Re-Visioning Lake Anne for Fun and Profit

Re-Visioning Lake Anne for Fun and Profit

This preliminary map is just one possibility and the visioning process has barely begun. But read on for its pitfalls.

This preliminary map is just one possibility and the visioning process has barely begun. But read on for its pitfalls.

Thanks to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, currently running unopposed for a second 4-year term, the consulting firm Streetsense was contracted by Fairfax County to lead the latest study to revitalize Lake Anne Village. Last week, about 25 of us residents attended the study team’s latest community meeting. As a resident of Lake Anne’s historic area and founder of the Reston Farmers Market in Lake Anne I have followed the process closely.    

Several years ago, we had an approved Lake Anne revitalization plan and many thought it was excellent. It included redeveloping the Crescent Apartment property owned by the County and creating a commercial streetscape complete with underground parking. Two features which made it an especially attractive proposition were its proximity and link to the original Plaza AND space on the streetscape for the Farmers Market! Sadly, at the last moment the developer withdrew from its agreement with the County. No replacement is in sight.

The Supervisor’s effort to reignite revitalization has been a rocky one. The division between a new, reformist LARCA Board and constant agitation from folks they replaced makes it hard for Alcorn to navigate. In fact, last week’s meeting reflected the communication problem. Leaders of the Board were no-shows, while their opposition was out in force.

Opening the meeting, Streetsense staff set forth some principles for a path forward and a basis for a “creative visioning exercise” to follow. One base point consistent with “economic visioning” (the goal being economic sustainability) was an outcome of earlier community meetings, i.e., to build on Lake Anne’s existing base — it’s restaurants! Other points were far less compelling, such as comparing Lake Anne as a possible “destination” to Old Town Alexandria and Washington Harbor. Both seemed quite a stretch for tiny Lake Anne.

Finally, the staff introduced its preliminary “creative visioning exercise”, consisting of the Village Center and Crescent Apartments area on a map with colorful bubbles representing potential new land uses. One of two maps for a “Destination” Lake Anne particularly caught my attention. A new parking structure on the west upper surface lot would address an existing parking shortfall, especially during 4-hours on Saturdays during Farmers Market season. However, it also showed all three wooded areas on the map being cleared for development: 1) the Reston Farmers Market relocated to what is now a small old oak woods owned by RA north of the Farmers Market and south of Crescent Apts; 2) a “cultural anchor” (not defined) along the wooded ravine at the corner of Temporary Road and Baron Cameron Avenue in the corner of the Crescent property; and, 3) an Amphitheater in woods owned by the Baptist Church and located between the Laurel Learning Center and the rear patio of the Lake Anne Coffee/Wine Bar (in neighboring Washington Plaza Cluster, NOT part of the Lake Anne Condominium). Building on all three of these sites would denude both the Village Center and the Crescent Apartment area of all trees — neither a good look nor environmentally sound action for Lake Anne. 

Relocation of the Farmers Market to the woods up the hill is a nonstarter. Besides a major slope issue, that site lacks a direct connection to the Plaza like the existing one for Plaza businesses, lacks easy access for the Market’s shoppers, and lacks access for farmers’ trucks. Furthermore, this inexplicable idea was not discussed with anyone involved with the Market.

The proposed new Amphitheatre is a different matter. Its location seems almost exclusively to support one business, not even a member of the Lake Anne Condominium. And there is no direct access from the Amphitheater to the Plaza and the businesses located there.         

Fortunately, the preliminary map discussed above is just one possibility and the visioning process has barely begun. More realistic alternatives will undoubtedly emerge and be sorted in the months ahead.                 

Let’s hope that in the meantime communication improves between the County and both factions on the Plaza. If it does not improve, Mr. Alcorn may yet feel he has to resort to condemnation, a possibility he has mentioned before.