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Organizers Say Town Center Parking Protest Was A ‘Huge Success’

by Dave Emke — March 6, 2017 at 10:15 am 52 Comments

Hundreds of displeased residents braved chilly temperatures Saturday to participate in a march to protest paid parking at Reston Town Center.

“We believe it’s a huge success, despite the cold weather,” organizer Guarang Shah said. “Final numbers are 450-plus.”

Reston Town Center patrons and business owners have been making their displeasure known since RTC owners Boston Properties announced last year their plan to institute paid parking. The initiative went into effect Jan. 3, after which businesses have said their customer base has dwindled.

The throng of protesters began their afternoon march in the parking lot of Winwood Children’s Center on New Dominion Parkway. Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery at RTC, stood among the protesters in the parking lot and said the support shown by local residents means a lot to merchants affected by the decision by RTC owners Boston Properties.

“It feels like we’re not the only ones in this battle; it feels like everyone has the same anger,” Gordon said. “We’ve been making the argument that we’re down in sales and customers are no longer coming, and this proves our point.”

The protesters were not given permission by Boston Properties to march within Reston Town Center; however, the marchers’ path did cut through — under the close eye of security — as they worked their way back to New Dominion Parkway. After looping around Not Your Average Joe’s, the protesters lined up along the parkway and were greeted by a large amount of honked support from passing motorists.

Marchers were encouraged to document the event on social media with the hashtag #parkfreertc.

Boston Properties has said that the paid parking initiative is “here to stay” and that the distress claimed by businesses is being overblown. Gordon, who is organizing a group of merchants considering legal action against Boston Properties, said he is hopeful that the company will eventually see business in the Town Center is down “disastrously” and will have a change of heart.

“If there are 500 people out here, that represents 50,000 people that feel the exact same way,” Gordon said. “Just as Boston Properties is saying they’re never going to take away paid parking, we’re never going to go away.”

Wendy Warren, of Herndon, was one of the former Town Center patrons who came out Saturday to support the cause. She said she and her family visited RTC two or three times a week prior to paid parking. Now, they go to the Mosaic District or One Loudoun instead.

“There are no other suburban shopping areas around here that have paid parking, or such a poorly designed app,” she said, citing concerns that have been raised by a number of people who’ve spoken out against the system’s ParkRTC app. Boston Properties insists the app is secure.

Wendy’s husband, William, said Boston Properties should consider a different approach to its paid-parking initiative.

“Three hours of free parking, so that you could come here for something like dinner,” he said. “They state they want it to guard against commuter parking, but they could easily accommodate for people who want to come use the amenities here at the Town Center.”

Shah said if Boston Properties didn’t take notice of Saturday’s protest, there will be more to come.

“If they don’t change their mind, there will be another march,” he said. “We are already planning another march that will take place in summertime.”

  • Scout

    I particularly liked the rent-a-cop BP hired – because we were such a dangerous group of middle aged boomers and plenty of millennial and gen sets – The rent-a-cop threatened to arrest some of us for being on the sidewalk – Way to make friends man!

    • Ted

      I wonder whats worse the rent-a-cop or a bunch of entitled people unwilling to pay to park?

      • Andrew M. Scott

        I think the worst one is the entitled jerkwad (yes, Ted, I’m referring to you), with a little too much money apparently to understand the disenfranchisement going on here, whining about people exercising their right to protest an elitist practice by a money-grubbing company.

        • Ted

          That’s fine just drive further to shop somewhere because you don’t wanna pay to park but will pay for the extra gas. Yes! That’s really a good idea

          • Guest

            Dinner and a movie is $5-6 of parking fees. Given people aren’t starting at RTC, and have plenty of close alternatives … how’s your gas mileage?

          • Me

            Don’t worry about me, pal. I drive a Prius. The extra gas won’t cost nearly as much as parking at RTC.

          • Scot

            Figured a person that’s drives a Prius would be so entitled.

      • meyerweb

        Why should we pay at RTC when every other area center is free? Simple economics, Ted.

        • Ted

          You don’t have to pay, you can go somewhere else, but will act so entitled?

          • abshih

            People aren’t entitled to express their opinion by protesting? Maybe North Korea is more suited for a person like you.

      • Scout

        You’re funny – what do you do at Boston Properties? You sound like maybe you’re the HR manager

        • Ted

          So because I have a different opinion means I work for Boston Properties? Amazing critical thinking skills!

          • JM

            That’s not a denial, is it? By the way, everyone knows who you are.

          • Mike M

            Um, . . . well, . . . for a while there everyone “knew” who I was too. But they were wrong.

          • The Constitutionalist

            So because we all have a different opinions than you, (we’re smarter with our money) we’re acting entitled. Amazing critical thinking skills!

            See how this works?

          • Ted

            3 or 4 dollars extra isn’t a big deal but I guess it is for you

          • The Constitutionalist

            Missed the point huh? That’s okay. If you re-read the comment enough times you’ll find it.

            How big of a deal will 3 or 4 extra dollars be 5 or 6 years from now? Might’ve been able to max out your IRA contribution for a year if you decided to shop somewhere else.

            You don’t have an IRA? Oh, go figure.

          • Ted

            It’s not like I exclusively go to Reston Town center or go there every day.

      • JRZ

        If you are a server in one of the many restaurants or a retail employee, the parking fee is not insignificant.

      • Reston Resident

        I’m fully entitled to take my business elsewhere, Ted, and I have.

      • Go home BP

        Entitlement? This is OUR community that this faceless, outsider corporation is trying to unravel through greed. Why do they think they are entitled to our money? Ted, you may pay for parking all day long if that’s what you like doing but again, this is OUR community and the community will fight these changes that nobody wanted in the first place.

        • Ted

          Haha it’s so easy to get everyone riled up. Wahhh I don’t wanna pay wahh he does so he must work for Boston Properties. Sinc JM can’t comprehend I don’t work for Boston Properites, I just think it’s funny that people are boycotting RTC.

          Let’s all be mad cause it’s our community and RTC has local business that will get screwed over. But hey let’s not go there and support those business because we have to pay to park.
          Did I get that right?

          • BooBots

            Not riled up, Ted. Not mad. Simply choosing where to patronize, and where not.

    • BP sucks but ,,,

      You should have dispensed some of your molotov cocktail justice because you know, anyone not on board with your anti authoritarian lifestyle should be annihilated.

      You re one popular guy, heil!

    • Chkitout1

      BP is simply being cheap and greedy. Their story about concern over commuters parking in RTC is a bunch of lies. BP is just interested in making more money at the expense of RTC businesses and customers. BP could have said the first 3 hours of parking is free and if you stay past the first 3 hours then you pay for the 3 hours plus whatever additional time you stayed. This would have solved the issue of commuter parking, however; it’s not about commuters. It’s all about greedy BP. I’ll continue to patronize businesses outside RTC.

    • BooBots

      <> Are you sure about that, Scout? The Security guy was keeping people ON the sidewalk, not out in the street obstructing traffic.

  • meyerweb

    I wasn’t there, but I’m on board. I haven’t been, and won’t go to, RTC as long as they a charging for parking. Period.

  • Greendayer

    Marching is nice, but not patronizing the Town Center is the best way to make a difference.

    • Rodney Dangerfield

      Indeed … it is sort of amusing that people are equating a private business deciding to charge for parking as “disenfranchisement”. The RTC is a private business enterprise and although open to the public, they are free to set rents and parking charges anywhere they wish … and the businesses and patrons in turn have the right to go elsewhere.

      I personally think it was a poorly conceived and poorly executed business decision that I would have never made if I were running BP, but the only people who may actually have a “right” to free parking there are some of the businesses whose leases call for it.

      By all means, continue to voice your opinions that they should offer complementary parking to keep it as wonderful as everyone thought it was before the new policy (and judging by the crowds that used to gather there, a lot of people thought it was), but don’t confuse this is a right being violated … that is just silly.

      • Phil Lilienthal

        Thanks for the more civil discussion. I disagree with you, not because BP has no “right” to charge, but because they are missing the point of what makes RTC and Reston special. The notion has been on community and ease of access to amenities. People are justified in feeling betrayed, or at least, let down, by BP squeezing the Town Center for more money when they have (or had) a golden goose. Really a shame that the people in Boston don’t get what Reston stands for. RTC is not another strip mall that people go to because it’s convenient. RTC is part of the community, but if anti-community measures, such as paid parking are presented and reasons are given (commuters, Dulles travelers, residents with more than one car using it) that are obviously fabricated, why shouldn’t the community go elsewhere. 3 hours of free parking will take care of all the abuse that BP talks about.

        • Why do you bother?

          ” because they DON’T GIVE A SH..T what makes RTC and Reston special.”

          Fixed that for you. BP is a business. It’s only interest is its bottom line.

          It’s not about what makes Reston special or any other emotional basis. This is about dollars. Period. The only action that can affect BP’s decision is to stop patronizing RTC – in other words, don’t give BP your money.

          • John Warren

            They’re losing business.

          • Why do you bother?

            GOOD.

      • BooBots

        No one is ‘entitled’ to free parking. The garages do not ‘belong to the people’. But, the free market is deciding that BP made a baaad business decision here. And, the free market is whipping their behinds.

    • Rent-a-cop

      100% agree!

  • Carol

    I personally don’t mind paying to park, its less crowed and no annoying kids running around. This of course is my opinion but people will probably think I work for Boson Properties because I don’t agree with them about paid parking.

    • Go home BP

      Interesting how all these different “guest accounts” in favor of BP’s greediness are suddenly popping here.

      And yes I’m aware I’m posting from a guest account too.

    • LC

      LOL! So the goal was to not have kids at RTC? Great…and I thought Reston was a family oriented town.

    • Reston Mom

      Yes Carol. I do think you work at Boston Properties. Try to do a better job next time. Read a little about Reston. It’s a family oriented community.

  • BooBots

    BP has the right to charge whatever they want for parking. Customers have the right to avoid RTC…and are staying away in droves. In other words, BP has the perfect right to make a bone-headed decision, and that is exactly what they’ve done.

  • Blue Shadow

    That protest was AWESOME !!! I saw all the RTC security scurrying around to keep an eye on the protest line. Haha! And WTF was up with that “promoted” open letter on Friday? It didn’t allow comments. Hope BP paid extra for that insulation!

  • 30yearsinreston

    Still not going
    Still not paying

  • Derek

    It’s the city life. If your town starts to look like a city, don’t be surprised when it starts getting charged like a city. Want free parking? Don’t live in Northern Virginia or D.C. Even most small cities in America have paid parking at this point. If anyone honestly thought that RTC would remain free forever, they are fooling themselves. RTC isn’t a small community with character and charm. It’s a small city with character and charm. Small cities tend to charge for parking. Downtown Leesburg is a small town. RTC resembles a city much more than it does a town. You enjoy some of the highest wages in the country in Northern Virginia, which translates into some of the highest prices for goods and services as well, not to mention ridiculous rent. There are plenty of places in the country to live that offers free parking, just not RTC. Does that still mean this is a good business decision for BC? No. Vote with your wallet. That doesn’t make this any less surprising.

    • Generic User

      That’s funny, I can think of lots of places in NOVA that are free to park.

  • Ann O’Nymous

    Paid parking is not inherently wrong — like it or not, RTC is private property and BP can do what they like — but BP’s implementation is an object lesson in What Not To Do.

    – Communications were horrible. Put BP on the back foot and they have never recovered. Hiring a crisis management firm, as BP have done, is, of course admission that they have lost control of the narrative.
    – the app is a privacy mess. BP tried to be too ambitious here and in doing so screwed up. And astroturfing positive reviews on the play/app store was an amateur move.
    – BP didn’t think through the validation system. No one cares what color garage they parked in when they are shopping.
    – BP’s apparent intransigence just pisses people off and hardens their resolve

    BP could have pulled paid parking off, but they screwed up badly and now they are on the back foot. If they want to consult with me, I’m waiting.

    • JoeInReston

      Your critique on BP’s paid parking layout is just the tip of the iceberg in terms poor implementation.

      – no leeway to do fast food pick up from Chipotle, Pot Bellies, Sweetgreens
      – having to pay when you arrive, forcing you to estimate your time in advance
      – forcing you to provide your car make/model/ and license number
      – 7 garages, 4 parking kiosks = why not put a parking kiosks or three in each garage?
      – parking kiosks that won’t provide change
      – validation credits that are only good for the next visit if not using
      the app (I read that awhile back, not sure if that is still the case)
      – repeatedly invoking the same tired arguments, obviously not listening and responding to community rebuttals

      Plenty more…

  • Generic User

    Drove through RTC today and tumbleweed almost hit my car. Although there were tons of security guards around. Guess they have been posted to look for Free RTC activists.

  • Dgeorge

    In some ways Boston Prop has done a service to Reston and the area. My family of eight people (three families) used to consider RTC as a no-brainer. A place for birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations of all manner. We were regulars at Mon Ami, PasionFish, Bow tie, etc.
    Since Jan 3rd ( a date that will live in infamy) we have rediscovered how rich this area is in Restaurants and entertainment. Indeed we have discovered that the Brasserie at Chez Francois in Great Falls serves a great Brunch on weekends and it is less expensive than Mon Ami. The Old Brogue in Great Falls has seen a surge in business as has Jimmies Old Town Tavern in Herndon. This area has the potential ( if it hasn’t already) to make the RTC irrelevant. Our family will not return to RTC with the parking as it is but more importantly perhaps we will not return even if BP relents. I and two friends were invited to lunch at Mortons yesterday. Two of us said we would not park there so the invitation was moved to Zefferelis in Herndon. I had the veal marsala and it was delicious. RTC recedes in my rear view mirror.

    • Edward Calvert

      Old brogue has a nice Sunday brunch !

  • Paul Beda

    The parking was never “free”. The cost of the parking was implicitly included in the tenants’ rents. Now BP is getting it both ways, and so are the tenants. I will not pay for parking in RTC. Like everyone else, I’ll go to Tysons, Tysons II, Fair Oaks, Mosaic, One Leesburg – there are PLENTY of other choices.

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