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Town Center Restaurant Files Lawsuit Against Boston Properties Over Parking

by Dave Emke — March 23, 2017 at 11:00 am 53 Comments

ParkRTC sign in Reston Town Center

(Updated 11:35 a.m. with more information from lawsuit and link to view document; updated 4:30 p.m. with statement on behalf of Boston Properties)

The first lawsuit regarding Boston Properties’ paid parking system at Reston Town Center has been filed.

In a press release Thursday morning, Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive) announced the suit, which includes a motion for a temporary injunction over the “cumbersome paid parking system [Boston Properties] implemented in January 2017.”

Representatives of Town Center businesses have been meeting among themselves to discuss their options since paid parking began, and the threat of potential legal action was first made public in early February.

The suit by Jackson’s (view) was filed Wednesday afternoon in the Circuit Court of Fairfax County. In addition to the injunction, the restaurant seeks “an award of damages of $500,000 or other specific amount to be established at trial.”

According to the lawsuit, Jackson’s says it negotiated lease terms preventing Boston Properties from implementing parking controls that “unduly impede” guests and requiring Boston Properties to assure that any paid parking system must allow Jackson’s to validate parking — at no expense to the restaurant — for guests and employees. The lawsuit claims the validation system imposed by BXP violates the restaurant’s lease rights and the requirements it sought.

“Our team has been inundated with complaints from guests who tell us that the process to use the validation system is cumbersome and confusing,” said Orson Williams, managing partner at Jackson’s, in the announcement. “On top of that, Boston Properties’ parking attendants often give incorrect and misleading instructions when our guests seek help in getting unlimited free parking.”

Jackson’s, operated by Great American Restaurants, opened in the Town Center in 2008.

Restaurants and other businesses within the Town Center have claimed major decreases in business since the paid parking system went into place. An organized protest that took place earlier this month saw hundreds of participants from throughout the community.

Boston Properties has said the impact of paid parking on Town Center business has been “far less” than claimed.

“We did not want to have to sue and we tried to work with Boston Properties to address our concerns and our rights under the lease to give our customers free and hassle-free parking, both before and after Boston Properties implemented this parking system. But they were uncompromising and appeared disinterested in working with us to provide our guests a better experience at Reston Town Center,” said Jon Norton, CEO of Great American Restaurants, in the announcement. “It appears to us that they are focused on maximizing revenue instead of honoring the spirit and terms of our lease, and seem unconcerned with the impact their system has had on the Town Center. It is disappointing that they have spent so much time bolstering a PR campaign rather than working with us to fulfill their lease obligations.”

Spokesperson Kathy Walsh of the Fallston Group, speaking on behalf of Boston Properties, said it “would be inappropriate to discuss pending litigation, particularly as there is a confidentiality provision that prevents either party from discussing many of the lease terms.”

  • Scott

    Good for GAR! Will be interested to see if a judge agrees with their interpretation of the lease and if, ultimately, GAR will seek damages associated with lost revenues from the parking policy. Could open a flood gate from tenant businesses.

    • cm

      they are seeking 500,000 in damages

  • ichrysso

    This is confusing – why would all these businesses be suing BP if commuters were taking up all the parking spaces from legitimate shoppers and visitors of the RTC? Further, Mr. Norton seems to be suggesting that the claim that BP is encouraging a constructive dialogue with merchants is false.

    • Tina

      Because that’s BP’s excuse. If that was 100% accurate then why wouldn’t BP consider the vendor’s suggestion of first two hours free? The likelihood that someone could utilize parking and public transportation in less than two hours is unlikely. The fact that BP is being uncooperative and will not even consider a compromise to make people happy just shows what their number one goal is.

      • Bernie Supporter

        You’re right. If it was 100% accurate, they could have had paid parking from 6 am — 10 am, and free the rest of the day. If you’re parking there to commute you are already well on your way to work or at your desk by 10:01. At least the vast majority of people are. Total BS answer.

    • 30yearsinreston

      Their claims are false

  • Donald

    This is good. It continues to affect the RTC brand, which will have BP corporate looking more closely over the local BP management’s handling of this matter.

    Donald

    • JoeInReston

      What was once a minor issue only discussed on a few local blogs like the RestonNow has escalated in to a story in the Washington Post, focal point on a Kojo Nnamdi/NPR show, and now a merchant lawsuit. It just won’t go away!

      • Donald

        The local BP executives have corporate looking down on them now. That’s a very uncomfortable place to be.

  • Generic User

    How about a link to the GAR press release? I can’t find it on their website.

    • Reston Now

      The press release was sent to media in the body of an email. All quotes in the release are included in the article, as is a link to view the entire lawsuit document.

  • Make Reston Great Again

    Good, please reach out to the residents of RTC who are also impacted by this BS.

    Currently my wife is now paying 70$ a month to park in one of the garages because she cannot park beside our building. We are seeing more and more vacancies in RTC, if these parking issues continue to plague the businesses, it will soon impact the residents as well. I know of 2 families who decided NOT to move into the town center after this.

    The park that used to be full of people and kids is now empty, the parking spots are empty, if the restaurants and other businesses start leaving its going to have a HUGE negative effect oh and there are many many many very pissed off homeowners.

    • LesAnn620

      My husband and I are trying to sell our condo across the street in Oak Park and it’s taking much longer than we anticipated, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s at least partially because of the bad PR situation in RTC. I actually made sure our agent included in the description that the condo comes with free resident and guest parking.

  • Guest

    For anyone who missed it in the article, HERE IS A LINK TO THE COMPLAINT. I am not a lawyer, but looks solid, and GAR ain’t nothing to mess with. Highlights:

    #12-16: GAR knew that BP was going to try this.

    #34: BP can’t properly block off spots for retailers even when they promise it in the lease.

    #36: GAR wants to help but BP won’t even let them.

    • UnfinishedSentenc

      I read the complaint. BP is clearly going to lose that suit. Not every retailer will have the details and resources to go after BP in such a manner, but I hope more tenants take BP to court for damages/loss of revenue.

  • Dgeorge

    Could it be that someones ego and possibly their job is on the line here? I bet there is someone at BP (R.R) that is sweating bullets. They messed up and don’t know how to fix it without looking stupid. When you look stupid at BP you get to spend a lot of extra time at home with your family.

    • Dgeorge

      When things get really ugly, as they will, BP headquarters will swoop in, fire a few people, apologize to to the community and restore the free parking. They are in a lose, lose position. There is no upside for BP. Wait till the RTC residents get organized and hire a law firm.

      • Dgeorge

        By the way, someone should be organizing those condo people right now. Strike while the iron is hot.

      • Big Drop

        There are many who live far outside of Reston who patronize Town Center. The literal thousands of posts on social media as well as broadcast media have created an image that could take several years to correct. In the meantime Jackson’s was once one of the 100 highest grossing restaurants in the U. S., over $11 million a year, perhaps six or seven years ago. It may have grown several million dollars before the paid parking and app started. Regardless, it will take a long time-even with end of paid parking-for this kind of revenue to return.

    • concordpoint

      R.R. could retire whenever he wants, He works because he loves it and he is largely responsible for the growth and past popularity of RTC. BP’s handling of the paid parking program will be studied at ULI and ICSC as a textbook case of how NOT to implement a paid parking program. Whatever revenue they are gaining in parking fees must be more then offset by loss of percentage rent from retailers. Your only as strong as your weakest lease. The GAR complaint may end the self-inflicted wound that is the pay for parking program.

      • Dgeorge

        Call it retire, or call it getting fired. When he carries that cardboard box with all his desk playthings out to his car ha can reflect on his stupidity.

  • Generic User

    Solid arguments in the filing, so I hope GAR wins! Some corporate lawyer correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t BP have to disclose lawsuits to its shareholders? Or are landlords sued all of the time over leases anyway.

    Definitely some good stuff in this filing…some highlights:

    – BP sought out to woo GAR to come to RTC and that is how GAR was able to get concessions on the parking over the protests of BP corporate.

    – GAR has had to spend money to staff up people to post outside the restaurant and even at the pay machine to instruct customers how to use the validation. Then BP complained that GAR was try to “solicit” business with their people at the pay machine.

    – When GAR complained that customers have to pay for parking first and then get validation after they ate and even then, the validation wouldn’t work for cash parking payers, BP actually suggested that GAR give those customers a credit on their food bill for the parking and then GAR would come to BP later for a refund. Seriously?! BP…worst landlord ever!

  • Prime Rib

    Great to see this. I hope it helps bring upon change and I will happily patronize the town center once more.

  • UnfinishedSentenc

    It looks like there are some huge egos at stake here, why not just back off and allow the first three hours free? With that scenario BP could continue to cling to their commuters taking up parking places story…

    • 30yearsinreston

      It should be free
      Screw up and pay the consequences

    • JoeInReston

      “why not just back off and allow the first three hours free”

      Because that would defeat their ultimate $reason$ for instituting paid parking…

  • 30yearsinreston

    Jackson’s used to be jammed on Fridays and weekends
    It’s like a morgue now
    Not surprised about the law suit
    It goes a long way to explaining the postponed implementation

    • BJ Wilson

      I used to go to Jackson’s happy hour every week. Now my group meets at Not Your Average Joe’s across the street to avoid the parking situation. Much easier.

    • LesAnn620

      We used to frequently meet my brother-in-law at Jackson’s for dinner — he loves it there. Two weeks ago we drove out to Fairfax Corner instead to go to Ozzie’s for dinner. Then we grabbed drinks at WOB. Same great experience, free parking!

  • 30yearsinreston

    Hudgins was on the radio getting on the bandwagon
    We don’t need the help of an apparatchik who accepts funding from developers

  • Nancy

    Stop paid parking at the RTC now!
    Boston Properties is ruining Reston.

  • MikeG

    We (and our teenagers) used to go to RTC a lot b/c it’s a fun place to walk around, shop, eat and sometimes see music outside. But we almost never go anymore b/c the parking mess has sucked the fun out of it. Would start going again if they resume free parking.

  • Meh

    I hardly ever went to RTC before this parking fiasco. Now I never do. Didn’t really change my behavior much. There just isn’t much in there that’s “special”.

  • Whowouldvethought

    Meanwhile back at Coastal Flats business is brisk and folks are happy…

  • ThinkinGuy

    i actually have used the validation system, and didn’t find it that difficult to use. Having said that Reston Town Center IS IN THE SUBURBS! We move to the suburbs precisely because we don’t want to pay for parking. I think in the end, the press is going to be so bad that BP is going to have to cave.

    • Big Drop

      Whether it is difficult or not it is not as fast, nor as simple, nor as intimidating as sticking a credit card in a parking meter.

  • No One Came

    And this song goes out to our rock star executive Owen D. Thomas

    https://youtu.be/a0xHTszwbWk

    Enjoy ^_^

    • Generic User

      Is that Deep Purple in an interstellar sperm?

  • I used to go to Reston Town Center quite a bit. Started to slow down as more and more of the unique, locally-owned, interesting stores closed up. Anybody else remember Zaidee Coco? I *loved* that store!! But rents kept rising and slowly, more and more chains took over. There are still one or two good cute boutiques, but they’re dwindling. In my opinion, pay parking is just the latest and most egregious of RTC’s growing trend of raising costs and pushing out the very things that made RTC so fun in the first place. I still go in occasionally, mostly for the Apple Store. Before the pay parking, that place was always packed. Each time I’ve gone since, I’ve never even seen it half full.
    Very glad to see stores finally standing up to this nonsense. Now we just need to get the residents to file a class action suit.

    • obxers

      Avoid RTC and the support to BP, and head over to the Apple Store at Fair Oaks, instead.

  • Big Drop

    This has to receive national publicity before it is going to have any impact. BXP, Boston Properties’ publicly traded REIT was up today, close to an all time high. Most of its shareholders have no idea that there are any concerns at RTC. In total I am guessing that there are seven million square feet of offices, retail, housing and parking at Town Center representing more than $500 million dollars of investment. This has been their internaional showcase, a real model for how a Town Center should be built. I believe there is a very real threat to lose this and can no longer be their showcase. There are literally thousands of negative comments on social media which-so far-has been mostly local. Now, there are condos for sale, apartments for rent (especially with the 500+ coming to the Signature which is under construction) and office space that will be renewing. The 97% occupancy rate will be an interesting number to see if it maintains. Elsewhere it was once mentioned they projected an additional $8 million a year in revenue from paid parking. I am sure they anticipated some of what has happened. And, made an assumption for how long it will be before the crowds return and criticism subsides. I have to believe that nobody expected the reaction would even approach this. Real negative is that it could take years for people to return to Town Center if they rescind paid parking. In the meantime the heart of Reston has an arrow in it.

    • Big Drop

      Addendum: I wonder if they had simply used parking meters and initially charged, say, one dollar an hour if anyone would be complaining? And, for all that we are saying about restaurants, retail and housing, what are the office tenants saying? How much is BP trying to get from them for employee parking? $2.00 an hour for 9 hours a day X 20 days in a month X 12 months = $4,320 a year for EACH employee. I understand that is a starting point for negotiations but as mentioned elsewhere this is the suburbs and the office vacancy rate outside of Town Center is truly significant. Seemingly every building on Sunrise Valley and Sunset Hills have vacancy signs in front of them. I think Boston Properties is risking an awful lot.

      • Dark Stranger

        Even using parking meters can discourage users. My daughter (who used to live in Reston but now only comes to visit us) decided to boycott the Town Center after hearing of them implementing paid parking AND the manner they were implementing it (in wanting people to download an APP; etc.). She said the way they did paid parking at a garage in Silver Spring was MUCH better and simpler and the price was much more reasonable.

  • Bernie Supporter

    Although you could once find me at RTC every weekend, I stopped going the moment BP implemented parking. I didn’t move to the suburbs to pay for parking. The arrogance of BP is absolute. They threaten tickets and tows even if you do pay to park, but don’t park they WAY they want you to park (headlights in). The threat of having my car booted, blinded by yellow bumblebees that can’t be removed or towed worked. Before they booted me, I booted them first.

    • obxers

      “They threaten tickets and tows even if you do pay to park, but don’t park they WAY they want you to park (headlights in).” They actually require this and threaten to ticket otherwise? I’ve been vocal about their lies and utter stupidity, but I had no clue about that particular ridiculous requirement and threat.

      • Bernie Supporter

        Yup. Before Jan 1, when I still went to RTC, I saw that they had put up warning signs about this throughout the garage. Incredible.

  • Dgeorge

    The Jackson suit was on NBC this morning. A story thats not going to go away.

  • 30yearsinreston

    BP can’t discuss the lease because of the ‘ ‘confidentiality provision’
    More spin and dodging

    • restonista

      Sounds like a threat from BP. However, isn’t it true that BP also dicussed terms of the leases by stating that all tenants’ leases included a parking clause?

  • friends of Reston

    I used to love going to Reston Town Center to meet family and friends or just to enjoy the area myself. Now I avoid having to go because you have to pay just to park there. Boston Property seems to be more for the greed of their pockets than the welfare of their clients and the people who would come to the Town Center.
    What they have done will continue to bring in less to themselves while hurting those around them. Do they even care how they have represented the area now as they proceed to rob the area as they have.

  • obxers

    It’s been nothing but lies, lies and more lies, plus active disinformation from Boston Properties from the get go. Their spin has been far more than just trying to color things rosy for them, but outright false information. I used to regularly go to RTC, but I’ve not set foot there once since the paid parking began, not only because of the unjustified cost in this suburban setting, but also because of the contempt they have shown for their customers and their tenants. Several times, recently, I’ve had the idea to go grab a coffee at the Community Canteen, run into Potomac River Runners, etc. only to quickly remember it would cost me more than it’s worth. So, I grabbed a nice cortado at Peets at Fairfax Corner this past weekend, and stopped into PRR, there, as well. I won’t be going back to RTC any time soon. I hope Jackson’s takes BP for every cent they’re claiming.

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