People jog through Herndon, Virginia. New development plans would make the area more cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly, but does it go far enough? Image by Elvert Barnes licensed under Creative Commons.

Herndon has the opportunity to redevelop a series of aging office buildings on Herndon Parkway in conjunction with the opening of the nearby Metro station in 2020. The new transit-oriented area is designed to add more residential and commercial space, and to serve as a transition between residential areas and taller, denser buildings closer to the station entrance.

The first part of the redevelopment, replacing a three-story office building at 625 Herndon Parkway with a residential-only complex, is currently under construction. However, without more retail, the entire project feels like a missed opportunity to create vibrancy and walkability in the neighborhood.

This context map shows the existing Metro line and station, as well as the future Herndon-Monroe station. Image by Town of Herndon.

Here's what's happening in Herndon

The new construction is in the transition area between existing houses and more intense building closer to the station entrance. The developer, Stanley Martin Homes, is also building 64 two-over-two stacked townhomes (also part of the 625 Herndon Parkway development) on the corner of Van Buren Rd and Herndon Parkway. 

The town’s Transit-Oriented Core plan encourages developers to construct more residential units, given the proximity to transit and the current lack of housing on this stretch of the parkway. However, without a retail component such as a coffee shop, the town will miss out on creating some vibrancy in this corner.

The areas outlined in pink are active project sites in Herndon. Image by Town of Herndon.

Eight property owners control the 38 acres on Herndon Parkway between Van Buren and Spring Streets, which is slated to be redeveloped as part of the Herndon Metro Station Area Plan. Currently, there's a jumble of single-story and low rise offices, light industrial buildings, and a hotel.

It is surrounded by single-family homes, townhomes, and a park on one side, with retail and office space on the other. The target goal, as reported in Reston Now, is to “add 2,400 residential units and 3.1 million square feet of additional commercial space.”

Existing development is shown in white, while planned development is in orange. Image by Town of Herndon.

Some of the buildings near the incoming Metro entrance are expected to be up to 20 stories tall, and they may contain mixed-use developments as well. According to the Town of Herndon's project website, the concept includes three or four towers with 225- to 275-foot building heights, five- to seven-story podium parking garages, a new ground floor retail street, new streetscapes, and public open spaces.

For example, the submitted design plan to replace an office building that currently faces the Dulles Toll Road at 555 Herndon Parkway includes retail, office, and residential space.

This is an aerial view of the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and future site of the Herndon Metro stop. Image by Google Maps.

The town should add more retail to facilitate walking and biking residents

Herndon has many pockets of residential, office and retail blended together, such as McNair Farms and Woodland Park on the Fairfax side. While a bit dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, residents have walkable access to grocery stores, restaurants, and services. However, adding more options and making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists would be beneficial.

For example, on Spring Street, there is a pocket of townhomes in the middle of office and light industrial buildings, including storage facilities and a brewery. Adding a couple of small footprint services or retail to the 625 Herndon Parkway project would serve residents, office workers, and Metro riders alike without increasing vehicle traffic too much.

For now, we will have to wait to see future plans for the remaining buildout of the transit area. What do you think the town should do with this project?

Kristy Cartier grew up in Vienna near Wolftrap and now resides in Herndon. She is on the board of Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park and has a master in agricultural economics. Kristy may market vehicle telematics, but she wants to see more walkable areas in Fairfax County.