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Boston Properties CEO: We Want to ‘Ensure That Reston Remains a Preeminent Location’

by Dave Emke — April 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm 79 Comments

In response to a question during the company’s quarterly earnings conference call Wednesday, Boston Properties CEO Owen Thomas said the paid-parking situation at Reston Town Center will continue to be evaluated.

Thomas was asked about “an interesting article” about the situation and tenants’ concerns about business being down. In response, the CEO said:

“We did implement paid parking at Reston Town Center at the beginning of the year. As you know, Reston is an urban location, it has structure parking primarily, and there is going to be the arrival of mass transit to the region. It’s certainly not uncommon for areas with this kind of density to have paid parking. We are utilizing a state-of-the-art parking system that is being used in cities all over the U.S., and actually the use of these systems is growing around the U.S. In Reston specifically, the system has been adopted by 140,000 users so far. Now that being said, as you suggest, certainly not all of our customers — some, but certainly not all of our customers — have expressed some concerns about the system or simply having to pay for parking, and we are continuing to evaluate our execution and make adjustments to ensure that Reston remains a preeminent location for business and residents in Northern Virginia.”

Merchants in the Town Center have reported business to be down as much as 40 percent since paid parking went into effect Jan. 3, and an organized protest of the system in March drew hundreds of participants. Jackson’s restaurant has filed a lawsuit over the implementation, and other businesses have threatened the same; however, Boston Properties says it is confident it will prevail in any legal battles.

  • Sandy Argall

    I haven’t been to RTC since paid parking and have no intention to do so. There are so ,many good places to shop and eat in Northern Virginia where I don’t have to park. Reston’s greed has gone so far from Robert E. Simon’s dream that it is really sad for the people who love Reston.

    • gingerp

      Please visit on weekends, when parking is free. The merchants, including small businesses need your loyalty. Boycott paid parking, not the merchants.

      • Cherie DeSouza

        That I can do.

        • gingerp

          Cherie, Super! And Sandy, this isn’t “Reston” being greedy, it’s one company, and hopefully by supporting RTC on weekends we can show them that the business follows the free parking. Thanks! Hope to see you at RTC some weekend soon!

        • Mike M

          Cherie, if you hate the US, I suggest Mexico might be for you. I’ll help you pack.

      • There should be free 2 hour and free nighttime parking ( not a commuter issue)

        • 40yearsinreston

          It never was

      • Fred

        Really I thought we weren’t supposed to go? We were sticking it to BP hopefully you’re not a line crosser.

      • Adrian Havill

        No weekends and there are very few small merchants, if any.

  • 40yearsinreston

    More spin
    Still not paying and not going

    • Agreed
      I live across the street from CVS and my nurse and PT people had to pay…. not cool

  • The Constitutionalist

    The only thing preeminent about RTC is how much more they’re charging customers to park in comparison to the other areas that offer the same experience.

  • Kara Gardner Wills

    Boston Properties may prevail in legal action, but customers ‘vote’ with their wallet. Go ahead and kick your restaurant, retail and entertainment customers to the curb.

    The original ‘premise’ for paid parking in RTC was to deter commuters from parking to use the Metro (not yet to RTC), then the surface lot was shut down for yet another hi-rise multiuse structure.

    Last Thursday at 2pm, there were 1600+ garage spaces available in RTC.

    I have left RTC

    • Ethan Bond

      They may, and I hope that they don’t, prevail. But a landlord has a duty of care not to harm to their tenants (physical, reputational or financial harm). It is abundantly clear that BPs actions have absolutely caused financial harm to their tenants, and continue to do so. While BP may well be within their rights to charge people to park on their property, doing so directly and measurably does harm to their tenants – which they do NOT have a right to do, but rather an obligation to avoid doing.

      Of course it too often comes down to who has the better lawyer, but I would love to be a judge on this case when it has its day in court!

      • fred

        well Boston Properties hasn’t caused financial harm, its the fair weathered customs not supporting the businesses.

        • Ethan Bond

          That’s an interesting perspective, and one I am sure that BP will use. Counter arguments to every position. and I certainly respect you presenting yours, although I do not agree with it.

          Personally I would take the position that it is BPs actions have that have directly caused the fair weather friends to not support the business. (“fair weather friends”, also being known as “customers exercising their right to choose a consumer experience free of the financial costs and/or administrative burdens placed upon them by BP for patronizing RTC”)

          • If you notice, Not your average Joe’s is booming with their free parking….a Lerner property

          • Fred

            Then we can complain and protest RTC and PB because there’s no more local businesses because we boycotted so well. I get it, it’s all good!

        • Why do you bother?

          No, it’s BP’s paid parking policy that has hurt the businesses, not the “fair weather[ed] customs[sic].”

        • Restonian

          You’re kidding. Right?

          • Fred

            No I love the story of trying to stick it to the big corporation but actually only hurting the small business.

          • Kim C

            First, many of the businesses at RTC are not “small businesses”. They are large chain stores like Pottery Barn, Uncle Julio’s, Apple, etc. Second, while it is not the businesses’ fault BP pulled this boneheaded move of paid parking with their awful privacy stealing app, people are voting with their feet to go somewhere else, there are plenty of choices! The market has clearly decided that paid parking in Reston is not going to work, BP should take note, and (in a perfect world) BP should should have to pay their tenants damages..

          • Fred

            Whomp whomp.. those businesses still have workers that’ll lose their jobs but nope not going , paid parking!! Some of the people could live in Reston so you’ll be hurting more Restonians. Yes let’s beat BP cause paid parking doesn’t fit in with the community, who cares that people from said community lose their jobs!

          • BJK

            Yes, Fred. Not paying. Not now, not ever.

          • Kim C

            I support Reston businesses. I simply support the ones outside of RTC. There are PLENTY of retail choices in Reston (that have workers that need their jobs) AND free parking with no invasive app to download. The wide choice of retail businesses in Reston with free parking is precisely why RTC is struggling right now. Paid parking and their horrible intrusive app are just bad ideas that need to go.

          • Fred

            Well you don’t support Reston businesses if they get stuck with Landlord charging to pay…. fair weather customer

          • meyerweb

            BXP rental income is based, in part, on the revenue of the stores. So it does hurt BXP, too. Not getting a return on the money they spent on a bad n parking design hurts BXP. It’s unfortunate there’s no way to hurt BXP without also impacting the tenants, but to reward BXP by continuing to patronize RTC just ain’t in the cards

        • JS333

          It’s not only residents who go to RTC. My company often planned employee events at the center, but now plan them elsewhere because it is too difficult to coordinate and administer paid parking for large corporate events. Also, though I see your point about workers and jobs, the other small businesses and employers in region have benefited greatly from this. Most real Mom & Pa restaurants/bars cannot afford a location like RTC…. Some people are being a little ridiculous about it, but in general the policy is poor. They need to compromise.

      • Adrian Havill

        Good to see that both earnings and revenue were down for for BP in their most recent quarter.

      • Great points
        After 6 PM free would work

        • meyerweb

          4 hours free would solve the commuter problem if that was really the issue. But it’s not. The real issue is BXP greed.

      • John

        If you read the filings from the Jackson’s suit, BP won’t easily win. It’s very clear in their lease, and GAR has very good lawyers too IMHO. BP may win against the others since the standard clause gives them the authority to do pretty much what they want. The best part of this story is that the issue is no longer BP local and BP corporate now has to deal with investors, and annoying customers (actually now former customers) is not generally considered good for business.

        The main reason they might hold on is all the pain is inflected on the tenants (not BP) and they get all the money. But RTC is dead.

        They might have gotten away with this if they phased it in (i.e. 4 hours free) and used a payment system that works, their app really stinks, on many levels.

        And seriously, when did Reston become Urban? We live here because we like the suburbs. Take the Urban back to Arlington.

        • Mike M

          I think your point about bad press and the HQ having to deal with it hold water. That threshold has been crossed and it may make a difference. “Evaluate execution” may indicate a minor concession is imminent. Bad press is bad business. Bad community relations is bad for business. That is Business 101. Developers are notoriously weak in this area because they numbly expect to be at odds with their community. It’s an industry full of less than brilliant business people.

          I would not forget to pound Hudgins and Bulova over this too. BP will be asking them for more in the future. It should all be linked. There is no limit to how obnoxious this area will become if this is allowed to fly.

          • 40yearsinreston

            Hudgins and Bulova wont go against developers
            They are too busy feathering their nests and are imperious to notice

    • Willie Reston

      “Boston Properties may prevail in legal action, but customers ‘vote’ with their wallet.”

      Bingo. Sadly, it appears as though BP might be so intent on winning this battle that they’ll end up losing the war (and we’ll all lose with them).

      • Why do you bother?

        A classic case of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

        Or: “penny wise/pound foolish.”

  • EADGBE

    Reston is a suburban, not an urban location. That’s one of the fundamental reasons BP’s parking model will never work. Plenty of room to put the cars in the suburbs.

    • anon

      Half the neighborhoods in DC were suburbs at one point (and rural before that). Things don’t stay the same forever. It’s time for Reston to urbanize and time for those who want to keep their cars to go elsewhere.

      • Generic User

        Note the “anon” name, i.e., shill. No, it is not time for Reston urbanize. Where is it written that Reston has to urbanize? And last time I checked, there are lots of cars in DC. And where should those cars go? Maybe from the 3% of Reston that has a build up of tall buildings (RTC) to the 97% of Reston that is suburban?

      • Mike M

        Says who? You? Boston Properties? I guess the current residents of Reston have no business in this matter? Sorry, everyone! If you want to drive, move away. We’re taking over. GFY, anon.

      • BBK

        Thanks for engaging BP! Always good to see you here.

        • Steve dave

          Yes because someone has a difficult opinion or maybe they aren’t petty means they are a shill!

      • The Constitutionalist

        Yeah, bikes are the future!

      • taylor13

        It can’t urbanize until it figures out it’s public transportation.

      • JS333

        This is illogical at this point in time. RTC draws people from the suburbs: Ashburn and West, etc. They aren’t drawing in people from Arlington and DC where the metro is already in place. Maybe this argument would work when the silver line is complete, but for now everyone in the suburbs still needs their car. This same issue is going on in Tysons, with them forcing people to use the metro even though most workers commute from the suburbs and not the city. Putting the cart before the horse is a sure way to fail.

  • vdiv

    “…to ensure that Reston remains a preeminent location…” <– what a gall!!
    Perhaps someone needs to remind that bozo that Reston doesn't need his "help" to be "preeminent" and if he doesn't like it he can take his two dollar company and shove it way out of Reston. We'll even buy him a ride on the Metro, well to Tyson's at least, he can try his preeminent luck there.

    • The Constitutionalist

      Tyson’s knows it’s not a preeminent location, hence why they don’t charge for parking.

  • Bernie Supporter

    Still boycotting RTC over this. I miss Clyde’s. But I’d rather drive to Clyde’s in Ashburn than pay a penny in parking to BP.

    • Adrian Havill

      Or Clyde’s at Westpark.

  • Jenny Gibbers

    Here’s a song for our rockstar, BXP chief executive Owen Thomas, enjoy!

    https://youtu.be/a0xHTszwbWk

  • Emory Miles

    It’s sad that someone can be so completely out of touch.

  • EliteinReston

    Thomas said: “…we are continuing to evaluate our execution…”
    That reminds me of football coaching great John McKay who, while coaching the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was asked by reporters about his team’s execution. “I’m in favor of it,” he said.

  • Michael Blanpied

    I too am avoiding paying a parking cent to those idiots. But don’t forget that free parking is available on weekends, so we should all take advantage of that opportunity to keep supporting the RTC restaurants and businesses…it’s not their fault that their landlord is a crook. As a reminder (from the FAQ page):
    Garage parking on weekends (from 12:00 a.m. Saturday through 12:00 a.m. Monday) are [sic] free, as are major holidays and premier events. Street parking is free only on Sundays (12:00 a.m. Sunday through 12:00 a.m. Monday) and federal holidays.

    • Chris Harrod

      No

      • Adrian Havill

        No, total boycott.

        • Michael Blanpied

          A total boycott is not useful or effective. Consider: BP can worm out of responsibility of an overall business down-turn by blaming the weather, the economy, etc. Real, tangible, suit-supporting evidence would be a shift of business away from time of paid parking, and to times of free parking. Remember, merchants must demonstrate that customers avoid PAID parking, in order to prevail. A total boycott is counter-productive, and doesn’t help the merchants make their case.

          • Adrian Havill

            Umm, they’ve already blamed the weather. What will frighten BXP is several empty storefronts and lease terminations. The faster that happens the better.

  • Tom H

    Owen Thomas (CEO) quote “…make adjustments to ensure that Reston remains a preeminent location for business and residents in Northern Virginia.” notice that “customer”, as in those shopping and dining are not mentioned…

  • gingerp

    Rockville, MD. Anyone can park without an app. For RTC first time or one time visitors, downloading an app is a ridiculous waste of time, and makes no sense. FOUR HOURS FREE!! And/or give an option for paid parking with a credit card. Allow the free parking by merchants to work WITHOUT an app. My weekly movie and lunch outing with six friends has moved to Merrifield thanks to Boston Properties, and I am an RTC resident. Who now drives elsewhere to meet friends for outings.

  • Generic User

    Totally calling Biff, my stock broker, to snap up this fabs BP stock. That CEO seems so rad with those business-y terms like “evaluate our execution.” I just hope he isn’t evaluating his own execution as CEO over this trippendicular faux pas.

  • LeftPolitico

    BP says about the app: “In Reston specifically, the system has been adopted by 140,000 users so far.” Yeah, right. Does anyone believe that?

    • Generic User

      They must be going by downloads, doesn’t mean people are using the stupid thing. Some of those numbers have to be people who live elsewhere in the country and were just visiting RTC on a trip and thought they had to download the app for the parking. Does the Hyatt garage require the app? If so, every hotel visitor with a rental car is deceptively driving that number up.

    • Flabio Royale

      I downloaded that app, registered with all my personal info, used it ONCE in
      the first week of January, and I’m done forever with that crap app and RTC. I
      count as one of those 140K users. I’ll bet there is a huge percentage
      of one time users. BP are in denial that their big parking
      investment has failed, and they are out of touch with the truth, working out of an office thousands of miles away. I live
      nearby, and we moved here because we liked RTC. Now we are looking to move
      elsewhere. The permanent damage continues.

  • Reston Resident

    Hey BP. Still not paying. Still not going.

    And not missing it.

  • 40yearsinreston

    Anybody else notice that paid parking came into effect just as the 2 buildings being erected were underway
    I guess they dont want construction workers to park for free

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Why go to RTC now that Willard’s is open? BBQ uber alles!

    • Ethan Bond

      Eaten at Willard’s twice in the last week, really great BBQ and a great addition to the area!. A Reston resident and have not eaten at RTC once since paid parking (used to go 3 or 4 times a week) Not even a conscious boycott, I just can’t be bothered with the app headache when there are great places nearby without it. Fantastic dinner this evening at Red’s Table and looking forwards to watching the Caps game tomorrow at Jimmy’s Tavern in Herndon. I guess that makes me a fair weather customs..

  • Ann O’Nymous

    I don’t know if you can measure the RTC fiasco directly by looking at BP’s revenue numbers. Wouldn’t the Reston situation get swallowed up in amongst all the other towns and cities where BP do business?

    But: what would be incontrovertible evidence would be the tenants’ same-store-sales numbers. This is a well-understood metric in retail and there is enough diversity in the type of stores in RTC to make sampling meaningful. For example, if Dawn Price Baby (handful of stores in NoVA) and Jos A Bank (nationwide chain) and Davelle (one-off) all report drops in SSS, well then something really serious is going on.

  • Kim C

    Urban??? Urban??? Who is he talking about? Reston? Has he ever even visited Reston? This is as suburban as it gets!!! Did they do a feasibility study on the whole parking thing before they implemented it? If so, did they only visit Arlington and Bethesda? Malls in the area like Mosiac and Tysons (in VERY wealthy McLean) do NOT have paid parking. What the heck made them think they could get away with it in Reston? The activities they have at RTC are nice, but Mosiac has even better events for families…and free parking. They are killing the Reston Town Center with their privacy stealing parking app, and outrageous fees to park. I hope the businesses can weather this crap storm BP has rained on them!

  • noodmik

    So about those elite Jackson’s drink stirrers that are no longer in the Jackson’s vodka tonics, gin tonics, etc.

    Jackson’s is economizing and has stopped using drink stirrers due to validation parking costs. Until drink stirrers are back in their drinks with a lime skewered, me and my liver are not going to Jackson’s. I am tired of fishing out the lime with my fingers.

  • taylor13

    “The system has been adopted by 140,000 users so far.”

    Make that 139,999. I downloaded the ap, used it once, and deleted it because I don’t plan to go back.

  • meyerweb

    Feck BXP. Reston is not “urban”. Tysons is more urban than RTC and free parking is everywhere. And RTC’s state of the art parking system is a privacy invading, inconvenient, abomination. I haven’t been to RTC since December, and won’t ever go back.

  • thinkinginvirginia

    Was In the mood for a burger yesterday and like the Counter Burger but didn’t want to deal with the parking situation at RTC so went to Silver Diner instead….that’s the reality.

    • Edward Calvert

      Free parking, takeout spots, call ahead, *awesome* bread pudding, silver diner club points, ….the list goes on…

  • JS333

    I think the policy was poorly implemented. It’s too strict. Similar places along the metro lines with paid parking allow for a 2-3 hr. grace period. If the point is to deter commuters, and not customers, this would be a logical compromise. Give people enough time to do some shopping or grab lunch for free, but those who are using it as an all day commuter lot would have to pay. This current policy isn’t to deter commuters, it’s to be a profit center.

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