Reston Town Center won’t really be served by Metro until the second leg of the Silver Line opens in 2018 or later. The closest existing station, Wiehle-Reston East, is more than a mile away and even the future stations aren’t immediately adjacent to Reston Town Center. Reston is also a 20-mile drive from D.C.
But while multiple projects in Tysons, most notably Macerich’s Tysons Tower, are attempting to combine enough new uses to create dense, walkable areas, none are likely to catch Reston Town Center any time soon.
Working off a plan devised by Robert Simon 50 years ago, a four-block area of Reston Town Center combines 2.8 million square feet of office, 50 shops, 30 restaurants and three residential high-rises.
Tysons, to this point, still doesn’t really have any areas with a walkable grid of blocks, much less a neighborhood or node that dense.
“Reston was just set up to have density. Employees who work there can go out and get their lunch, they can go get drinks afterward, they can go shopping,” said Sarah Dreyer, director of Mid-Atlantic research for Cushman & Wakefield. “It seems that people are willing to pay a premium to be there.”
How much value is there in providing a walkable network of streets lined with restaurants and shops?
Reston is dominating the Northern Virginia office market, with companies sometimes willing to pay 30 percent or more in rent to be in Reston Town Center instead of other neighborhoods, according to research from the real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield.
Looking at the advertised rental rates for office space, this has been happening for 10 years:
On a cost basis, Tysons isn’t even the biggest threat to Reston, Arlington is. But the premiums that Arlington landlords have been asking for along the Orange Line from the Rosslyn to Ballston stations have been complicated by the pending departure of government agencies for cheaper digs and the unwillingness of tenants to pay the rents being asked for at 1812 North Moore, the Rosslyn tower that is the largest in the region.
But vacancy in Northern Virginia and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in particular have risen dramatically recently. Meanwhile, the vacancy rate in Reston has plunged downward in the last few years as companies scramble into available space:
Dreyer points out that some of the newer offices in Tysons are shaping up as strong competitors to buildings in Reston, particularly those that can offer closer access to the Silver Line than Reston Town Center will be able to. But the plan for Tysons is four years old. The plan for Reston is 50 years old. That’s a 46-year head start.