We’re counting down the top 20 most-read articles of 2017 this week. Here’s the final list of our top five stories.
5. The first lawsuit filed regarding Boston Properties’ paid parking system at Reston Town Center in late March had 10,970 views. The suit was initiated by Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive). Paid parking continues to challenge local businesses, according to several tenants. Just this week, Appalachian Spring, one of the first tenants of Reston Town Center, announced plans to shutter its Reston location partly due to limited foot traffic that a business representative believes decreased partly due to paid parking.
4. Continuing a similar theme, Boston Properties’ plans to modify its parking system five months after instituting paid parking drew 11,078 views. The company rescinded the payment requirements for users of RTC parking garages after 5 p.m. and also allow one hour of free garage parking for sessions that begin before 5 p.m.
3. An article about where to watch one of the most anticipated professional fights in history gained 14,374 page views. Undefeated box champion Floyd Mayweather went toe to toe with UFC superstar Conor McGregor.
2. The brutal killing of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim girl who was killed as she walked to her mosque after night prayers during the month of fasting gained nationwide attention and sent reverberations locally. Darwin Martin-Torres, a 22-year-old, is accused of raping and sexual assaulting Hassanen. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The article gained 15,575 views.
1. A rundown of where to spot Fourth of July fireworks took the top honors of the year with more than 16,000 page views. Turns out finding places to complete the American tradition was especially popular among readers.
It’s been quite a year and we look forward to bring you more stories in 2018.
Photo courtesy of Rick Collier
The 27th annual Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival will be bigger than ever this year. The festival, which is the largest annual fundraiser for the Greater Reston Arts Center, will become a three-day event instead of a two-day event.
It is scheduled to take place on May 19 through 20 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. GRACE added Friday to the event in order to open up the festival to the 10,000-person workforce in Reston Town Center and make it “bigger and better than ever,” GRACE says.
“Making the very significant logistical investment in a Friday opening provides a new, built-in, affluent buying audience looking for world-class art for their offices, homes, for gifts, and more,” according to a statement by the center.
The competitive, juried event is consistently rated as one of the best outdoor art festivals in the country, both for the quality of the artwork presented and for its artist hospitality.
GRACE also plans to move its Festival Party, which is sponsored by M Group and The Counter, to Saturday night from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Artist awards, sponsored by Boston Properties, will be announced during the party.
Last year’s festival raised about $275,000 for GRACE’s operating budget, executive director and curator Lily Siegel told Reston Now. It attracts an estimated 30,000 visitors a year, GRACE says.
Anyone interested in applying to submit art for the festival can do so online. Applications can be submitted in 16 different categories, including painting, photography, ceramics, jewelry, glass, sculpture and more. Artist applications for juror review must be submitted by Dec. 10.
Free garage parking is available each day.
Photo courtesy of GRACE
Date Announced for 2018 Polar Plunge — The 11th annual Virginia Polar Dip at Lake Anne will take place Saturday, Feb. 3. [Lake Anne Plaza/Facebook]
Boston Properties Residential Project Nears Completion — Designed as a gateway to Reston Town Center, The Signature apartments on Freedom Drive and New Dominion Drive are set to become available in January. The 508-unit project will include two towers, two six-story buildings, a specialty grocer and 4,600 square feet of retail. [Washington Business Journal]
Children Left in Car Rescued by Police — The Fairfax County Police Department says a 26-year-old Falls Church woman brought her three children (ages 5, 6 and 7) to work but left them in the car because she didn’t want to bring them inside. FCPD was called to the scene and got the kids out of the car. They were taken to the hospital for treatment of heat exhaustion, and their mother was hit with three counts of felony child abuse. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Fairfax County Promotes Domestic Violence Awareness Month — On a monthly basis, domestic violence hotlines in Fairfax County receive 200 calls and victims request 75 family abuse protective orders. The county is encouraging residents to help prevent and end domestic violence by volunteering with the county’s Office of Women and Domestic and Sexual Violence Services. Volunteers work on special events, help run a 24-hour hotline, among other duties. [Fairfax County Government/Facebook]
Fairfax County Worker Found Not Guilty in Fatal Stabbing — Kempton Bonds, 20, was found not guilty Wednesday of fatally stabbing 35-year-old Tyonne Johns, a caterer at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly. Bonds was working as a seasonal employee with the Fairfax County Park Authority when the incident occurred last year, according to officials. [FOX 5]
Longtime Reston Town Center tenant The Bike Lane will soon be leaving.
In an email distributed Wednesday morning, commercial real-estate firm CBRE announced wine-and-paint studio Muse Paintbar is coming soon to the Town Center. An updated Reston Town Center promotional packet linked within the email shows the studio going into the 4,148-square foot space at 11943 Democracy Drive currently occupied by The Bike Lane.
In January, when RTC owner Boston Properties initiated its ParkRTC paid-parking system, The Bike Lane announced it would actively seek a new home. A representative at The Bike Lane said Wednesday morning that “it is no secret” the store will be exiting Reston Town Center soon, but he could provide no further information.
“We are relocating, but we are not ready to publicly announce where we will be relocating,” said Anne Mader, co-owner of the shop along with her husband, Todd, in an email to Reston Now. “We should be ready in the next week or so.”
Muse Paintbar has more than two dozen locations along the East Coast from Portland, Maine to Virginia Beach. In the DC Metro, it has locations at the National Harbor, in Gaithersburg and at Merrifield’s Mosaic District. It has another location listed as coming soon to Centreville.
We have reached out to representatives of CBRE and Reston Town Center for comment. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
Aaron Gordon has owned Red Velvet Cupcakery (11939 Democracy Drive) in Reston Town Center for seven years.
He does not believe there will be an eighth.
“I feel very, very, very confident that they are planning not to renew our lease, and they’re stonewalling us,” Gordon said. “This is all retaliation, plain and simple.”
Gordon has been one of the most outspoken opponents of paid parking at Reston Town Center, initiated in January by RTC owners Boston Properties. Gordon was one of the organizers and is the mouthpiece for the Reston Merchants Association, a group of business owners and managers at RTC fighting the system.
Now, as Gordon looks at negotiating a lease extension with his landlord, he believes the spotlight he’s put on himself through the Merchants Association is making such an extension impossible.
“I have no doubt that they are retaliating against me and Red Velvet Cupcakery for being one of the leaders of the fight against paid parking,” he said. “I have a whole timeline of reasons I believe this to be true.”
We reached out to Gordon’s landlord, Boston Properties, and were told by spokesperson Marion Myers that “lease negotiations with tenants and prospects are not communicated publicly until both parties are in agreement.”
Gordon said Red Velvet Cupcakery’s lease at the Town Center comes up in May. Last year, he said, he was in negotiations not just to renew, but to bring another of his concepts, Bakers and Baristas, to the Town Center as well.
“Before this whole battle, they loved Red Velvet, they loved me as an owner, and they loved the new concepts I [would be] putting in,” he said. “Until, of course, now.”
Gordon says he is almost certain there will be no agreement with the landlord, as he feels they are going out of their way to make sure he knows he is no longer welcome at the Town Center — where he says he makes a “fairly modest but steady income” despite what he says is an 8-10 percent drop in sales in 2017.
Season Subscription Now Available for Players — The 51st season of Reston Community Players will include performances of “Aida,” “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Season tickets are $82 for adults and $72 for students and senior citizens. [Reston Community Players]
Telehealth Provider Expanding in Reston — An expansion of Avizia, who partners with providers to deploy and power system-wide telehealth, will bring 27 more jobs to the community. [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority]
Reception for ‘Althea’ is Tonight — The latest public artwork installed on the Lake Thoreau spillway by the South Lakes High School STEAM Team will have its official reception tonight from 6:30-8 p.m. at Reston Association headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). RSVP to [email protected]. [Reston Now]
Sobriety Checkpoint Planned for Saturday Night — A sobriety checkpoints will be conducted by the Fairfax County Police Department on Saturday from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. [FCPD]
BXP Senior VP Talks About Reston Gateway — In an interview with Bisnow, Boston Properties Senior Vice President Peter Otteni says the property between Reston Town Center and the future Silver Line Metro station will be “a great complement to Reston Town Center” that won’t have “as soft-goods-driven of a user base.” Rather, he says, it “will be much more food, entertainment and convenience.” [Bisnow]
Best Reston Business Awards Ballots Go Out Today — Don’t forget to sign up for Reston Now’s email list so you can vote in the 2017 Best Reston Business Awards. [Reston Now]
Negotiations are underway to lease 45,000 square feet of space at Boston Properties’ Discovery Town Square, which would bring the two-building complex to 98 percent capacity.
During the company’s quarterly earnings conference call Wednesday, BXP President Douglas Linde announced the negotiations to shareholders.
“There are a number of technology companies looking to expand in Reston Town Center, just as the defense contractors have begun to retreat,” Linde said.
The previous lease on the vacant space expired in June, Linde said.
Linde also told investors Boston Properties is “hotly pursuing” a 600,000-square foot build-to-suit lease agreement at Reston Town Center.
“Our new transaction activity is as robust as it has been in our history,” Linde said.
BXP’s second-quarter funds from operations per share ($1.67) and total revenue ($657 million) both exceeded expectations.
After hearing concerns from the community, including more than 9,000 signatures on a petition about the issue, leaders of Reston Association will attempt to engage Boston Properties in conversation about paid parking at Reston Town Center.
RA’s Board of Directors voted unanimously at their Thursday meeting (video) to authorize CEO Cate Fulkerson, Board President Sherri Hebert and Board Vice President David Bobzien to pursue the talks. Hebert and Bobzien said it is important for RA members to know the Board is actively working toward a solution.
“This is the first step, [and] we think it’s an important step,” said Bobzien, who participated in the meeting by phone. “I think it’s very important that we engage with [Boston Properties].”
Suzanne Zurn, the organizer of the petition and the founder of the Keep Parking Free at RTC movement, addressed the Board during the meeting and encouraged them to take action.
“Your neighbors, your constituents, responded in large numbers to the petition opposing paid parking at RTC,” she said. “I encourage you to read their comments and consider how RA could add weight to their voices in this important community issue.”
Paid parking went into effect Jan. 3 at Reston Town Center, requiring $2-per-hour payment in garages all day Monday through Friday, and $3-per-hour payment for street parking Monday through Saturday. On June 5, parking became free in garages between 5 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., and one hour of free parking is also offered during the day.
Many merchants at RTC validate garage parking for customers, but which of the five garages is validated varies by business. Parking at the Town Center while paid parking is in effect requires the use of the ParkRTC app, though the Town Center announced earlier this week that parking sessions can be started without the app using newly updated kiosks. Parking in the Orange Garage at the Town Center is free for Jackson’s customers, without use of the app or any other method, thanks to an injunction in a lawsuit the business has against Boston Properties.
Zurn said all of the information one must know before visiting the Town Center and parking has only complicated matters and continues to keep potential customers away.
“I don’t know of any paid parking situations in our region that are this complicated,” she said to the Board. “Do you?”
Reston Town Center is not in the jurisdiction of Reston Association. However, Director Victoria White (Hunters Woods/Dogwood District) asked if the parking situation has resulted in disruption to surrounding streets. Zurn said it has, as workers constructing The Signature building at RTC have been seen parking on New Dominion Parkway, Temporary Road and North Shore Drive.
Paul Steidler, who also addressed the Board about the issue, said the Reston Town Center paid parking outrage is hurting the character and direction of the community.
“Are we going to become an area that’s an elitist, gated community with all the decadence that brings?” Steidler said. “Or are we going to go back to our core values of being inclusive of all, of having a place we can all come and go more freely and enjoy what Reston has to offer?”
Hebert said she is hopeful she and the other RA leaders can have productive conversations with Boston Properties and help them understand the community’s plight.
“We feel like we owe that to the folks that live in the Reston Association, to speak on your behalf to them,” she said.
Saying they have heard the concerns of visitors who do not want to use the ParkRTC app, Boston Properties has updated the payment kiosks in the Reston Town Center parking garages.
According to information released on Reston Town Center’s Facebook page and elsewhere, new kiosks in the parking garages do not require the use of the ParkRTC app. Rather, it says, payment can be made by swiping a credit card or by paying with cash and receiving change. The information also says parking validation provided by a business is “easy to apply” using the kiosks.
More than 200,000 downloads of the ParkRTC app have been made, according to the announcement.
Anti-ParkRTC group Keep Parking Free at RTC called the new kiosks a win for their cause.
Share this! And then this happened… #ScraptheApp! Looks like Boston Properties has abandoned the requirement to use…
Paid parking went into effect Jan. 3 at Reston Town Center, requiring $2-per-hour payment in garages all day Monday through Friday. On June 5, parking became free in garages between 5 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., and one hour of free parking is also offered during the day.
After repeated member comments on the issue, the Reston Association Board of Directors will consider taking a more aggressive role regarding the paid-parking situation at Reston Town Center.
According to the agenda packet for Thursday’s meeting of the Board, they will consider moving “to authorize Reston Association (RA) Board President Sherri Hebert and Vice President David Bobzien to engage with representatives of Boston Properties and Reston Town Center (RTC) to inform and discuss with them the pressing requests from RA Members that further consideration be given to RTC’s paid parking system.”
In May, members Suzanne Zurn and Paul Steidler addressed the Board and asked directors to take a position against paid parking at the Town Center. Steidler again addressed the Board on the matter at its June meeting.
In her statement, Zurn — who has created an online petition about the issue that has nearly 10,000 signatures — argued that the ParkRTC system has negatively affected the Reston community.
“Not only is the system complicated and the data tracking creepy, it’s also deterrent for attracting new or occasional visitors,” Zurn said. “The livelihoods of our neighbors who work there and its local business owners have been hurt by significant reductions in revenue, fewer work hours and dramatically less tips. One only needs to look at the barrage of negative comments that appear on every RTC Facebook post to understand how the community feels.”
As of June 5, Boston Properties stepped back from 24/7 paid parking at RTC, allowing for free garage parking after 5 p.m. each day, along with one hour of free parking prior that time. Monday morning, Reston Town Center posted on its Facebook page that its parking garages now feature “easier-to-use” park-and-pay kiosks that do not require use of the ParkRTC app.
Reston Town Center is not under the purview of Reston Association; however, Zurn says she is hopeful RA can “engage in the conversation and use [its] clout to convene a community conversation about parking at RTC.”
Among other topics at Thursday’s meeting:
- the Board will consider releasing the remaining capital funds, more than $1.5 million, for the Central Services Facility renovation project
- CEO Cate Fulkerson will give an update on the status of staff’s 2017 goals
- a report will be given on the input obtained from RA’s member-listening sessions
- the 2017 State of the Environment Report will be given
- the Hook Road Working Group will be up for approval
Reston Association’s Board of Directors will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive), and the meeting will also be broadcast live on RA’s YouTube channel.
Many people who have boycotted or protested Reston Town Center over Boston Properties’ paid-parking system aren’t just upset with having to pay. In addition, they don’t want to download and use BXP’s ParkRTC app.
Now, customers can go to Mon Ami Gabi (11950 Democracy Drive) and they’ll help you get around the system.
According to the restaurant’s Facebook page:
More sweet news about weekday parking: We have new tablets where we can validate on the spot at our host stand – no…
A representative of the restaurant told Reston Patch that they will take care of parking for anyone who uses the Orange Garage, whether they dine at Mon Ami Gabi or not.
As we reported last week, though, there is some question about whether parking is even being monitored in the Orange Garage. After Jackson’s was granted a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit over the paid-parking system, customers of that restaurant can use the Orange Garage without using ParkRTC; however, no official word on how that is being enforced has been provided.
Parking is free in all garages after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, as well as on weekends. It will also be free all day Tuesday, July 4.
But how is that being monitored?
Last week, Jackson’s was granted an injunction in its case against Boston Properties, allowing the restaurant’s customers to park for free — without using the ParkRTC app — at all times. For other visitors to the Town Center, all daytime parking sessions (even those that are less than one hour, and therefore free) require registering through the app or at a kiosk.
The question that has been asked by many is: Just how exactly will they KNOW who is a Jackson’s customer and who isn’t? How can some people get away with not using the app in that garage while others still need to?
The answer, a week later: We still don’t really know.
Officials at Jackson’s have directed questions about the system to a corporate spokesperson, who has not yet been able to provide a firm answer. The following explanation was posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page Tuesday:
Our guests have been parking in the Orange garage without engaging the app or starting a session and have not had any issues today or yesterday. There has been some added signage from the landlord stating that parking is free for Jackson’s guests in the Orange garage. If you have any further questions, please contact Boston Properties directly at 703.579.6720!
Boston Properties has been similarly vague in responding to requests for clarification. Spokesperson Kathy Walsh, of the Fallston Group on behalf of BXP, said:
“As it always has been, parking in the Orange garage is free for customers of Jackson’s. The only change is that those customers now do not need to start a parking session.”
Boston Properties cannot comment further due to ongoing legal discussions.
(Parking was previously free at Jackson’s with a validation code through the app.)
So, readers, we’ll turn this over to you. Have you parked in the Orange Garage at RTC this week? What has your experience been? Let us know in the comments so we can all get to the bottom of this.
(This story was updated at 3:40 p.m. to include additional information from, and links to, the court documents that were filed Tuesday, as well as comment from Boston Properties.)
In a Tuesday ruling from the Fairfax County Circuit Court, Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge in Reston Town Center was granted a preliminary injunction against the ParkRTC system.
The injunction (view) will restrict Boston Properties from enforcing its pay-to-park system against Jackson’s guests in the Orange Garage, or otherwise interfering with Jackson’s guests’ right to park for free and without charge in the Orange Garage, according to a press release.
“We are pleased with the ruling of the Fairfax County Circuit Court granting a preliminary injunction [Tuesday] and reinforcing Jackson’s view that the current ParkRTC system creates confusion and concerns for our guests,” said Jon Norton, CEO of Great American Restaurants. “Jackson’s puts its guests first and we are delighted that they will no longer be forced to use the cumbersome ParkRTC app or the current pay-to-park system in the Orange Garage.”
Neither Great American Restaurants nor Boston Properties has provided clarification on how Jackson’s patrons will be able to park without using ParkRTC. An executive at Jackson’s said Wednesday afternoon that he would not comment on the issue.
Following the lawsuit filed by Jackson’s in March, Boston Properties made several amendments to the parking regulations, allowing free garage parking after 5 p.m. and one hour of free parking on weekdays in the garages. The announcement of these changes May 31 came one day prior to the second day of evidentiary hearing in the suit, in which Jackson’s owner Great American Restaurants claims the pay-parking rules violate agreed-upon terms of their lease.
According to the lawsuit:
“Great American and Boston Properties agreed to specific lease provisions which provided that parking for Jackson’s customers in the structure on the Garage Parcel would be free, that any parking access and control system would not unduly impede Jackson’s right to ‘free parking and access,’ and that, if the landlord ever sought to implement paid parking, it would ‘at its sole cost and expense’ provide a system that allowed Jackson’s to validate tickets ‘so that parking for [Jackson’s] customers and employees shall be free and without charge at all times and in all instances.”
“From the beginning, we have asked Boston Properties to uphold our lease rights, and [Tuesday’s] ruling is a step in the right direction,” Norton said.
If Boston Properties is successful in appealing the injunction, Jackson’s would be required to pay $25,000. In the letter announcing its ruling (view), however, the Court says Boston Properties’ argument about the necessity for paid parking has been “inconsistent.”
“Boston Properties argues that if the system is enjoined, then the entire pay-to-park system will have to shut down, thus resulting in an amount likely to be many millions of dollars. That argument, however, is inconsistent with Boston Properties’ initial argument that the pay-to-park system was necessary to ensure parking spaces would be available for the tenants and their employees and customers. Boston Properties has not yet admitted that the primary motivation to install the pay-to-park system was to monetize an asset that has become more valuable as the area has become more densely populated. Thus, the Court does not consider Boston Properties’ lost revenues argument to be persuasive in determining the amount for bond.”
A trial date for the suit has been set for February 2018.
Boston Properties has previously said it is “very confident” it will prevail in legal challenges related to paid parking. In response to Tuesday’s ruling, Boston Properties says it “is reviewing the Court’s opinion and considering [our] options.”
Boston Properties’ plans for a 28-acre site between the W&OD Trail and Sunset Hills Road would provide a connection between the Reston Town Center Metro station and RTC itself.
According to the latest edition of The Fairfax Newsletter, the 3.94 million-square feet of mixed-use development that is proposed for the site would include up to 1.69 million square feet of residential space, up to 1.67 million square feet of office space, up to 509,000 square feet of hotel space, and up to 185,400 square feet of retail/restaurant space. Construction would take place on nine blocks, in two phases. A 1.56-acre central area — designed to “invoke the successes” of places like the Mosaic District — is also proposed for the property.
A pedestrian bridge is proposed over Sunset Hills Road to connect the property to the future Metro station, with a “Gateway Plaza” that may include retail and a “noteworthy restaurant.” In addition, extension of Library Street from Reston Town Center to Reston Gateway is proposed; however, that would require approval from both the county and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, as it would cross the W&OD Trail.
The property currently is the home of two office buildings, Reston Corporate Center I and II, which would be demolished to make room for the new development.
The site, a portion of which is currently being used as a parking area for Metro construction, is part of the Reston Planned Residential Community (PRC) District. Under a proposed amendment to the PRC zoning ordinance, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors could approve the development to include population density in excess of 50 dwelling units per acre, which is the current cap.
The plans for the property call for between 1,502 and 1,688 units.
Images via Boston Properties
It's a start. It needs to be 2 hours. Still prevents commuter parking but allows lunch.
— Steve (@courageousrobot) May 31, 2017
— Deah Hester (@ACHSMavsLibrary) June 1, 2017
Too little too late. You are not, nor will ever be, the good guys.
— Tom Lastname (@12GaugeTom) June 1, 2017
Aaron Gordon, head of the Reston Merchants Association, says the changes — allowing for one hour of free parking before 5 p.m. and free parking afterward — are “a step in the right direction.” But he isn’t convinced it will be enough.
“We would like RTC to offer 3 hours free parking at all times, which would end the controversy entirely,” Gordon said. “Ultimately, our customers will decide if the recent concessions are enough. I’m very hopeful they are.”
Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery (11939 Democracy Drive), organized the Reston Merchants Association earlier this year to bring together numerous business owners and managers whose bottom line was suffering under the 24-hour paid-parking format — many reporting double-digit drops in sales. Gordon said the system was “tearing the fabric of who we are, how we choose to live and what we do within Reston.”
Following a successful protest in March, the merchants announced that they were planning a town hall-style meeting and a second protest march. They also have flirted with legal action over the BXP initiative; one restaurant, Jackson’s, did file a lawsuit on its own. Many potential customers have publicly stated they have been boycotting visiting the Town Center due to the policy, choosing options elsewhere with free parking instead.
While Gordon said he is encouraged by Boston Properties’ recent announcement, he said the merchants’ efforts may not be over.
“The Reston Merchants see this as a victory for our group and our customers,” he said. “But, we will regroup in the next two weeks to discuss if we think [Boston Properties] is doing enough. Then, we’ll be able to determine our next steps.”
The new parking rules will go into effect at Reston Town Center on Monday.