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Aug
30

Reston Town Center 2.0– The Coming of Metro and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)

By Robert Goudie,Executive Director, Reston Town Center Association

West Exterior[1]

Over the next several decades, Reston Town Center (RTC) will more than double in size and become an even more robust and unique regional destination. This growth is contemplated and will be guided by the recent amendment to the County Comprehensive Plan, adopted after a nearly 5-year study by a citizen-business task force focused on maximizing the significant public and private investment in Metrorail.

RTC 1.0 – A bold new vision

At a time when “sprawl and mall” was the suburban paradigm, it was anything but obvious that a dense, urban-like, mixed-use downtown in the middle of suburbia would catch on, let alone become an international aspiration (in just the last several years, I’ve entertained delegations from Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Houston, all looking to understand and emulate the special qualities and success of Reston Town Center as they seek to build similar mixed-use centers).  Jim Cleveland, who as President of Mobil Land Development/Virginia put together the world-class team that would create and build RTC, has said, “Securing a terrific hotel partner from the start, getting anchor retail and restaurant tenants, flexible zoning that allowed us to adapt to the times, and creating the Pavilion and Fountain Plaza (and eventually Town Square Park) as essential gathering and open space features was really the secret sauce.”

The environment that team created now has over 2 million square feet of office space that has been consistently filled with high-quality businesses; an envied street-level experience with over 60 retailers, nearly 30 restaurants, and a major health facility and movie plex; and a regular diet of outstanding cultural and community events.  Indeed, a big part of what we as an association do, together with the urban core’s principal owner, Boston Properties, is partnering to build out that sense of community that is so essential to being Reston’s, and increasingly the region’s, downtown.  Much of that is centered on Fountain Plaza and the Pavilion, the heart of the urban core.  Reston’s founder, Robert Simon, observed in the superb Storycatcher film, Another Way of Living: The Story of Reston, VA, “You couldn’t have a better plaza than Fountain Square.  It is a wonderful gathering place.”  Over Town Center’s first 25 years, signature events like the Greater Reston Arts Center’s Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, our summer Concerts on the Town, the Greater Reston Chamber’s Taste of Reston and Oktoberfest, the Washington West Film Festival, the beloved Holiday Parade and related activities, ice skating at the Pavilion, and numerous runs and other events for charities and non-profits have
all taken advantage of this “wonderful gathering place.”

Town Square Park (redesigned several years ago to become an even more people-friendly space) now complements Fountain Plaza and the Pavilion as an active civic resource.  Its interactive fountain and, for the last two years, the wonderful Patrick Dougherty A Bird in the Hand sculpture created with our partners the Greater Reston Arts Center and the Initiative for Public Art-Reston, draw tens of thousands of visitors; and we’ve added terrific programming through our partnership with the Reston Community Center that takes advantage of the park’s amphitheater (including Saturday morning entertainment for children and, new this year, chamber concerts with the Shenandoah
University Conservatory).

This remarkable success story has laid the foundation for what will now be an equally exciting period of growth inspired by Metro’s arrival.

RTC 2.0 and TOD

The central premise of the new Comprehensive Plan’s guidance is the creation of dense, walkable/bikeable, mixed-use development that will promote public transportation in lieu of the automobile (it is in part for these reasons that the Town Center station will have no long-term parking, it being a destination and not commuter station).  Expect the following as this next period of Town Center’s development gets underway:

There will be special focus on residential:commercial
balance:
Transportation demand management has
always been a part of our association’s mandate (hence the LINK transportation resource we provide, www.linkinfo.org, and the reason we often close off parts of the urban core to automobile traffic during weekends).  Another transportation demand management tool is creating jobs:household ratios aligned with the kind of place one is creating (in Town Center’s case, a downtown/destination paradigm).  Growing the residential presence within walking distance of a major jobs center like Town Center increases the likelihood that local residents will fill and walk to those jobs, thereby reducing dependence on the automobile.  Indeed, the residential footprint is already expanding in Town Center.  The west end of the urban core (surrounding Town Square Park), originally slated to be all commercial, became a predominately residential area with a rich ground-level retail/restaurant experience that has animated that area in unexpected and wonderful ways.  And Boston Properties’ ongoing development of the so-called Signature Site, at the corner of Reston Parkway and New Dominion, will result in two beautiful residential towers with over 500 luxury apartments, 1200 parking spaces, and 24,000 square feet of ground retail – including a Balducci’s grocery.

Extending the downtown:  One of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the metropolitan region is Boston Properties’ lot at the corner of Sunset Hills and Town Center Parkway, which is where the skywalk from the Metro station will touch down.  Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic for the New York Times, in a presentation to the
community several years ago on Metro-related development, suggested that the most obvious development priority is extending the urban core south to this touchdown lot, and that is exactly the plan.  While still a few years off, key elements of that plan will be an urban grid of streets, a dynamic urban plaza as a central orienting feature, and over 3 million square feet of office, hotel, retail, and residential development that, consistent with the TOD emphasis, will have the highest densities
in Reston.

Redevelopment of areas surrounding the urban core:  This is already happening.  JBG is currently adding about 40,000 square feet of new retail space at its RTC West site (just across from the touchdown lot) and over time will add 700 residential units and more office space.  The County is currently seeking qualified bids for the first phase of redeveloping Town Center North (the County government and INOVA hospital area) that will become a mixed-use space oriented around a major new central green, an important need for Reston, with a new library, homeless shelter, rec center, and possibly art center.  And, although still a few years away, Lerner Corporation has already received County approvals for a major redevelopment of the Spectrum site that will include 775,000 square feet of commercial space, 1400+ new residential units, hotel capacity, ground-level retail, and pocket parks and other open spaces.

This is an exciting time to be a part of the Town Center experience as we build on the unique success of our first 25 years and create an even more robust, complete, and transit-oriented Reston Town Center.  It’s a great privilege personally and professionally to be a part of building that future. 

 

Aug
30

Dulles Matters: Fall is Fun for Kids at Dulles International

Dulles International Airport offers great opportunities for kids to get up close to aviation and enjoy hands-on experiences at the airport. The annual Dulles Day festivities kick off on September 17 with an early morning 5k/10k runway run followed by a huge outdoor airplaneopen house on the airfield from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is free, and highlights include airplane displays, a kids play zone, food sales and views of teams competing to pull a jet airplane. Visit flydulles.com/dullesday for more details.

Kids traveling through Dulles have something new to get excited about before their flight. In partnership with NASA, the airport opened a Kids’ FunWay play area near gate B70. The enclosed area gives parents a chance to recharge and relax while kids release their preflight energy on airport-themed playground items like a replica control tower. All ticketed passengers can visit the FunWay by riding the AeroTrain to the B-gates station (post-security).

Don’t have travel plans but want to plan a memorable airport experience? Dulles now offers birthday parties for children on many Saturdays. Party options can be selected and reserved at flydulles.com/iad/birthday-parties.

Aug
30

If You’re a Millennial – You Might Want to Buy Instead of Rent in D.C.

4_-_7_Logan_Circle

A recent Washington Post article cited a National Association of Realtors study that found that Washington, D.C. is one of the most affordable of 100 major metropolitan areas studied for Millennials to buy a home.  According to the Post, the association analyzed employment gains, population trends and housing conditions to compile its rankings.

In its findings, the report stated that:

“Since there was not a significant increase in home prices in the area in 2015, many Millennials can afford to buy a home. In 2014, among the 100 largest metro areas, Washington, DC was ranked 6th for highest median household income of Millennial movers.

“Thus, the median household income of the Millennials who moved recently was much higher [than the national median ($46,200).] As a result, the homeownership rate for the Millennials who moved recently was higher than the average of the 100 largest metro areas. More than one in-five Millennials who moved in 2014 owned a house (21%).”

Other cities that ranked in the top ten include (listed alphabetically) Austin, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, Minn; Ogden, Utah; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, NC; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Seattle, Washington.  Renting in D.C. is prohibitively expensive, yet homeownership rates among Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) remain at historic lows.  This is somewhat perplexing considering the long timeframe that interest rates have been at historic lows as well.

Aug
30

How to Build The Custom Wine Cellar of Your Dreams

By Tracey Longo

Ever dream of building the type of wine cellar that will help you take your wine collection to the next level? That’s exactly where Craig and Diane MacAllister of Fairfax found themselves, when their quest for new wines for their growing collection was thwarted by their home’s limited storage.

Their solution? Build the type of high-end, custom redwood wine cellar that encourages and even rewards their frequent wine-buying trips to Europe and California. Wine Cellar1

Today, the MacAllisters use their high-end wine cellar almost every day. The room is 100 square feet of retrofitted luxury, with custom redwood and mahogany racking and shelving, rich granite and tile work, glass front cabinetry and doors, two tiers of
lighting and the kind of perfect 24-seven 55 degrees that fine wines require.

It’s a sumptuous wine cellar that not only protects the MacAllister’s growing wine collection, but gives them the perfect place to host impressive tastings and kick off wine dinners. “We love collecting wine and it’s so communal,” says Diane MacAllister. “We get to serve wines that our guests would probably never taste otherwise, and will probably never taste again. We also get to buy wines by the case when we find great vintages, like we just did on a trip to Napa and Sonoma.”

After a long search for the right builder, the MacAllisters chose Michael Nash Design and Homes, Fairfax, because of the firm’s extensive expertise building wine
cellars and storage. Customers get to see that experience and attention to detail first hand in the two complete wine cellars the company built in its 8,000 square foot Lee Highway showroom.

Wine cellars are complex and need careful attention to electrical, cooling, lighting and moisture control to protect wine collections—all facts that became apparent to the MacAllisters as they did their research and began to interview builders.

“Be careful,” Diane MacAllister warns. “We had a gentleman come out and all of his work was subcontracted to others who could only work in the evenings and on weekends. Another gentleman showed us a glossy flyer with pictures of wine cellars we knew he hadn’t built. Yet another firm had Better
Business Bureau complaints.

“We had certain expectations for quality and appearance and we wanted a company that had the on-staff people with experience in the multiple concerns necessary to take this on as a turnkey project,” Diane MacAllister says. “When we saw the wine cellars in the Michael Nash showroom, we knew we found the right firm.”

The award-winning design and build firm, which routinely wins national and regional COTYs (Contractor of The Year awards), is proud of the work it does for wine connoisseurs throughout Virginia, DC and the mid-Atlantic, says Michael Nash president and CEO Sonny Nazemian.

“I think what really sets us apart is we use our own skilled employees to design and build wine cellars and wine rooms, which gives us the ability and flexibility to really meet our customers’ every need,” Nazemian says.

The cellar holds up to 17,000 bottles of wine, using an amazing configuration of clear Hardy redwood cabinets and mahogany racking. “The MacAllister’s chose custom-built double wine racks, traditional racks, open diamond racks, six-column racks, magnum racks and curved corner racks, to meet the MacAllister’s design needs,” Nazemian says

The room beckons the MacAllisters daily. “We go down to enjoy a glass of wine or grab a bottle for dinner. Now we get to wow our friends and family and kick off wine dinners with champagne and fruit served in the wine cellar. And it gives us the opportunity to buy cases from private wineries that don’t sell in stores. We love pairing food with wine and hearing guests’ “ooohhhs” and “aaahhhs.” It’s pretty amazing.

“We were also very pleased with all of the assistance we got from Michael Nash,” Diane MacAllister says. “They thought of all of the things we didn’t think of. We couldn’t be happier. I don’t think we’ll ever sell our house, because we won’t be able to part with the wine cellar.”

Aug
30

Effingham Manor: A Suburban Oasis and Northern Virginia’s Newest Vineyard

As the saying goes, Chris Pearmund is a man in a hurry.  However, the work, particularly the world of wine, government processes and the wine industry, just can’t keep up. Chris is in the process of opening Northern Virginia’s newest vineyard, Effingham Manor, in Nokesville, VA.

Building out the new processing and tasting facility and restoring the historic manor IMG_0771house are the easy parts.  You see, Chris has had his hand involved in more than two dozen vineyard projects over the years, and intends to open one a year going forward.  No, the problem isn’t that he isn’t ready to open, the problem lies within the Prince William planning processes that have slowed overall approval of this vineyard to a snails pace due to the “adaptive reuse of the historic property”.  Chris hopes (fingers crossed) that eventual approval will translate into a mid-October debut.

Effingham Manor is a jewel of an historic place, encompassing about 16 acres (1.5 now in cultivation) with beautiful views and a handful of historic out buildings.  William Alexander constructed the Manor in 1767.  He was a great grandson of John Alexander, the namesake of Alexandria, Virginia. The site is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Manor house, located on a main north/south thoroughfare in Colonial times, was the resting post for many of the most famous founders of our Nation.  In fact, there is still liv
ing evidence on the site – a Western Cypress tree given to the family by Lewis & Clark after their return from their western expedition.

Chris’ involvement with the vineyard means that this magnificent site will now be open to the public and preserved in perpetuity for all to visit and enjoy.  On top of that, visitors will also be able to taste and take home some of the award winning wines (Effingham’s Rose was just awarded number one in the country for their Chambourcin-based blush) that Chris and the Effingham team produce.  A win-win situation if there ever was one.

During @livemore’s visit to the site, Chris provided us a tour of the facility and offered up some great insights on his involvement in the Virginia wine industry as well as a look toward the future.  As we said, Chris is anxious to push Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry forward, and FAST.  Our brief conversation with Chris follows.

QYou own and operate two other wineries, why Effingham and why now?  What makes this winery different?

AEffingham has fantastic history and potential and needs to be protected and should be made available to the
public as a resource. The winery venue in my mind is the perfect answer.  The previous owners came to me about doing exactly this.

 

QWith the growth of vineyards in Northern Virginia (particularly Loudoun County) do you believe there is still unmet demand, and why?

AVirginia has opened 200 wineries in the last decade. There will always exist room for an exceptional team of winery management and award winning wines paired with a warm, inviting, comfortable atmosphere in an historical or particular setting. The bar has been raised for others to meet, and a minimum floor has been set to help in future success.   Our national per capita consumption is less than half of Europe, lets raise a glass of wine and catch up to better foods and lifestyles we all can appreciate.

Wineries are increasing in popularity every year in the United States. Previously, wine makers rarely interacted with customers; much like you don’t expect to order a hamburger in a restaurant and chat with the cattle farmer. Only in the past decade, really, have consumers come to enjoy and expect spending time at vineyards and wineries, learning more about the wines they drink and how they’re made.

Comparing wine in the United States to Europe, we’re still fairly new at producing wine yet we are already the largest wine-producing nation in the world. Our per capita consumption, however, is only at about 50% of that of Spain or Italy. We have some catching up to do!

 

Q – You’ve been in the business for some time and are quite knowledgeable and are well respected by your peers.  What is your assessment of Virginia’s wine industry and what is your opinion of its future?

A – Virginia has come a long way, and it still a teenager in its evolution of winery development for quantity and consistency, but has developed respected regional character.  The agro-tourism side has done very well, but we need to bring our wines outside of Virginia to anchor our future.   The state has been fantastic in making a path; it’s the wineries turn to make an investment in regional and national distribution. 

Q Is this it for you?  Or do you anticipate growing your brand/operations further in the future?

A – I plan to keep going for at least another decade. Our goal is to continue opening wineries with a consistent management all with the similar operating systems, quality of customer service, top-notch wines but with distinct settings, scenery and story. The Virginia wine industry has a strong future when run like a business sector.

 

Q – And lastly, what’s your preferred wine?

A – My favorite wines are generally reds that have been in the bottle a few years, made by small producers.  I am always on the hunt for the next expressive wine that I’m not yet familiar with be it bubbles, red or white.  Mass produced food and wine has its place, but I enjoy the passion of expression and regional identity.