Reimagining Lake Anne in Two Directions

Reimagining Lake Anne in Two Directions

Neighborhood draw or regional appeal?

Martha Green, former LARCA president, puts one of her four red stickers indicating she does not prefer a pollinator garden in Direction 1 of the Lake Anne Visioning.

Martha Green, former LARCA president, puts one of her four red stickers indicating she does not prefer a pollinator garden in Direction 1 of the Lake Anne Visioning. Photo by Mercia Hobson.

It is nearly 60 years after Lake Anne Reston first marched to the beat of its own drum, having been entirely built to the specifications of Reston’s founder Bob Simon as a mixed-use space with retail, residential and an open public plaza with waterfront access. On May 18, 2023, the consulting firm Streetsense presented its proposed positioning statement for the Lake Anne Revitalization Area 2023. The session would be next to the consulting company’s last one, with a final vision presentation planned for early June.

According to Angela McGarvey, managing director of brand at Streetsense, they created a formulaic positioning statement for Lake Anne by "digging into the marketplace and studying this place." The statement is intended to serve as a springboard into new creative directions and avenues, as well as placemaking and constructing "environmentally friendly paths."

"We start with what we believe our unique opportunity is in the marketplace, and we say, for whom—we are what; that does what; and by what—what we deliver," McGarvey said.

"So, for multicultural, multigenerational Northern Virginia residents, we are a truly original mixed-use village center that champions the progressive principles of Reston's beginnings by creating modern opportunities for connections, community, and rejuvenation — our pillars," McGarvey said.

The Lake Anne experience is defined by three pillars of essential qualities: Lake Anne prides itself on being a mid-century masterpiece that is not mainstream, "a true kaleidoscope of experiences, including a fan-favorite farmers market, restaurants, retail, and residences. 

"There really is nothing like it," McGarvey said.

"The lake may be the calling card, but the private places for people at Lake Anne go beyond that, with a love of culture, character, community, and the people who visit Lake Anne." 

"They don't always agree on everything, but their love for Lake Anne (and) its uniqueness as a mid-century masterpiece is palpable," McGarvey said.

McGravey and Bruce Leonard, Streetsense's managing principal, collaborated to recap the most recent workshop. Held in April. They mentioned Lake Anne's historic and waterfront appeals.

According to Streetsense, Lake Anne's regional market reality for residential on a path forward is for additional density on the Crescent site, most likely three to seven stories tall with on-site surface or structured parking depending on density, with density ranges expected ranging from 35 to 65 units per acre. Lake Anne's current density is in the 35 unit per acre range, as are its regional market opportunities and competitive market insights.

The path forward for regional market reality is a cultural or institutional anchor, but the financial underwriting complexity makes this problematic. However, moving the current community center within Lake Anne is a viable option. A grocery store is no longer an option.

Streetsense proposed a set of positioning strategies and concluded with a visioning exercise that was both creative and interactive. Participants were given eight red and green stickers to place on inspiration boards depicting Direction 1, Lake Anne retaining the Original Village,  and  Direction 2, Lake Anne reimagined as a Destination Landmark.

"This is really about you coming to an agreement and building additions that you want to see Lake Anne continue to be involved in," Leonard explained.

Direction 1, the "Original Village," envisions Lake Anne's future character as nostalgic, charming, and refreshed, positioning it as a curated community with a neighborhood draw.

Retail focuses on developing a cohesive merchant organization, improving the storefront and infrastructure, and developing a marketing strategy. It makes available new artist studio spaces for rent.

Parking is redesigned in the existing surface lot at the entrance to make it more efficient and aesthetically pleasing with landscaping, etc.

Concentrate on wayfinding to assist visitors in finding available parking. 

Infrastructure must clarify roles and responsibilities for LARCA and Fairfax County, taking a solution-oriented approach.

The density of the new development is low-rise, with a mix of apartments, townhomes, green space, and amenities.

Accessibility requires selecting a few high-impact accessibility projects to prioritize, such as safe crossings from Lake Anne House and Crescent to the Plaza. Install plenty of bicycle racks in prominent locations.

Direction 2 is a "Destination Landmark," positioning Lake Anne as an iconic regional destination with a welcoming, vibrant, and revitalized future character. For Direction 2, there are two bubble plans. 

Adding cultural attractions, such as a cultural anchor and a separate amphitheater, draws visitors to Lake Anne businesses. It concentrates on developing a cohesive merchant organization, consistent retail hours, storefront and infrastructure improvements, and a marketing strategy.

The addition of a parking structure to the west public surface lot supports new cultural destination uses. The construction of new farmers market infrastructure frees up existing surface parking.

Infrastructure must clarify roles and responsibilities for the two parties, LARCA and Fairfax County, taking a solution-oriented approach.

The new construction is mid-rise and primarily multifamily. 

The new linear park is a public amenity and connects the Crescent site to the Plaza Park for Farmers' Markets.

As for accessibility,  there is a need to connect Reston's existing trail network to Lake Anne and restore the tunnel on the CRA's east side to a well-lit and visible connection.  Safe crossings should be considered from Lake Anne House and the Crescent to the Plaza, and the installation of plenty of bicycle racks in prominent locations.

Direction 2's bubble plans differ in the locations of the cultural anchor and amphitheater, additional multifamily apartments plus parking, and a separate park with farmers market infrastructure.

The Streetsense presentation on May 18 concluded with a creative visioning exercise. It would lend credence to one of two strategic directions forward for Lake Anne, each with two bubble plans, one of which is the alternate bubble plan.

Road safety for pedestrians and bicyclists is key for many residents of Lake Anne. "All of the roads surrounding this area — North Shore, Baron Cameron, Wiehle, and Fairway — are dangerous for pedestrians because we don't own our streets. VDOT owns our streets and almost always says no to pedestrian safety, which includes anyone who is not in a car," said one resident. 

"We've been trying to do something for traffic calming in our neighborhood on Faraday Drive because we have problems with speeding cars," said another.

Fairfax County Ch. 16 recorded the Lake Anne Visioning Presentation. It is available on the project website at