The explosive growth phase is underway. Next stop, Reston in six figures!
High-density projects are under construction in the Reston rail corridor near the Wiehle Avenue and coming Town Center Metro stations. Many more are right behind, lined up on the horizon as far as the eye can see. Reston’s Planning and Zoning (P & Z) Committee, the community’s principal forum for input to the Fairfax County project review and approval process, are reviewing new, high density projects nearly every month. With some new blood on the Committee and with the active participation of a quality Planning Commissioner, P & Z is looking more like the effective community voice of the past. Meetings are worth attending.
One of two projects P & Z reviewed Sept. 16 and refused to recommend for approval was the Campus Commons (CC) redevelopment. CC is the 12-acre site across Wiehle Avenue from the Metro station and is bordered by Wiehle Avenue on the west, Sunrise Valley Drive on the south and the Dulles Toll road on the north side. From the air the Commons site looks like a raptor head facing east.
The CC site currently has just two six-story office buildings, constructed in 1985-1986, and acres of ugly parking. The latest version of the proposed project would add two multifamily buildings totaling 629 units (the tallest rising to 29 stories, the other 8 stories), a new 13-story, 375,790-square-foot office building and more than 26,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The two existing buildings are to remain. I should note that when originally submitted in 2017, this proposal included about 1,100 residential units. TF Cornerstone has met with Reston groups, including P & Z, and has reduced the density and made other improvements to the plan in response to citizen comments.
While County staff has now recommended approval of the proposal, citizens, especially residents on the Sunrise Valley side of CC, and P & Z are still not on board. On Sept. 26, the Fairfax County Planning Commission deferred a decision until October 10 so that several remaining issues might be resolved. Among them are: 1- dropping the concept of a woefully inadequate, unsafe crosswalk for pedestrians crossing Wiehle to the Metro, preferably in favor of an underpass; 2- reworking the traffic flows, especially on Sunrise Valley where rush hour congestion is guaranteed and the solution still is not apparent. I, for one, think part of the solution could be an additional entrance/egress place for CC, perhaps a right-in-right-out on the Rt. 267 northside ramp, to relieve the load on Sunrise Valley; 3- building heights reduction; and, 4- bike lane and sidewalk safe connections on the right side of Wiehle going north across 267, crossing Sunset Hills and continuing along Wiehle. Right now there is no connection along that stretch—deadly for bikes and pedestrians.
When the Planning Commission reconvenes to decide what to recommend to the Board of Supervisors, it should not agree until the issues raised here in the countryside have been addressed.
Then, there’s the elephant in the room complicating all development in the corridor and the future prospects of Reston becoming a coherent city from now going forward. That is, north-south roads are critical to connect Reston across the intensely dense corridor congested with huge volumes of traffic both ways. Currently, we have just two already jammed crossings of our midsection- Reston Parkway and Wiehle. Three more are on drawing boards in the back rooms of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)—one at South Lakes Drive, one at Soapstone, the other at Edmund Halley Drive. But, the trip from the VDOT drawing boards to reality is a long one indeed-likely at least six years for the Soapstone link, and more than ten years for the other two. Meanwhile, if all the proposals currently on the horizon get merrily approved as is the norm, Reston will see congestion you cannot imagine. One will have to drive 5 or 10 miles east or west before you can then turn to go to north or south Reston!
It is time for P & Z to start sounding the alarm for Fairfax County to stop approving any more new, large-scale projects in the corridor until the real schedules for building the north-south links genuinely catch up with the proposed growth.