From Hank Schonzeit, RCA Board Member
On Monday March 6th I attended a presentation from JBG on the RTC West development. JBG plans on further development in RTC West and has a current request for the approval of a 1.3M SF second phase of development Some on-line comments have estimated that the full roll-out will be 1.8M SF. You may want to review a “Reston Now” article (restonnow.com/2016/10/25/jbg-files-plans-for-1-3-million-sf-of-residential-retail-and-office-at-rtc-west/) which provides a graphic and some more details.
This is a major development in Reston with several buildings over 20 stories. The renderings looked quite attractive and JBG confirmed that they will be following Reston Master Plan guidelines and the FAR (a measure of density) will be under the new (and higher) Master Plan limits. The first step in this new development will be the building of several restaurants next to existing buildings, with an expected opening of the first restaurant (an upscale wine and dining venue in late 2017. Some phases of the development have already been approved by the county, but JBG wasn’t specific. They did mention that they had received a “special exception” but this was not explained.
Although there were only 10 or so RTC residents in attendance, there were many questions:
1. The renderings appear to show the open space as a combination of hardscape and landscape. What percentage will there be of street-level green space? – JBG responded that they are planning for at least 20% which includes a central green.
2. There will be an increase in the number of cars and pedestrians in the area. JBG was asked how JBG planned to deal with the increased stress on the roads and paths? – JBG responded that they had not done a traffic study yet. Robert Goudie (Reston Town Center Association) then mentioned that the county has a road improvement plan that is dealing with issues like this. I stated that the county’s remediation plans have been long-delayed, will phase in over time and won’t be complete until 2050, long after the increased demand on Reston’s infrastructure is felt. The Soapstone overpass was originally planned for completion before the Wiehle station opened. It is now at least another 9 years away. The nearby Town Center Parkway/ toll-road underpass is at least 10 years away, given that environmental studies have not even started.
3. JBG had mentioned that they expect patrons to cross the W&OD trail from RTC to reach RTC West. I mentioned that there are few places to cross the W&OD and there certainly would be issues in the morning when the W&OD is used heavily by biking commuters. JBG was asked how they planned to eliminate the problem— better paths to the W&OD, a bridge over the trail, or what? — JBG responded that they hadn’t gotten to review that issue yet but recognized that the county shied away from pedestrian overpasses. Presenters did note that their larger proposed residential tower would be “oriented” toward the W&OD and that they anticipate featuring the trail in siting that building.
4. The rendering appeared to show large buildings very close to the street. JBG was asked if this were accurate. – JBG responded that the rendering may have exaggerated how close the buildings are to the road because of overhangs and that they are planning to be within the guidelines of the new Reston Master Plan. The new Master Plan reduced the setback from something like 30 feet to something like 20 feet.
5. JBG was then asked if there will be paid parking in the new development. JBG responded that there will be vouchered parking for patrons and that they did not want commuter parking in RTC West. A member of the audience then pointed out this was paid parking.
6. JBG was asked if the residential units would owner-occupied or rentals. They appeared to respond that the decision will be based on financing conditions, but it appears likely the units will be rentals. It was commented that rental tenants don’t have the same stake in a viable Reston as owners do.
It was clear that this development, though attractive and compatible with the revised Reston Master Plan, will likely increase congestion in Reston. This congestion will not be ameliorated for many years.