After spending 10 years situated in three rooms beneath a high rise, the Greater Reston Arts Center is moving into two vacant historic buildings near the Dulles Toll Road.
Last week the building's owners, Sunset Hills Land Co. Ltd., donated the turn-of-the-century brick buildings to the arts group after the group agreed to pay for renovations of the run-down structures and pledged not to demolish the buildings or lease them to another organization.
The Greater Reston Arts Center is a 400-member private, nonprofit cultural arts league. It sponsors films, lectures, exhibits and other cultural events in the greater Reston area, which also includes the towns of Great Falls and Herndon.
"We've had our eye on those buildings with some intensity for several years," said William (Mac) Webner, arts center president. "But [Sunset Hills Land Co.'s] plans didn't gel until recently and there we were, standing here with our hands out."
Webner said renovation costs for the two buildings could run between $250,000 and $500,000. He said it was too early to determine how his group would raise those funds, but added he expects "the corporate community . . . and the citizenry to contribute."
William J. Fogarty, president of Sunset Hills Land Co., said the company decided to donate the structures to the arts group because the firm recently completed final design plans for a proposed commercial office complex to be located near the old buildings. Fogarty said the company considered turning the dilapidated buildings into offices, but "thought it would be more beneficial to the community, in general, to have the buildings preserved."
He said the donated buildings are between 50 and 80 years old and are "unsightly."
"We didn't want to just give [the buildings] to them and have them sit there like they are," Fogarty said. "We thought there would be community effort to raise enough funds to do the renovations of the buildings."
Webner said the group wanted to have the buildings inspected to make sure they were structurally sound before the organization agreed to take over their ownership.
"There are businessmen on our board and so we have some questions, such as the zoning there, that need to be looked into and answered before anything," Webner said. "We don't want to get ourselves into a position where we took on more than we can accomplish. But it all seems 'doable.' "
The arts center currently occupies 2,500 square feet on the ground level of the Heron House, Reston's only high-rise apartment building. It occupies three rooms that contain a gallery and a crafts shop; arts league-sponsored classes are usually held at the nearby community center.
Webner said the art center's main gallery would remain in the Heron House and the new buildings would be used for art classes, rehearsal space for the town's theater and music groups and administrative offices.