Monday, September 06, 2010

Reston Station: Planning for the Last Stop of the New Metro Line

When it comes to development along the new Dulles Corridor Metrorail Silver Line, connecting downtown Washington D.C. to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport, developers think big. Reston Station, a transit-oriented, mixed-use development soon to be brought into the orbit of Washington DC as the terminus of Phase 1 of the Silver Line, is no exception. Zoned for 1.3 million s.f. of development and incorporating three office buildings, two residences, one hotel, retail space and a 2300-car underground garage, developers expect to break ground on the garage next March and start the residences in late 2012. Davis Construction, now at work on Reston Station's county-sponsored underground garage, intends to complete work by 2013 to sync with the Silver Line's debut.

Comstock Partners, the Reston-based developer behind the vision, is just now beginning to market to prospective office users and hotel operators to fill up the 60,000 s.f. of retail, 650,000 s.f. of office space, and 220-key hotel that have been planned 3/4 of a mile east of Reston town center. Comstock has just begun design process for the 500,000 s.f. of residential space with the search for an architect, but already plan pair of residential buildings, 205 and 140 feet high, with a total 370 units, 19.5% of it designated for workforce housing.

Turning what looks, at least aerially (mislabeled picture above courtesy of MWAA), like a land of parking lots dotted occasionally by office buildings, into a community that is "edgy, contemporary, with easy living and walking to the Metro" as Comstock's Maggie Parker puts it, will require a bold metamorphosis. Anchored by the indispensable Metro station, various groups are working to design a more urban Reston. Reston 2020, a committee of the Reston Citizen's Association, which represents residents of Reston in the Reston Master Plan Review process, has outlined its own optics for the area, A Strawman Proposal for The Wiehle Area Metro Station, that envisions a thriving mixed-use, beyond 9-5, transit-oriented community. The group calls for increased residential uses, pedestrian and bike interconnectivity along the Silver Line corridor, embracing the urban center paradigm and integration of growth along the corridor. According to Penniman, Strawman Proposal author and board member of the Reston Community Center,
"Reston is a wonderful, planned community of urban and village centers, but running in the middle of it is the toll road, which has historically been lined with office buildings. With the arrival of the Metro and three stations running through Reston, there is an opportunity to add some urban flavor that would allow more people to live, work, walk and play...If we can create more pedestrian connections and manage traffic, that should do a lot to energize the corridor and would fit in well with the image of Reston as a community of open spaces and quality architecture."
Not everyone would agree that Reston calls to mind architectural splendor or exudes urbanity, but Comstock hopes their site next to the Metro will afford the opportunity to change that. Comstock plans on entering Reston Station in the running for LEED-ND (LEED for Neighborhood Development) certification, a relatively new category in the LEED rating system, which the US Green Building Council, the Congress for New Urbanism and the Natural Resources Defense Council developed collaboratively to certify neighborhoods that are planned according to smart growth principles with attention to urban planning and environmental design characteristics at the community scale.

Debate on the project has focused on traffic mitigation from the beginning. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority began increasing tolls on the Dulles Toll Road last January by 33% to help finance the Silver Line, with further toll increases expected in 2012. With increasing gas prices and suffocating traffic, the commute along the toll road has become less sustainable.

Comstock's Parker says the developer has focused on traffic management from the start, making the most of the pedestrian bridge that will link its project to the Metro station. Planners have designed Reston Station Blvd. as a new cross street, "an east-west spine road parallel to both Sunset Hills Road and the Dulles Toll Road provides a key cornerstone to the ultimate goal of a well-planned grid of streets." "We have proffered to significant traffic modifications to accommodate the suggested increase in traffic with the arrival of Metro. We are also committed to conducting other traffic studies as the development progresses through an aggressive Transportation Demand Management plan designed to reduce automobile trips generated by the office and residential uses" explained Parker.

Ultimately, construction timelines will be determined by economic realities, with even citizens groups acknowledging that "development will not proceed as fast as might have been thought a couple of years ago." With three years to go until the Metro station opens, time will tell what awaits sojourners venturing out to the end of the new metro line.

Reston, Virginia, real estate development news


Alex B. on Sep 6, 2010, 10:29:00 AM said...

I'm curious - what about that image from MWAA is mislabeled?

That is the Wiehle Ave station. If anything, for the developers to call this "Reston Station" when there will be an official "Reston Parkway Station" in Phase II is misleading and rather self-defeating, I would think.

Either way, MWAA's picture is accurate.

Eric said...

I concur with Alex B. Though you may have thought that MWAA was labeling the road as Weihle Avenue (instead of the Dulles Toll Road), the label in yellow, is attached to the station in the picture--also yellow.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I disagree, looks wrong in my eyes. The name Wiehle Avenue is on the toll road, and the yellow lines extend, indicating this road is Wiehle, which it is not. Sure seems mislabeled.

Ben on Sep 8, 2010, 8:02:00 AM said...

We went out to Herndon on Monday and it is great to see the progress on the Dulles metro extension. In addition to connecting Washington's international airport to downtown, this is encouraging billions of dollars of investment in this corridor. Obama's much-reviled 'socialist' (even though it contained $300B in tax cuts) stimulus legislation provided nearly $80M in additional funding to get this project built and create good-paying construction jobs.

Hopefully the President's $50B infrastructure proposal will be enacted so it can help fund the Purple Line and true high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.

Thomas the Tank Engine said...

AlexB and Eric have it right - as does MWAA. The yellow block is the station, which is named "Wiehle Avenue" station, now under construction and up out of the ground in the median of the highway, and the yellow lines extending to either side are the railway tracks, not road.

Alex B. on Sep 13, 2010, 9:49:00 AM said...

Yes - if you look at the slideshows for all of the other stations along the line, the exact same graphic will have the yellow Metro line and station diagrams superimposed over an aerial photo - and all of the station names are labeled, rather than the streets. Tysons West is set over Route 7, for example.

Terry said...

Well, as others have said, "Reston Station" is really "Wiehle Avenue Station." It is at the end of the Phase I construction of the "Silver" Metrorail line that will ultimately go to Dulles & beyond (Phase II).

The Comstock development proposal so prominently featured here was violently opposed by all Reston civic groups on many grounds.

--There is absolutely nothing architecturally excellent, even redeeming, about it. It reminds most Restonians of the worst of Crystal City development in its overwhelming mass and cubism.

--Unlike the rest of Reston, it has virtually no usable public open space. It's plaza is about the same size as Reston's Lake Anne Plaza (Washington Plaza)which is about one-tenth as dense, will allow traffic (none at Lake Anne), and will virtually never see sunlight due to the overwhelming buildings around.

--Block I will be a congestion magnet, despite what Comstock's Parker says about it. It will add 5,000-plus parking spaces to an area that receives failing traffic grades even AFTER the marginal improvements Comstock has agreed to install.

. . . and there's more. See the Reston 2020 blog for details at, a blog on Reston development created by the Reston Citizen's Association's Reston 2020 Committee. See "Comstock" in the index or search the blog.

The County, which negotiated an agreement with Comstock to build the parking for the site by the 2013 arrival of Metro, agreed to this proposal over the objections of virtually all Restonians.

It will be an eyesore for decades allowed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

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