process could take between two to four weeks, Ashton II said. Building permits would then receive approval.
In the interim, Comstock will send the project out for a contractor rebid in the next “couple of weeks,” Ashton II said. Town staff will then examine the project about two months after that process is underway.
The developer elected to pause the project in July 2022 due to “economic conditions.” The $101 million cost increased by $25 million as a result of rising expenses for materials, labor and workforce restrictions, FFXnow previously reported.
The pause can be in place for up to two years after it went into effect. That means the latest construction can begin is April 2024.
A casino may still be on the table for Fairfax County, though it faces some long odds to becoming a reality.
According to a new report by Patch, the real estate company Comstock is interested in building a casino in the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station area, where it owns nearly 80 acres of land for the still-growing Reston Station development.
The company’s plans were shared by “several local officials,” Patch said. A public relations representative for Comstock didn’t return a request for comment from FFXnow by press time.
Before it breaks out the slot machines, however, Comstock will need to convince both the Virginia General Assembly and voters to allow a casino operator in Fairfax County, a daunting prospect given the skepticism that the proposal faced when it first emerged in January.
An informal, unscientific poll by FFXnow found that 60% of respondents wouldn’t support having a casino in the county, though about a quarter of respondents did back the idea.
State Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) and Del. Wren Williams (R-9) introduced identical bills on Jan. 20 that would’ve added any county with over 1 million residents — a criteria only met by Fairfax County — to Virginia’s list of localities eligible to host casino gaming facilities.
The legislation specifically stated:
The site of the casino gaming establishment shall be limited to a location that is (i) within one quarter of a mile an existing station on the Metro Silver Line, (ii) part of a coordinated mixed-use project development, (iii) outside the Dulles airport flight path, and (iv) outside the Interstate 495 Beltway
Both bills were quickly stricken from the legislative agenda at their patrons’ request, but Marsden told Patch that he plans to reintroduce his bill if he’s reelected this November. Facing off against Republican nominee Mark Vafiades, Marsden is seeking to replace the retiring Dick Saslaw in the new 35th District, which encompasses Annandale, Springfield, Mantua, Kings Park West and George Mason University.
If his bill becomes law, it would send the matter to voters with a ballot referendum in a future election, according to Marsden.
“We’ve started down the road of a severe downturn in the commercial real estate business,” Marsden said to Patch. “People who needed 50,000 square feet of office space now need 5. It’s going to devalue the market and there’s going to be less taxes because there’ll be a lot more in the way of vacancies.”
While Marsden told Patch that he thinks “the county is interested in taking a look at” the possibility of a casino, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who represents Reston, “opposes putting a casino on the Silver Line,” his office confirmed to FFXnow.
According to Patch, State Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33) — who is campaigning against Republican Matt Lang to represent Reston, Herndon, Great Falls and McLean in the 38th Senate District — said she’s “aware that Comstock would like a casino at the Reston station” but remains “strongly opposed” to the proposal.
Virginia currently only allows casino gambling in five cities. So far, establishments have opened in Bristol, Portsmouth and, most recently, Danville. Norfolk has a casino on the way, and Richmond voters will weigh in on a proposed project this fall.
The state’s existing casinos have exceeded revenue expectations, collectively bringing in $308 million in net revenue, as of the end of the fiscal year in June, according to the Virginia Mercury.
Qualtrics, a technology and data research company, has officially opened its doors in Reston.
The company, which provides artifical intelligence-driven software to assist businesses with customer and employee “experience management,” is adding an office to “serve as a hub for AI innovation and public sector growth,” according to a press release.
The office will take up more than 52,000 square feet across two full floors in Reston Station.
“Our expansion in Reston marks a significant milestone in Qualtrics’ growth and commitment to innovation, particularly artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin said.
The office design is based on the Capital Beltway with walking paths around each floor that mimic the highway, according to the company. The office also includes the Blues Cafe, a 40-seat work area that was inspired by D.C.’s historic jazz scene.
The Reston office marks an expansion for the company, which acquired Reston-based Clarabridge in 2021. Started in 2005, Clarabridge provides similar AI-powered text and speech analytics software.
“The opening of Qualtrics’ world-class East Coast office reinforces that Virginia’s tech sector is booming,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in the press release. “This new hub in Reston Station will allow Qualtrics to continue to capitalize on the Commonwealth’s pipeline of top talent.”
The company’s cloud-native software is used by more than 600 state, provincial and local government organizations. Its headquarters are in Seattle, Washington, and Provo, Utah, but it has offices around the world.
Both businesses will take up ground-level space at 1800 Reston Row Plaza, the first of two office towers under construction.
The Reston location is the second for Noku, which originates in Leesburg. Founded in 2004, Tous les Jours has locations across the country, including in Annandale, Chantilly and Sterling.
“We are thrilled to welcome Noku and Tous les Jour to the Reston Row neighborhood,” said Timothy Steffan, chief operating officer for developer Comstock. “They join the growing list of best-in-class dining options at Reston Station, which already includes Founding Farmers, Ebbitt House, and so many more. These iconic restaurants, along with a wide range of on-site amenities and local conveniences, have made Reston Station one of the most sought-after destinations in Northern Virginia for office tenants, residents, and consumers alike.”
A new concept for Ebbitt House — a suburban remodel of the District’s Old Ebbitt Grill — and changes in Reston Row — a mixed-use neighborhood near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station — are officially moving forward.
Comstock, the developer behind the project, sought to reallocate 280,000 square feet of unbuilt but previously approved office space from its Reston Station neighborhood to Reston Row, increasing the height and number of residential units in a building in Reston Row. Comstock also removed above-grade parking and a private, elevated sport court.
Jeff Owens, chief financial officer for Clyde’s Restaurant Group, said the use of the Old Ebbitt Grill brand was a big move for the company. Clyde’s of Reston closed in Reston Town Center roughly one year ago.
“We’re really anxious kind of get back to Fairfax County again and we wanted to do in a big way,” Owens said.
Jill Parks, an attorney with Hunton Andrews Kirth, said Comstock also reworked the location of some parks and overall landscaping.
The issue of park space drew concern at a Fairfax County Planning Commission meeting in June. Although the commission ultimately recommended approval of the application, members said they worried it doesn’t meet urban parks standards.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said the county is in the midst of discussions on how best to calculate the amount of park space required in applications.
“We’re literally moving 280,000 square feet of approved [space], 175 units from here to there,” Parks said, describing the simplicity of the proposed changes.
She said Reston Station and Reston Row represent “two of the most significant mixed-use developments in Reston, resulting in the creation of a dynamic, one-of-a-kind transit-oriented neighborhood.”
At the meeting, Reston Association board president John Farrell restated the board’s concerns about Comstock using amenities managed and owned by RA, like Lake Thoreau, for marketing its residential projects. Farrell also urged the developer to join RA — a move that Parks said Comstock was uninterested in.
Parks noted that Comstock provided $650,000 to Reston Association as part of its development proposals.
Securiport, a border security firm, is planning to relocate its headquarters from DC to Reston Station.
The company signed a 24,800-square-foot lease at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza — a portion of the Reston Station mixed-use neighborhood that is currently under construction, according to a commercial real estate news website.
In the interim, the company will move to 11480 Commerce Metro Center this month as construction continues.
As a condition of its tenancy, the company wants to ensure that one of its sixteen signs is located along the Dulles Toll Road next to its planned office place.
Comstock Companies is seeking the county’s permission for approval of the change to its sign plan, citing the “dismal state of the office market in the region” in an Aug. 23 memo.
“Particularly in light of the current office vacancy rate in Fairfax County (at an all-time high of 16.7%), which is universally projected to remain; or worse, continue to rise, for the foreseeable future, the decision to accommodate this critical DC Tenant’s reasonable request for signage on the building which it intends to occupy, was an obvious one for Comstock and is a must for the County,” according to the application.
Securiport was founded in 2001 in order to “address the security challenges of the 21st century,” according to its website. The company — which has called DC home for more than two decades — provides intelligent immigration and civil aviation security solutions and services
The county issued submission deficiencies for the application.