Herndon starts preparing for the coming of Metro

By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, August 30, 2010; 18

Next stop on the transit-oriented planning train: Herndon.

Fairfax County officials have already completed the task of amending a master plan for Tysons Corner, where four Metro stops are under construction and set to open in 2013. Now town officials in Herndon are beginning to consider zoning changes to guide development around the Herndon-Monroe station, set to open in 2016 along with five other stations.

Herndon commissioned a study of about 150 acres around the planned Metro station by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, a transit and land-use consulting firm based in Watertown, Mass., to determine what densities and uses will be permitted when Metro arrives.

Once the study and a public vetting process is complete, proposed changes could go before the town planning commission by December and go before the town council in early 2011.

The station is planned for the median of the Dulles Toll Road east of the intersection with Monroe Street, near an existing kiss-and-ride. To be built at ground level, it will have pedestrian entrances on both sides of the Toll Road. The town is studying what densities to offer on the north side of the Toll Road, looking a half-mile out or more out, where there is currently a mix of suburban office parks equipped with surface level parking lots.

"For the most part it's an area that developed in an office campus environment, a lot of it during the 1980s," said Dana Heiberg, a senior planner for the town.

Heiberg said that although little new development has been proposed at this point, the town had already begun holding public meetings and the most recent drew more than 100 residents. "It's a question of at some point, redevelopment is likely with a Metrorail station, but there are a lot of issues to work with the community on as to what is the type of redevelopment [that] is acceptable," he said.

Two major office park owners will enjoy immediate access to the new station from the Herndon side of the Toll Road. One is Inland American Real Estate Trust, of Oak Brook, Ill., which purchased the four eight-story buildings that make up the Worldgate Office Park in 2007 from Boston Properties, which developed them. The other is Brandywine Realty Trust, of Radnor, Pa., which owns Presidents Plaza, a two-building office complex totaling nearly 200,000 square feet.

Kay Robertson, senior project planner for the town, said the highest densities were likely to be given for property holders within one-quarter mile of the new station, as in Tysons. Areas of single-family homes, even within a half-mile of the station, aren't being studied at all. "We want to preserve those neighborhoods the way they are," she said.

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