Who We Are
The Wharf is a community of 55 contemporary townhomes in Reston, VA clustered around two ponds and built in the architectural style of a New England fishing village. The Wharf, located on top of a hill at the highest point in Reston overlooking Lake Audubon, is distinguished by its unconventional design and a history unusual in a suburban townhouse community. The design nurtures the ecosystem and promotes community spirit.
The Wharf was born in in 1977 from an idea by Reston architect Michael Oxman. "When I decided to become a townhouse developer for my own design," he said in a 1977 architectural magazine review, "I looked first at some lakefront property. Trouble is, only 20 percent of the townhouses on those sites are actually on the water. Those sell quickly, then there is often a long period trying to sell the off-water homes." (AE Concepts in Wood Design, Jan-Feb 1978, p. 9).
Construction began in the fall of 1979 and the first units were completed in 1981. By the end of 1983, all 29 of the west pond homes had been sold, and homeowners met to set up The Wharf Cluster Association. They elected the first Board of Directors in early 1984.
In late 1985, plans were submitted to Fairfax County and The Wharf Cluster Association to construct the east pond and 26 new homes around it. Construction commenced in the spring of 1986. By the summer of 1988, homes on the east pond were complete and most had been sold. The Wharf Cluster Association board worked closely with Fairfax County and the William B. Hopke Company to insure the integrity of the new pond. On October 28, 1991, The Wharf held an outdoor party to celebrate the completion of the east pond. Fairfax County Supervisor Martha Pennino attended and did the honors of cutting the ribbon for the east pond's dedication.
Construction of the East Pond, summer 1985.
Photos courtesy of Gale and John Garziglia, used with permission.
The Design of the Wharf
A discrete advertisement appeared in The Reston Times in August 1977 announcing the creation of a new community within Reston. Fairfax County Supervisor Martha Pennino called The Wharf "very exciting and very innovative" (The Washington Post, Oct 18, 1977). When he submitted the project for Reston Community Association (RCA) approval, the RCA President referred to The Wharf as "an example of excellent design". The RCA Committee on Planning and Zoning, in recommending approval of the site plan, also commended the project's builder "for coming up with one of the more innovative and exciting housing arrangements in the history of Reston." (The Reston Times, April 4, 1978).
The Wharf Ecosystem
The Wharf ecosystem includes its water systems, animal life, vegetation and infrastructure. The water systems include two warm-water fish ponds, an outflow pond, a creek, a waterfall and fountains. These enhance the visual beauty of the area and serve to bring residents together. Many animals besides fish live in the ponds. Frogs, ducks, turtles and birds are commonly seen during the spring and summer. Canada geese, once a migratory species, are now native to our area. Vegetation at The Wharf consists of grasses, trees, bushes and flowers around the ponds and creek as well as along the perimeter of the community and residences. Native species are used in all new plantings. Infrastructure in The Wharf includes light poles, sidewalks, parking, community roads, bridges and paths as well as the water systems.
Water features are not the only areas owned by The Wharf community. The cluster entrances, bridges, parking lots, mailbox areas and grounds along the perimeter of the property are common areas. Some planted areas between and beside privately-owned homes are also designated as common property. The Wharf Cluster Association Board of Directors determines when items such as trees and bushes may be added or removed from the common property.
Our ponds are part of a delicate ecosystem. Because The Wharf is located at one of the highest points in Reston, the ponds are not runoff ponds like other Reston lakes. Water is provided by fresh water wells that are turned on for a few hours each day to compensate for water lost from evaporation
The Wharf ponds are warm-water fish ponds. They are stocked with bluegill sunfish and large-mouth bass. Sunfish eat mosquito larvae and bass control the sunfish population.
The west pond is lined with Volclay® SG-40; the east and outflow ponds are lined with BENTOMAT®. Both liners use bentonite clay to minimize seepage. A creek separates the east and west ponds. It is the only area where water from both ponds may mix. Water from an outflow pond feeds a waterfall and recycles through the system. This runoff system prevents our homes from flooding during periods of heavy rain.
The Wharf uses a variety of methods to move water around the ponds in order to help the fish to breathe and to reduce the growth of algae. A series of coves contain waterfalls or fountains that cascade over a pile of rocks. These rocks conceal some of the electrical outlets that allow various water features to operate. Riprap helps to strengthen the clay walls of the pond and control soil erosion. River rock controls erosion but is more visually appealing than the grey rock. By helping to keep the water moving, the waterfall and fountains add to the visual beauty of the community.
The ponds experience approximately two algae blooms a year. Filamentous algae grows on the pond bottom. We control its growth by adding an organic, non-toxic dye used by the U.S. Park Service that gives the water a dark blue hue to prevent sunlight from penetrating into the water.