A New Look for a Once-New Town

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2005

Last Thursday, members of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce took a peek at their town's future.

And it looked big, dense and expensive.

At a luncheon meeting of the local business organization, Joseph L. Ritchey of Prospective Inc. and Mark Looney of the law firm Cooley Godward LLP previewed development projects in the pipeline for the western Fairfax County town, which was started in 1964 as a planned community striving for socioeconomic and environmental balance.

Forty years into this new-town experiment, Reston is home to glitzy high-tech campuses for companies including Oracle Corp. and high-end retailers such as Williams-Sonoma, in the highly successful Reston Town Center complex.

On two big screens in a Hyatt Regency ballroom, Ritchey and Looney flashed architectural renderings of proposed additions to Reston that included a three-building, mixed-use office and residential condominium complex proposed by Boston Properties Inc., which they represent, right in the "urban core" of Reston Town Center.

And if Equity Office Properties Trust has its way, land that is now a parking lot for a Ruby Tuesday restaurant would be transformed into another mixed-use office and condo development with retail space on the ground floor. The Reston condo craze extends into the Oracle campus off Sunset Hills Road, where the software provider has decided that it doesn't need a fourth office building and instead has entered into an agreement with Lerner Enterprises to develop residential buildings on the site.

"All of this is still obviously in a very conceptual stage," Looney told the audience.

The least dense project is proposed by Jorge Kfoury. Kfoury wants to solidify Reston's increasingly urban nature by building luxury penthouse-style condos a la Kalorama Triangle in the District or Park Avenue in Reston at what's known as the Prison Fellowship property. The project would feature 10-inch-thick concrete floors, twice as much as in most residential buildings. The average size of a unit would be 3,000 square feet. "He hasn't talked about any price points yet, so it'll be interesting to see what he comes up with," said Ritchey.

The biggest gasps of the afternoon occurred when Ritchey flashed a few numbers on the screen. In 1993, when Ritchey bought a condo in Reston's Oak Park complex, he said, the average price was $120 a square foot. The Midtown East condo complex built by KSI Services Inc. in the town center recently sold out at $525 to $600 per square foot, he told the audience.

Where's the affordable housing, asked Stephanie Y. Abbott, who identified herself as a 26-year Reston resident and owner of a financial services business.

Both Ritchey and Looney said the development community was concerned about the issue, and they assured those in the crowd that they would hear more about affordable housing efforts.

"It worries me," Abbott said after the presentation. "I don't want Reston to be a sterile playground for wealthy people."

Jobless Rate Among Lowest

Virginia's jobless rate is the second lowest in the United States, at 3.5 percent, beaten only by Hawaii's 2.7 percent.

According to the latest numbers from the Virginia Employment Commission, Northern Virginia added 40,200 jobs from September 2004 to September 2005. Though job growth slipped a bit from the previous year, the region still created more jobs than the entire rest of the state.

Firms Win Venture Capital

Eight Fairfax County technology firms received $70.7 million in venture capital in the third quarter of 2005, according to a news release from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Vienna-based Internet service provider RaySat Inc., for example, attracted $27 million. Internet telephone service provider SunRocket Inc., also based in Vienna, got $25 million.

Movers and Shakers

Vienna-based Convera Corp. has named former Sprint Corp. executive Kurt C. Gastrock as its chief operating officer. Gastrock most recently served as vice president and general manager of Sprint wireless sites.

Have news about business in Fairfax County? Send an e-mail tosilvermane@washpost.comor call 703-383-5103.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company