Downtown Herndon Redevelopment: Latest Update

After numerous work sessions and public hearings the Town of Herndon’s Heritage Preservation Review Board (HPRB) approved site plans by unanimous vote on May 15th for the historic downtown redevelopment. If you live in the town chances are this is old news and while I can’t speak to the timeline on when the work will start, I can provide a clearer picture of what will replace the ArtSpace building, old Subaru dealership, and open space of the new development site. For those who haven’t been following the development the approved plans are for the space between Elden St. and the W&OD trail with Center St. and Station Street serving as the adjoining boundaries (refer to pic below).

Downtown development location

That said, you’re probably wondering what is to come especially after all the delays and design revisions. The downtown redevelopment will consist of 273 residential units, approx. 17,000 sq ft of retail space, 18,000 sq ft Arts Center shell, and a eight level parking structure. The development will be broken up into 3 separate blocks:

Block A: Located north of Vine St, will be a 4 story residential building. Thoughtful features include a landscaped ground floor courtyard facing the W&OD trail and the building will include design features that complement the residential character of Center St. The overall development is divided into blocks to reduce the scale of the buildings and complement the character of the town.

Block B: Consists of the garage structure, which is primarily above ground with one level below grade. This section of the development will be wrapped by residential buildings on all sides. Buildings along Center St will be 3 stories, with individual unit entries and English basements similar to the homes on the other side of the street. The frontage along Elden St includes ground floor retail with 3 stories of residential units above. Buildings around the new pedestrian street/arts walk and the north side along Vine St will feature ground floor loft units with high ceilings.

Block C: Consists of ground floor retail along Station St with the Art Center located on around the corner on the extended Vine St so it will be visible from the W&OD Trail. The Center will also have frontage along the Pedestrian Street/Art Walk. Three stories of residential units will be above with a small landscaped courtyard and bridges connecting to the garage building.

Understandably, there are residents who are anti-downtown development but what the town, Heritage Preservation Board, and Comstock don’t get enough credit for is the amount of effort and thought they put into architectural plans and building materials to ensure the development isn’t just another condo building and complements the historic downtown. Comstock worked diligently with the HPRB, the Town Of Herndon, and community over the course of 10 working sessions, public hearings, and comments over the last year to make the development happen. Developer representative Noah Klein said, “The evolution of the design over the course of 10 work sessions speaks to Comstock’s commitment to achieve a design that brings the life of the development envisioned by the Downtown Master Plan, recognizes the goals of the History Overlay District, and honors the period architecture of the downtown Herndon’s historic heritage.”

Some examples of the plan modifications they made during the reiterative phase can be found in the slideshow below. Thoughtful touches such as mirroring the facade of the old Subaru building on one of the new buildings off Elden St., changing to industrial steel materials on the pedestrian bridges, revising additional buildings to include era style facades, and going with brick material on the parking garage more reflect the town history.

The new plan meets the standards laid out in the Heritage Preservation Handbook especially addressing the height concerns by incorporating stepped parapet rooflines to reduce visual impact of the redevelopment. Comstock made sure building heights were consistent with requirements stating, “The average height for the residential building of Block A is 48.6’– well below the permissible maximum height allowed of 54’ as provided in the proffers for ZMA#15-101.”

Staff analysis of the approved plans stated, “The various architectural styles employed are meant to reflect the styles prevalent during the District’s period of significance in the late 18th and early 19th centuries with a few mid-19th century compositions…The proposed detailing and styling reflect several of these structures. The notable architectural detailing ensures that high style adoration is avoided but sensitively/subtly incorporated in each ‘building section’ which is consistent with the historic character of the district. The factory/warehouse design of the facades along the Arts Walk give a nod to the reminiscent industrial focus of the downtown area, which had mills and warehouses when the railroad was active.” (Staff Report – HPRB #19-19 April 26, 2019 )

Architects on the project drew inspiration from mid-19th century buildings in Richmond and Charlottesville and a portion of the buildings facade replicates car dealership buildings during that era as they had local significance. The WO&D railroad had a significant impact on the town’s history and the architects thoughtfully incorporated accented railroad ties into the pavement and landscape beds close to the WO&D trail. Large tree boxes are on rails for the practical purpose of being moved for events while recalling the railroad history, and the pedestrian bridge connecting building A and B has cross-hatching accents which points back to Herndon’s heritage and the critical role the railroad played.

Two features that will help make it a vibrant place to visit are the art walk and fountain located in the courtyard off Station St. The art walk will feature strand lights, decorative railroad rails that also serve as tracks for the movable planters, and exhibit space for artwork (refer to pictures below). Some renderings of the fountain have been included below and if similar to the fountain at Fairfax Corner it will be a draw for families and kids.

Full concept plan can be found here and architectural plans can be found here.

The Art Space, future shops, and restaurants will be attractions for the entire Herndon community. The commercial spaces at Junction Square are filling up with a nice mix of businesses including Trisha Adam’s art studio, Town Barber shop, VB Juice Bar, Miragold International Foods, and a burger joint call BurgerIM. The new development should attract similar businesses who like the charm of a historic downtown location.

According to meeting notes, “Demolition shall not occur until financing of the project is secured, or filing of a building permit, or the beginning of construction, whichever occurs first” so we’ll see when demolition starts but word on the street is that the Herndon Festival was moved this year in anticipation of the work. Either way, if you pay attention to the Homebeat Instagram account (@herndonhomebeat) you’ll see pictures of the work when it starts!

-Dave

(Images and quotes via Heritage Preservation Review Board public hearing on May 15th, 2019)

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