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For Reston, an Unsettling Kind of Calm

Residents, Officials Seek to Revive Lake Anne

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page VA20

Lake Anne Village is just too quiet.

The cluster of modernist condominiums, apartments, townhouses, shops and restaurants in the heart of north Reston may be the perfect architectural embodiment of the progressive planning ideas that shaped the '60s-era new town. In its heyday, the setting drew bustling crowds to Lake Anne, Reston's original town center.

But times change.

Lake Anne Village
Lake Anne Village
The concrete fixtures of Washington Plaza are a defining feature in the architectural history of Reston, where Lake Anne Village Center, for which ground was broken in 1963, was the first of five planned centers. (Michael Temchine - For The Washington Post)

"There is a lot of quiet time here, and a lot of the businesses have failed," said Susann Gerstein, the owner of a children's clothing consignment shop.

Now comes a set of proposals by county-hired consultants to revive 40-year-old Lake Anne Village that seek to balance demands for more commerce and building in the area against the desire to preserve a pedestrian-friendly place designated "historic" by the county in 1983.

Doing nothing could lead to significant sales declines, "which may be critical given the fragile nature of the existing retail environment," according to the report from Basile Baumann Prost & Associates Inc., an Annapolis-based firm, which was paid $50,000. "Based on market findings, it would be appropriate to formulate and consider revitalization strategies."

The proposed strategies were scheduled to be discussed at a meeting of residents last night. They range from a $100,000 annual marketing effort, possibly paid for by a special assessment and county money, to the construction of 935 dwelling units and 105,000 square feet of office space in the Lake Anne area. The most ambitious plan calls for redeveloping the sites of the 181-unit Crescent Apartments and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, as well as spending $10.7 million in public improvements, including a parking garage and a new look for Lake Anne's brick streetscape.

Compared with development projects sprouting elsewhere in the Washington area, the proposals for Lake Anne are small in scale. But because of its central, historical role in Reston's planning, the Lake Anne proposals are eliciting some strong opinions. Lake Anne was the first of the planned town's five village centers, which were designed as mixtures of housing, offices, shops, eateries and public space.

"I've heard from people on all sides of this," said Supervisor Catherine M. Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill), who represents the Reston area and was to host last night's meeting. "It's a world-renowned design. The idea is to bring back the vitality that this landmark once had."

Hudgins declined to say which option she prefers, if any, saying she wants to wait until public comments have been gathered. The Board of Supervisors has designated part of Lake Anne a county "revitalization area," which means it is a priority for the county government to encourage businesses to locate there.

Robert E. Simon Jr., the community's original developer who moved back to Lake Anne 12 years ago, said that what Lake Anne Village needs is more visitors. He generally supports bringing in new homes and offices.

"We should try to increase the vitality of the plaza by bringing in more people -- the more people, the better," said Simon, who turns 91 next month. "The plans that can be made do not need to affect the beauty of Lake Anne."

Kurt Pronske, a Reston representative on the county's revitalization committee, said he would like to see even more development in the area than is recommended in the report.

"My reaction is that we need more housing density and more retail than that report demonstrates," he said.

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