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Reston Town Center Merchants: Paid Parking is ‘Tearing the Fabric of Who We Are’

by RestonNow.com March 10, 2017 at 12:30 pm 70 Comments

Park Free RTC protestThe following open letter by Aaron Gordon of the Reston Merchants Association is offered in response to the open letter penned by Boston Properties that appeared on Reston Now on March 3.

Dear Fellow Community Members,

Reston is a unique place. Besides living, working and playing here, we are a close-knit group, brought together by the desire to know each other and to be part of a distinct community. Boston Properties’ implementation of a paid parking system is tearing the fabric of who we are, how we choose to live and what we do within Reston.

For 26 years, we have enjoyed the ability to park in Reston Town Center, meet friends or be alone, go to work, walk around, shop (or not), dine and take advantage of the entertainment opportunities. The Town Center has been a formal and informal gathering place, a place that often costs nothing to use, but provides much enjoyment.

Sadly, Boston Properties’ decision to install paid parking has turned a once vibrant community into just another mall.

Boston Properties has given many excuses over the past year for its decision to institute paid parking. Excuses like parking convenience and combatting Metro commuters. Don’t let them fool you … the truth is there is only one reason to charge for parking — profit.

Ray Ritchie, Executive Vice President of Boston Properties, set out his case back in 2011, when in a shareholders call, he laid out just how much money the company would make by charging us for parking. Ritchie outlined that the paid parking plan would make Boston Properties $8 million per year and would be worth $130 million of additional value to the company.

On March 3, 2017, Boston Properties, in an open letter to the community published in Reston Now, stated that their three primary goals for activating paid parking include protecting parking rights for the RTC tenants and visitors, enhancing the parking experience of tenants, visitors and patron and augmenting revenues dedicated to reinvestment in the Reston community.

In the same letter, Boston Properties listed a series of reasons attempting to validate their paid parking program. We find many of these justifications to be inaccurate and offensive and underscores Boston Properties’ overreach.

Paid parking will help manage unwarranted commuter parking.
Commuter parking was never the issue. It is easily solvable by instituting 3-4 hours free parking and charging commuters. Also, Boston Properties lumps overnight and out-of-town parking into this category. This is different from commuter parking. Boston Properties’ paid parking plan is an overreach designed to add revenue for the company.

Boston Properties is committed to assisting retailers during this period.
There is not “regular communication” and “open and honest dialogue.” Rather, Boston Properties gives the same automated answer to everyone, which is to say that it will take months to analyze the situation and right now it is too early to formulate any conclusions.

Paid parking is not having the adverse impact that has been reported.
Why would merchants be so upset if their numbers were not down dramatically?

Boston Properties’ statement is not accurate. Of course paid parking and the onerous parking system has had, and is having, an adverse effect. Most of the retailers have indicated that paid parking has been a disaster for business and projected sales are down dramatically. We are losing long-time customers who may never return. If this continues, many merchants have indicated that they will not be in business long.

Each retailer chooses whether or where to validate parking.
We find it galling that Boston Properties is actually attempting to muddy the waters and place the parking fiasco on the merchants of Town Center!

Boston Properties, which already charges some of the highest rent in the area, now wants its merchants to pay them for validation as well. Validation is extremely costly for every merchant and not workable for stores whose standard items are low value like coffee, baked goods or ice cream. Many merchants simply don’t make enough revenue to pay additional fees for parking. Additionally, it is absurd to expect guests and shoppers to have to figure out which retailer participates in the validation program and where, if the store participates, they may park.

No retailers have closed as a result of paid parking.
Two stores, Origins and BGR Burger, have recently closed and one said that the new paid parking was the “nail in the coffin.” At least one other store has indicated that it will leave when its lease is up in a year. And, new merchants are already shying away from RTC due to the disastrous impact of paid parking.

Boston Properties has already made a number of changes based on customer feedback, including offering: free parking in garages on weekends, holidays and special event days; doubling the number of parking ambassadors, primarily at night to assist retail shoppers; installing additional onsite educational signage; adding a list of validating retailers to the ParkRTC app; regularly updating FAQs on the website.
There is much confusion about this. As it turns out, free parking does not include street parking. It was also not free on MLK Day. And “special event” means any day that Boston Properties deems special, usually an event they are running to benefit their brand.

The “parking ambassadors” are unfriendly and not helpful, and seem to be on hand mostly to warn you that you must pay. They are not knowledgeable about the system and generally can’t help guests figure it out.

Educational signage? The signage is not succinct and/or user-friendly. One customer — an astronaut! — was having trouble figuring it all out in a timely fashion, and complained to the proprietor of the store she was in.

Stop adding things to the app. Treat all retailers the same. Give everyone the same advantage in attracting shoppers. We want everyone to succeed.

As for updating the app, you can update it every day and people still won’t care. People want free and safe parking.

The ParkRTC app is secure to use, and most daily parkers are paying using the app.
The app gets a terrible 1 1/2 stars out of 5 on its reviews from the app store. Users say they don’t trust it, and many wonder why Boston Properties needs all this information about RTC patrons.

Boston Properties remains dedicated to nonprofit fundraising.
Yes, Boston Properties scheduled its last nonprofit fundraiser to coincide with the rally residents and merchants organized against paid parking at the same time on the same day. They did everything they could to limit the protest, including restricting the group from rallying on Reston Town Center property.

Boston Properties remains committed to this paid parking model which they believe meets the objective above.
The longer this situation goes on, and with no negotiating with Boston Properties, the more people will go elsewhere, the harder it will be to bring them back and the community as a whole will become less desirable.

Boston Properties will continue to support our community’s strategic plan.
If the plan is to destroy Reston Town Center, this is the path to take. If the plan is beyond making more revenue, providing conveniences, services, and a gathering place for people to live, work and play, Boston Properties must reconsider the parking program they have implemented.

Aaron Gordon
Reston Merchants Association
[email protected]

  • Willie Reston


    • Collin Hughes

      The news is for grownups and bigger kids. tl;dr “Too long; didn’t read” is a ridiculous comment for a news article regardless of how you feel on the topic. Youtube may suit you better.

      • Willie Reston

        Relax, Collin.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Thanks, no one cares.

      • Eric Foreman

        But you did enough to reply

    • JoeInReston

      One sentence summary – paid parking has sucked for RTC merchants.

  • EliteinReston

    Coming from the merchants, Gordon’s letter is devastating for Boston Properties. The town center, which has been Reston’s focal point for 26 years, has been needlessly dragged through a year-long controversy that was entirely avoidable. There is still a way out for Boston Properties that allows the company to add revenue while showing it is willing to compromise with a community that is willing to help them with the [future] commuter parking problem: Allow free parking on weeknights after rush hours, and permit town center patrons to park free for a few hours during commuting hours.

    • Martine

      Of course there is. But they won’t do it because they are lying about the reason for putting this system in place. It has very little to do with commuters and everything to do with extra revenue. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a day of parking in RTC is $24. In downtown DC, you can park for $16. I think that clears up any controversy as to what BP is trying to achieve. More money so they can pay more dividends to their investors. How original…

      • Collin Hughes

        Exactly, if this was about commuters, the full day price would be at most $5 (the same most metro garages charge). No one is going to pay the same to walk further to the non functional metro.

        • Rational Reston

          BP is trying to discourage daily parking at RTC for Metro. Remember that the RTC Metro station will not have a parking facility. So $24 being much greater than the $5 at a Metro garage makes parking at RTC while you hop on a train a ridiculous proposition.

          If it were $5, or $6, or maybe even $7 there would be some number of people who would accept that extra cost and walk to the RTC Metro.

          But BP is trying to create a new revenue stream, and they’ve made a clumsy and complicated one at that.

          Personally, I don’t care, because there’s rarely anything at RTC that has interested me. I think I’ve been 20 times in 16 years.

          • Brinn

            Except you can still buy a monthly parking pass for $70, which is actually cheaper over the month than the $5/day at metro. And there are no restrictions on who can buy a parking pass. It has absolutely nothing to do with commuters — in fact, BP WANTS commuters because they get all the money and don’t have to provide any of the services.

            It’s a blatant cash grab and it has never been anything else.

          • Rational Reston

            I had no idea BP offered a monthly pass.

            RTC with no parking issues didn’t entice me to go. RTC with parking less so.

      • Mike M

        I agree. Boston Properties is a scumbag company. Most firms worry about how they are perceived within a community. These apes are completely predatory towards their community and their clientele – the renters! And they are comfortable lying about it. It’s really a case study in bad corporate acting. Perhaps a chapter in a future MBA text awaits them. They are shameless and will not give in. They may succeed because so many in this area spend their brains out and don’t think about it. But they have already damaged their relationship with the community irreparably.

    • Kim Lockhart

      I’m not going back until parking is free, period. It’s absurd that something that has always been free now costs me money when services have not been improved. If they are claiming that parking fees are necessary because commuters are taking all the parking spaces, that’s a lie. I’ve gone to RTC for years and never once had trouble finding parking. Boston Properties is greedy. Period. I will not give them one penny of my money.

    • Arielle in NoVA

      and overnight!!!

  • Martine

    Two points: 1) This system is discriminatory. I know it may come as a shock, but not every has a smart phone or knows how to use it; forcing payment through an app with no other option of payment is a bad idea (maybe there is another way? I don’t know, I haven’t set foot in RTC since January and I will not download the app because my phone has limited memory). 2) I live near the metro (Whiele) where a whole bunch of retail shops and restaurants are about to open up. If you think I’m going to to RTC and pay for priviledge of shopping or eating there, you’ve lost your mind, Boston Properties. I know who’s going to have the last laugh on this one, and it won’t be you.

    • JoeInReston

      RTC does have parking kiosks that can be used to pay for parking.

      You may not have missed them because there are only four parking kiosks to support the seven parking garages in the RTC. To clarify, there are four parking kiosks in total, not four parking kiosks per garage. (You would expect the latter if RTC was truly a premium shopping experience. )

    • Feh

      “not every has a smart phone or knows how to use it”

      Someone who does not is unlikely to spend money in RTC shops/restaurants, so no loss to the merchants if these losers can’t park there.

      • Dabraat

        Wow… you just called a whole lot of senior citizens and people who don’t like the idea of having a gps tracker on their body every minute of the day losers. Not to mention hard working poor people who may just have a basic phone for emergencies.

        • cRAzy

          Love my stupid phone! Also love my privacy and don’t need GPS to get me around town or even around the country. I haven’t seen an app that’s anything more than a marketing gimmick, so who needs a so-called “smart” phone??

      • Ann

        I don’t use a smart phone, and until January, I used to shop and eat in RTC several times per week. But no more.

  • RTCResident

    Though I disagree with the parking model, I begrudgingly went along with it. However, this past Wednesday evening, I parked in one of the street spots. I went to my retailer to validate and came out to discover I had a ticket on my car telling me it was my final warning. I never received a first warning. Mind you, I was in the store for less than 5 minutes and validated! This is no way to treat an ‘abider’!!! I honestly believe that the parking enforcers are on each block ready to pounce! While I am venting, I will add that I find it extremely interesting that BP has chose such a high hourly rate with no sliding scale based on the hours parked. The rates are as high, if not higher than most places in downtown DC where parking spots number in the hundreds in a block not in the thousands as in RTC.

    Also, living in RTC I have the opportunity to drive around nightly. One thing I have noticed is the lack of families and locals that once existed during the weeknights. Rather RTC was full of rental cars and business people. I suppose parking doesn’t matter to these individuals since most companies will reimburse any parking fees.

    Also, as a matter of entertainment, I urge everyone to check the RTC facebook feed. It really is fun to see BP try to spin their social media accounts posts and see all of the comments turn it into a post about paid parking! It is just really unfortunate that this blended community has been brought to this!

    • Collin Hughes

      That is crazy! Watch out, next time you get the Barnacle on your windshield.

      • The Constitutionalist

        Umm.. excuse me, but it’s called the Bumble Bee.

        /sarcasm (just in case) Don’t want to get called racist against barnacles.

        • Arielle in NoVA

          Bumblebees pollinate plants. They contribute positively, in a huge way, to the world. We can’t call that thing a bumblebee. If you don’t like barnacle, we need another name. SuperSucker, perhaps, since it’s two gigantic suction cups, the reason they put them there sucks, and trying to get one removed sucks?

    • EliteinReston

      Who issues the tickets?

      • Sherri Rice

        I believe their rent a cops issue the tickets and I don’t believe they are enforceable. This is private property thus the county / state are not issuing “official” tickets

    • Chkitout1

      FYI, I don’t believe street parking at RTC can be validated. I was told only garage parking can be validated.
      Contrary to what Boston Properties have said, their sole reason for implementing paid parking at RTC is simply GREED!!!
      I’ll continue to boycott RTC. If you haven’t been, check out One Loudoun, nice restaurants and stores.

  • Dgeorge

    As I said in an earlier post, RTC recedes in my rear view mirror. I may never come back. I now have new favorite restaurants and World Gate is now my theater. Bye Bye Ray Ritchie, you are getting smaller and smaller in my mirror.

  • Amy Sue

    Thanks for the well thought out letter. The longer this goes on, the less likely I am to ever return to the RTC. The complicated app, the high cost of parking, and BP’s insulting PR have all turned me off. I could probably get used to the idea of paying for parking if they had an old fashioned, anonymous garage but no way am I registering my whereabouts on their app. I encourage folks to check out Loudoun One and Leesburg Village which are both very delightful alternatives to the RTC.

  • wrxman

    Restaurants overrated, Apple Store also in Tysons, skating rink in Tysons, free parking in Tysons better restaurants, stores, and theatres. Nuff said

    • 30yearsinreston

      BP are in the real estate business
      They don’t care about customers but may listen to.tenants
      But I wouldnt hold my breath

    • Arielle in NoVA

      all-year indoor skating rinks in Reston off of Sunset Hills (between McTacoHut and the Cornerstones offices), in Ashburn off of Waxpool (look for the blue), and in Fairfax on Pickett.

  • Lake Anne Resident

    Always welcome Mr Feldman!

  • JoeInReston

    Curious if Boston Properties will acknowledge or rebut points made in this open letter from the RTC merchants – or whether Boston Properties will continue to regurgitate the same lame talking points in their next next interview or open letter while at the same time uttering insincere feel good comments about ‘productive conversations’.

    Or perhaps Boston Properties will trot out Kathy Walsh again to put another coat of lipstick on this paid parking pig. Kathy is the marketing director/ turd polisher for a crisis communications firm hired by Boston Properties.

    • 30yearsinreston

      She will probably be replaced by another turd polisher

      • 31years in Reston

        Haha yes go get em!!!

    • Why do you bother?

      I keep wanting to yell “You know we can see you, right?”

      Along with “The Emperor Has No Clothes!”

      • Arielle in NoVA

        How about “Free Parking at RTC”-branded and -subtitled tees with “You know we can see you, right?” in big letters on the front, for wearing to protests?

        • Why do you bother?

          Not wasting my energy on protests. The only effective “protest” is to not give BP one nickel of my money – i.e. don’t go to RTC.

  • 30yearsinreston

    The merchants have torpedoed the PR firm spin
    I will never download their spyware app
    Still not paying and not going till it’s free again
    No one needs the Reston Clown Center

  • Wilson W

    Boston Properties is a publicly traded company. If you buy just one share of stock, they have to let you speak at their annual meeting. One hundred angry speakers at their meeting could be quite fun!

    • Wheatie

      Reston was set up not only as a “live work play” communitiy, but also where rich and poor would live side-by-side. BP obviously is not concerned with our subsidized citizens. Perhaps Fairfax County should tax Boston Properties and extra $8 million per year and give it to the people of Reston. That would be even more fun.

      • 30yearsinreston

        Commissar Hudgins would be upset

    • Arielle in NoVA

      Would be more fun if Reston-area residents and outside-of-area RTC fans could buy enough stock to block votes if not get an actual majority and take over BP itself – but that’d be difficult.

      • 30yearsinreston

        Difficult ?

        • Arielle in NoVA

          Yeah, they’re bigger than I thought. Oh, well.
          Don’t suppose they’re going to sell their Reston property to anyone else, either, whether piecemeal to current business residents or to some other company.

      • Generic User

        Someone get Warren Buffet on the line.

        • Arielle in NoVA

          wish I could!

  • UStifosi .

    Has BP figured out how to dine at Barcelona and then go to movie without having to move your car to a different garage? Ahh… the conveniences of cutting edge technology.

    • JoeInReston

      The Boston Properties open letter addressed that…

      “Each retailer chooses whether and where to validate parking .. what
      validation terms to incorporate within their unique business model”

      So, based on the content of their open letter, Boston Properties response to your post is… blame Barcelona and Bow Ties. These merchants have not incorporated customer friendly validation terms within their unique business model.

      With business partners like Boston Properties, who needs enemies..

  • Feh


    They don’t need to provide ANY reasons for what they did. If they want to make money from their property, well, it’s their property.

    It was a soulless shopping district before you had to pay to park, and it is still a soulless shopping district now.

  • Why do you bother?

    Agree with every word. BP’s “alternative facts” are exactly like all “alternative facts” are: LIES.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Excellent point-by-point response. Thank you, Aaron!


    It’s okay we own you!!

  • Chuck Morningwood

    There is actually a spillover effect in this. Besides not patronizing RTC, I find that I don`t go to any of the stores along Reston Parkway between Baron Cameron and the DTR/Access Highway. The ToH has become my new favorite spot to hang out.

  • This is bad

    I’ve lived here for 15 years. I get business from Boston proterties and Service them in D.C. This is a train wreck. They need to wake up. I went there Saturday and there were more guys in yelllow vest then people buying things. This is baddd

  • Brenda

    I used to be able to just run over and get quick carryout. Now, I actively think of alternative options. It’s such a hassle to park in a garage just to go pick up food. They should have implemented like free ten min parking sessions in front of restaurants or something. Carryout is supposed to be simple esp if you order ahead of time. But instead you have to park in a nearby garage for something you could have run in and out of to obtain. North point in Reston has tons of restaurants so I’ll take that any day. I truly feel bad for these businesses especially on Friday nights when they used to be slammed and now the bars are practically empty.

  • G F

    Those warning signs regarding the parking all over RTC are so warm and inviting that really makes one feel appreciated.

  • Trish

    This is a total greed grab by Boston Properties, a billion dollar business . There is no heart or soul in this company , just stealing money from the little guy with lies & manipulation. RTC has become a ghost town.

  • Karen M

    In the last month I have driven out of my way avoid the hassle of parking issues for ” pop in” needs. These are business ( subway, BB&T, CVS, FedEx) that while closest to me, and only required a quick ” pop in” lost my business due to the parking hassles. By hassles I mean the time to log on, go in get the validation, add the validation all for a less than ” 15″ minutes.

    Secondly my family loved to eat at many of the restaurants during the week. Since paid parking started we have been twice for a dinner mid week. Again it’s the hassle of system.

    Lastly, we love going to the movies. We would go whenever now we only go on weekends. Trying to ” guess” how much time we need, then being worried if we need to extend or if we end up not needing as much time, we don’t get that time back ( adding time by the hour is so wasteful).

  • Dan

    The system they have set up is terrible. I used to eat in there 4-5 times a week, but now my wife and I avoid it at all cost. Way to be BP. On a side note we discovered a place called vinifera in the Westin hotel. Lots of FREE parking great wine and the best patio (besides reds) in Reston. also the patio is dog friendly so that’s a plus!

    • Arielle in NoVA

      Where is this dog-friendly place?

  • mike connor

    Boston Properties doesn’t give a flying fig about tearing the fabric of anything so long as it maximizes their profits. Long term, when no one is going to RTC, profits won’t be so good then.

  • Restonian

    Still not paying BP. Not now. Not ever.

  • Dgeorge

    Family of eight celebrated a birthday today at Reds Table at South Lakes Center. I had the Crab Cake Eggs Benedict ,excellent. Another $300.00 not spent at RTC. As I said before, it used to be a no-brainer to go to RTC for celebrations. Ray Ritchie, explain that $300 loss to your restaurants.

  • Quinton

    Hear Hear!! Boston Properties is just the epitome of greed in this area. What an embarrassment to our community.

  • Motoring

    Enjoyed a quick drive down 7 to Tysons this weekend for my dining and entertainment options. I am beginning to miss RTC less and less.

  • Lori Grayson Welsh

    Money grab pure and simple. Hurts small business owners and if they really wanted to initiate a paid parking, they should have chosen a much simpler process. Bottom line: they should respect the free parking that is the heart & soul of RTC and the community that has long supported this unique area. Shame on Boston Properties. I am glad that Great American Restaurant Group sued them; however, it is sad that it has come to this. Also sad that BP pretended to ask for business owners input when they had made up their greedy minds well in advance.

  • Alex Lipp

    Went down to Reston town centre tonight. As a tourist I was looking for someplace to have dinner as I drove around all I could see were the signs on how to pay parking not one sign said the garages offered free parking. So I didn’t want to risk the rental being towed so I moved on. Back at the hotel and after eating elsewhere I decided to look on the net to see how the parking worked in RTC. Won’t be back to RTC.


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