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

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.”

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