Revitalization or Decline

Revitalization or Decline

Revitalization of Lake Anne held up by restrictive and confusing zoning, says group.

After a 10-month wait for the Lake Anne Charrette Report, it took one meeting for the group charged with leading the effort to coordinate revitalization at Lake Anne to begin looking ahead.

The report said that without easier entry and added foot traffic created by an increase in residential and retail density, the 40-year-old commercial and residential area would continue to decline.

These conclusions, among others, the group asserted, will support needed redevelopment changes for the Lake Anne area, Reston’s oldest village center.

“[The report] was part of the evolution of the public-driven process,” said Kurt Pronske, president of the Reston Community Reinvestment Corporation. But board members agreed it’s time to move on to more pressing challenges to redevelopment at the Lake Anne Village Center, particularly obstacles to developers.

“THE KEY IS to do what the county is doing and work on the design guidelines and changes to the comprehensive plan so developers know what they can and can’t do,” said Walt Peter, RCRC board member.

He added that the board should redirect its efforts on “taking as much of the uncertainty out of the equation as possible” for potential developers, a receptive idea among fellow board members.

Peter, a commercial real estate broker, argued that the county will likely lead an effort to change the comprehensive plan that governs the zoning for the area after recently paying an “outrageous” price to purchase the nearby Crescent Apartments. “They paid twice the market value for that,” said Peter, who predicted the comprehensive plan would be changed by the end of the year to accommodate increased density.

“I would suggest that this group insinuate itself in that process … and make sure the [amended] comprehensive plan meets the needs of Lake Anne,” said Peter.

“We keep coming back to the idea that it’s the comprehensive planning process that is going to make this happen,” said Pronske, reiterating Peter’s comments.

THE GROUP ALSO turned its attention to contextual design issues that it thinks will help revive the center economically. “I think you’re going to have to have a modified town center design,” said Pronske, referring to the inclusion of residential, retail and commercial development. “I don’t think we can afford having only one element.”

But Peter said that enticing a developer to build residential in today’s market will be difficult. “I’ll tell you right now, we’re not going to see much more residential anytime soon,” said Peter. “Good Shepherd [Lutheran Church] is a test case because it shows the market forces at work.” Two months ago, KSI Services, Inc., recently backed out of a purchase agreement to buy the church property adjacent to the village center. The decision came at the heels of a cooling condo market and after facing challenges during the approval process.

“We have to find a way for more people to live down here,” said Anne Strange, RCRC board member, who said that proximity to proposed rail stations will make the area more attractive.

“Well, you’ve got to create some kind of draw. You have to create a reason to come here,” said Peter, suggesting that more retail seems to be the answer.

While members generally agreed, they said that some of these questions can not be answered until specific designs are presented.

“I’d have to see a design,” said RCRC Board Member Rick Thompson.

The board, while frustrated with the slow pace of their efforts, remains confident that revitalization will soon occur. “This has to happen because there is no place left to go,” said Peter, suggesting that Reston, besides the village center area, is completely built out.

For the last several years, the 14-member RCRC board, made up of several property owner representatives in the Lake Anne Revitalization district, has spearheaded the area’s redevelopment effort. Last year, through recommendations to the county, the RCRC successfully initiated the economic study, the focus groups and the charrette.