by Terry Maynard

Reston 2020 continues to wrestle with a multiplicity of important current Reston community planning issues, including:

• Improving revamped bus service for Reston when the Silver Line comes to Wiehle Avenue.
• Improving access to the Wiehle Avenue Metro station, especially on the south side.
• Planning for public schools as Reston’s transit station areas grow.
• Participation in Reston Task Force meetings.

But two issues dominated the discussion on Reston 2020’s blog:

• The RCC proposal to build an indoor recreation center at Baron Cameron Park.
• The County’s inaccurate assumption about the space office workers require and its implications for balanced mixed-use development in urbanizing areas across the County, not just Reston.

The community has been seized with the issue of whether, where, when, how, and how to pay for the possible construction of a recreation center in Reston.  RCC’s Board of Governors has proposed that one be built at Baron Cameron Park using Reston’s small tax district (STD#5) authority to build and operate it.  In response, Reston 2020 prepared a detailed white paper, approved by RCA’s Board of Directors, noting that innumerable questions need to be answered before moving forward with this or any other proposal (The Reston Recreation Center Initiative: Unanswered Questions on Need, Facilities, Location, Financing, and Decision Making, May 20, 2013).

Reston 2020 also tracked the scheduling of meetings about the recreation center proposal, meeting results as tracked by R2020 members and the press, and presented brief analytic pieces about the proposal based on the work of RCC’s consultant, Brailsford & Dunlavey.   The issue has many months, maybe two years, before it reaches resolution.   Reston 2020 will continue to participate in the discussions, present its analysis and viewpoint to authorities and on its blog, advise the RCA Board of Directors, and keep the community informed of upcoming and recent events.

In contrast to the very political discussion about a Reston recreation center, Reston 2020 co-chair Terry Maynard has taken on a highly technical planning topic that sounds like “how many angels can you fit on the head of a pin.”  Specifically, Maynard wrote Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova a second letter in May noting that the office space requirements for workers has plunged sharply over the last three years, and the County’s current assumption that they need 300 gross square feet (GSF) each is badly out of date.   In fact, it could be as much as three times to large, but more likely the double the space required for workers in the future.

Given the County’s focus on balancing the number of workers and households in its new urbanizing areas, the major error in this assumption could badly undo County goals and lead to greater congestion, environmental damage, transportation development and maintenance costs, and more.   There are many reasons for the shrinkage in worker office space, but the key ones focus on creating a collaborative office environment, technology enabling work from places other than the office, and companies’ desire to minimize office lease costs.  Besides Maynard’s letter, the Reston 2020 blog include excerpts and links to ten recent news articles in May noting the trend and its impact on office markets and work styles.  Maynard’s original letter to Chairman Bulova in April laid out the range of academic, industry, and journalistic analysis and reporting that detailed the shrinking worker office space issue.