Reston Performing Arts Center decision delayed for 6 months: Alcorn

RESTON, VA – Residents of Fairfax County will have more time to weigh in on whether or not to build a 60,000 square foot visual and performing arts center at Reston Town Center.

“The Department of Planning and Development yesterday approved a request from Boston Properties on an interpretation of the offer, essentially to extend the time period within which the county must choose between two options in the offer for the approved development,” a said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn. Patch said Tuesday afternoon.

As part of the next phase of Reston Town Center (Block J) development, developer Boston Properties has entered into a bid agreement to provide space for the performing arts center.

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The county had until the end of July to decide whether to use the space for the performing arts center or a park. The Board of Supervisors may also require Boston Properties to provide a ball diamond elsewhere in the county.

“These are the choices in the offering and most of the work was done by the arts center,” Alcorn said. “But it gives the opportunity for more public comment and input on the decision people think the oversight board should make.”

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A 2019 survey conducted by the Reston Community Center determined that two-thirds (68%) of residents who responded were interested in a larger performing arts center in Reston. Additionally, 80% said they were somewhat in favor of RCC operating the arts venue if it was built by a developer, and 68% said they were in favor or very in favor.

Regarding funding for the arts centre, 56% of respondents said they were in favor of RCC funding the construction of the new arts center through a bond issue. This was broken down into 14% very favorable, 24% favorable and 18% somewhat favorable. The remaining 32% of respondents were not in favor of issuing bonds as a means of financing.

Since February, the RCC has been holding a series of meetings to solicit public input on the performing arts center. On June 28, the RCC released the Reston Arts Center Feasibility Study, which looked at the different types of performance and other artistic resources that could be built at Site J. The study did not identify any source funding for the center.

Several members of the public criticized the lack of information on the financing of the project. Patch published a letter to the editor last week from Reston resident Terry Maynard who said the performing arts center was not needed.

“I’m sure I don’t want to spend the extra money each year in taxes to have a Reston VPAC built and operated at the expense of the Reston community, and I doubt many of your readers will either,” he said. -he writes. “This is especially true when Reston has so many greater needs, not just amenities, such as schools, city parks and a renewed regional library.”

One of the reasons Alcorn asked Boston Properties for the extension was to allow the public more time to ask questions about the project and provide feedback.

“I will at least hold a public meeting on this topic in the fall,” he said. “I want to review all documents from the RCC and other sources and other documents provided by members of the community on the potential arts centre.”

How the performing arts center will be funded was a point of debate at Monday night’s meeting of the task force responsible for updating the county plan that governs development in Reston.

Related: How much will the arts center cost the taxpayers of Reston? : Letter to the editor

Since the release of draft recommendations from the Reston Comprehensive Plan Study Task Force in February, county staff have been reviewing the recommendations to align the language with county planning best practices and procedures.

Beginning May 16, the task force began meeting again to review recommendations from county staff, hammer out differences, and vote on the final language for each of the 12 study areas.

The arts center was only mentioned once in the public facilities portion of the task force’s recommendations released in February:

“A location for a proposed Reston Performing Arts Center is identified, pending identification of a source of funding from countywide or private entities.”

This language remained unchanged after county staff returned their markup to the working group on June 6.

But, over the past week, the language for which the task was being considered has been updated to identify the RCC as the funding source:

“A location for a proposed Reston Performing Arts Center is identified adjacent to the Reston Town Center subway station, pending identification of a funding source which may include Fairfax County, private entities and/or RCC.”

Related: The Reston Plan Study Working Group will assess initial feedback on the recommendations

Prior to Monday evening’s meeting, the reference to the RCC had been removed and updated with new language:

“A location for a proposed Reston Arts Center is identified adjacent to the Reston Town Center subway station, pending identification of Fairfax County Capital Project funding resources, other public entities (state, federal , local) and contributions from the private sector. Likewise, the operator will be asked for an identity document.

Members of the working group debated for about an hour on Monday evening whether to include the new language or revert to the original passage that did not identify a specific funding source. Several people said that language identifying a specific funding source should not be part of the overall plan.

Since the working group had questions about other parts of the public facilities section, members voted to defer a decision to a future meeting.

Alcorn agreed that the Global Plan Working Group was not the right place to discuss funding for the arts centre.

“All funding decisions will be made by the oversight board,” he said. “It’s not a decision of the RCC. It’s the supervisory board.”

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