Morning Notes

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on purple flowers (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Reston Mother Among Those Affected by Return of Evictions — “Gladys Suarez has lived in her Reston apartment for 20 years with her daughter and 4-year-old grandson. When she fell behind on rent after COVID-19 affected her housecleaning job, a federal eviction moratorium gave her some peace of mind. Now that the moratorium has ended, Virginia eviction courts are busy processing the pandemic backlog of cases, and Suarez has found herself packing all her family’s belongings into boxes, with her scheduled eviction just days away.” [WUSA9]

Nonprofit Seeks Recall of Fairfax County Top Prosecutor — A nonprofit called Virginians for Safe Communities is planning recall campaigns against three liberal prosecutors, including Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, who defended his reform efforts. The group’s leaders include a former FBI assistant director, a policy director for the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, and the Department of Justice’s deputy director of public affairs under the Trump administration. [The Washington Post]

Boston Properties Reports Rent Drops in Reston — Boston Properties “reported the 508-unit Signature at Reston saw average monthly rent drop to $2,143, a 7.6% decline compared to the second quarter of 2020, while the 359-unit Avant at Reston Town Center saw an 8.1% decline to $2,180 a month. On Boston Properties’ earnings call last week, President Douglas Linde said the company’s rents are below pre-pandemic levels but it too is cutting concessions, believing people are moving back to cities.” [Washington Business Journal]

via vantagehill/Flickr

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Rendering of office building proposed for Reston Gateway Block D (via Fairfax County)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the alteration of Boston Properties’ plans for Reston Gateway to swap previously designated retail and parking space for offices after holding a public hearing on Tuesday (July 13).

The decision came two months after the county planning commission approved the proposal to amend the mixed-use development’s site plans and proffer conditions in May.

Mary Ann Tsai with the county’s department of planning and development noted on Tuesday that “no change is proposed to the approved overall gross floor area, or FAR, of the development.”

Submitted to the county in October, the application suggests replacing retail space and garage parking with offices and a screened level of above-grade parking. It will transfer up to 78,000 square feet of office space to Block D from parcels earmarked for Fannie Mae and and Volkswagen’s North American headquarters.

“The big move with this application is to take four stories of above grade structured parking and essentially turn them into office space,” Cooley partner Mark Looney, a legal representative for Boston Properties, told the board.

The Reston Gateway development design blocks (via Fairfax County)

“That office space is coming from other blocks within the existing development where there was office space allocated to them, but they were being developed with less than what the maximum potential was,” Looney said.

Boston Properties, the developer of the multi-phase development, also proposed providing additional design elements on the street level as a part of this application. These elements could include façade articulation, decorative materials, and additional lighting.

Looney added that, while the developer thinks it has made “great strides,” further discussion and work will still need to be had to address these potential changes with Public Art Reston, Town Center Design Review Board, and Fairfax County planners.

Looney said this application is designed to shift square footage “into what used to be an above-grade structured parking facility to improve to overall design of the building itself.”

Located adjacent to the impending Reston Town Center Metro Station, Reston Gateway will expand the town center by 4.4 million square feet of development when finished, adding 2.2 million square feet of offices, 93,000 square feet of retail, 2,010 residential units, and a 570-room hotel.

The first phase, which encompasses the Fannie Mae and Volkswagen buildings, is currently under construction and expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021.

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A Reston Now employee was kicked out of Reston Town Center on Tuesday afternoon for taking photos.

Jay Westcott, a staff photographer for Reston Now and its sister sites Tysons Reporter, ALXnow and ARLnow, was asked by a security guard to leave RTC after he attempted to take several photos outdoors. Westcott has earlier been asked by an editor to update Reston Now’s file photos, which we use to illustrate stories about everything from new office tenants to events and other happenings.

Westcott had just paid for parking and begun taking photos of a landscaping crew when he was approached by a security guard.

Boston Properties, the Massachusetts-based company that owns RTC, says that any media, photographer or videographer must seek a permit — processed through RTC’s marketing — each time they want to take photos in the center.

The permit application notes that all photos must be approved by RTC prior to publication and “are available for licensing by Reston Town Center management for use in Reston Town Center publications.”

‘This is not a new policy. Some brands have policies in place regarding professional photography so we normally escort media on site,” said Ashley Arias, director of TAA Public Relations, Boston Properties’ PR agency.

The application also stipulates that storefronts, loading docks, and building entrances cannot be photographed without written permission.

Reston Now owner and publisher Scott Brodbeck said that although RTC is privately owned, it is a de facto public space.

“Jay is a consummate professional who was simply updating our stock photos of the area. Credentialed members of the media should not be required to obtain permits in order to do their jobs in such a setting,” Brodbeck said. “That’s doubly true given that any member of the general public is able to take such photos with their smartphones without being hassled by security.”

Some local photographers say that although the permit process is cumbersome, RTC’s marketing team is forthcoming and welcoming.

“I just keep a copy of the PDF on my phone, and any time a security guard requests a permit, I show them my phone, they take a quick glance at it, and let me carry on,” Reston-based photographer Charlotte Geary told Reston Now.

Boston Properties’ photography policy highlights some elected officials’ concerns about the privatization of publicly used spaces.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said that the photography restriction in open areas of RTC underscores the fact that open areas in RTC are not public open spaces and rather “private property accessible and usable by the public with conditions established by the private property owner.”

He says his task force, which is reviewing Reston’s Comprehensive Plan, is taking a look at the pros and cons of privately owned and maintained open spaces versus publicly owned and maintained spaces. The topic was discussed at a December meeting.

It’s not the first time the privatization of open space has been an issue in Reston.

In the spring of 2019, Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, clashed with the county over the permissibility of campaigning on its property.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Boston Properties wants to replace garage parking with office space in the final block of Reston Gateway, a massive mixed-use development that’s currently under construction steps from the Reston Town Center Metro Station.

Although the first phase of the project was approved by the county in 2018, the company wants to tweak some aspects of Block D by adding roughly 80,000 square feet of office use on the first four floors of the building. Ground floor retail on the first floor and three levels of above-ground parking are currently approved for the block, which flanks Town Center Parkway.

The project extends Reston Town Center towards the south and includes 2.2 million square feet of office space, a 570-room hotel, 93,000 square feet of retail, and 2,010 residential units. The first phase of the project, which includes four development blocks, is well underway.

In an application to the county, Boston Properties noted that the requested change simply shifts previously approved density for office space to the block, ultimately resulting in ‘higher tax-paying square footage.’

‘This request only strengthens the development program by increasing the habitable space at the corner of Town Center Parkway and Founders Boulevard and enhancing the building architecture there by replacing an above-grade parking with Class A office,’ wrote Molly Novotny, a senior land use planner with Cooley, a Reston-based land use firm.

So far, Fannie Mae is set to occupy Blocks A and B next year and the hotel and retail elements in Block C will be completed by 2023.

The proposed change to the project was reviewed by the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee on Monday.

The Fairfax County Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the project on May 12.

Images via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Wheelock Street Capital plans to build up to 90 townhouses next to Fannie Mae’s current offices at 11600 American Dream Way.

The move comes after Wheelock’s plans to redevelop the nearby Hidden Creek Club were opposed by neighboring community groups and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

The company, which bought the sprawling 29-acre property in 2018, plans to build the townhouses in four blocks on open space.

Although the county’s zoning allows the Connecticut-based company to build two more office buildings on the site, Wheelock chose the residential route to complement existing office space on the site.

“The introduction of an option for residential use will help to complement and balance the existing office use on the property, and will create positive traffic impacts relative to the full office build-out option,” according to the application.

Its plans for the golf course, which it purchased in 2017, are more uncertain. Wheelock has proposed general plans for a community park and between 500 and 2,000 residential units. No formal proposal has been filed with the county yet.

But Alcorn publicly stated he would block any efforts to redevelop the golf course, which requires rezoning and is a flashpoint in several community groups’ efforts to maintain Reston as a community with two golf courses.

The Fannie Mae proposal is in its early phases. The project heads to the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Sept. 22 and a staff report isn’t expected until Sept. 7.

Meanwhile, Fannie Mae is expected to move into Boston Properties’ next phase of development in Reston Town Center next year.

Image via handout/Fairfax County Government

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Microsoft Corp. plans to expand with about 45,000 square feet in Reston Town Center, according to a recent earnings call by landlord Boston Properties.

The expansion is an addition to the 400,000-square-foot tech hub that is planned for the development.

Here’s more from the Washington Business Journal on the expansion:

The new space adds to what Redwood, Washington-based Microsoft is already leasing at Two Discovery Square, which stands at 12012 Sunset Hills Road. It’s also separately establishing a tech hub at Two Freedom Square, at 11955 Freedom Drive, bringing its total footprint across those two buildings to above 600,000 square feet, according to earnings data and company officials familiar with the situation.

In late May, Microsoft announced that it would invest $64 million to establish a new tub hub that would bring 2,500 new jobs to the area.

Photo by Franck V./Unsplash

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Reston Company Goes Public During ‘Tipping Point’ — “Reston’s SOC Telemed is the latest Greater Washington company to make its debut on the public markets, opening Monday at $10 per share on the Nasdaq stock exchange.” [Washington Business Journal]

How Fannie Mae Helped Boston Properties Land Volkswagen’s Headquarters —  Fannie Mae agreed to give back two floors in the town center’s next phase, previously known as Reston Gateway, to help Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP) seal the nearly 200,000-square-foot lease with Volkswagen Group of America.” [Washington Business Journal]

Return to School Information Available — The Fairfax County Public School system has published a number of guides to help students and parents navigate the return to school. [FCPS]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Boston Properties, owner of Reston Town Center, held its Third Quarterly Earnings Call earlier this week where the current state and future of Boston Properties in Reston were discussed.

Chief Executive Officer Owen Thomas says Boston Properties (BXP) has performed well, despite the pandemic.

“Despite a challenging recessionary environment, BXP continued to perform well in the third quarter, demonstrating the durability of our business,” Thomas explained. “In the quarter, we collected 99% of our office rents and 97% of rents overall. We completed 811,000 square feet of leasing, 40% being either new requirements or expanding existing customers, and we increased our average net rental rates on our second-generation leases by 20%.”

BXP properties that have recently been sold was also discussed, including Patriots Park in Reston that was sold for $325 million, according to Thomas, or what equals out to $450 a square foot and a 5.6 cap rate.

“This 724,000 square-foot asset is fully leased and sold to an asset management company,” Thomas said. “BXP built and subsequently sold Patriots Park in 2014 at roughly the same valuation.”

President of BXP Douge Linde later chimed in to discuss leasing activity around the country. Northern Virginia is the second market that relaxed its restrictions since the start of the pandemic, following Massachusetts, according to Linde.

“In Northern Virginia companies are actually required just to social distance and there are no limits to the occupancy threshold, and employees drive to their office,” Linde said. “We estimate our census is well under 15%. At this time, the return to work is not about transportation constraints, and it’s not about elevator constraints either.”

BXP also finalized a few leases in Northern Virginia, according to Linde, including Microsoft in Reston Town Center.

“They leased an additional 45,000 square feet and extended the 2028 expiration on 164,000 square feet to 2033,” Linde said. “We’ve also completed another 96,000 square foot of leases, 8 transactions during the quarter there. We are in negotiation on 5 more leases, totaling 65,000 square feet, for vacant space in the Town Center.”

Restonians should expect to see Volkswagon in Reston as BXP recently signed a 20-year lease with the company.

The future of BXP in Reston was also discussed by Chief Financial Officer Mike LaBelle.

“We’ve already signed leases for this space in Reston, and we expect it to be occupied in 2021,” LaBelle explained. “We partially offset the impact of the occupancy decline with revenue growth from a full quarter of contribution from our 100% leased 1750 Presidents Way development in Reston that we delivered in the second quarter, and $2 million of growth in our parking revenues.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Boston Properties, the owner of Reston Town Center, has taken a hit in earnings since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the regional economy.

According to a quarterly earnings statement, the real estate owner’s funds from operations were down by 14 percent in the second quarter this year when compared to this time last year. The company earned $236.9 million for the first three months ending on June 30.

Boston Properties CEO Owen Thomas attributed the earnings drop to layoffs, rent concessions with struggling tenants, and dips in parking fees from office tenants that are now working remotely.

Still, the company reported some big wins. Earlier this year and in the thick of the pandemic, Microsoft signed a 400,000-square-foot-lease in Reston Town Center.

It’s unclear how the pandemic will pan out for the company. Rent collections remain high, with collections of 94 percent of rents overall, Thomas said.

I’m particularly proud of our team’s commitment to serving our customers with the highest level of professionalism that is our standard at Boston Properties,” he said.

He also noted that greater acceptance of part-time work from home may act as a headwind to office demand growth.

“So longterm, we think the product is here to stay. And the question is, who is going to be providing that and who is going to get through this pandemic most successfully?”

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Boston Properties, the owner of Reston Town Center, says that rent collection and leasing activity in April has remained strong this month despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

During a quarterly earnings call yesterday (Wednesday), company representatives said that roughly 90 percent of its office and retail tenants paid rent for April 1. The company’s first-quarter revenue is up from four percent over the previous year.

The company has signed a 135,000 square foot lease with a defense contractor at RTC. Construction of a 276,000-square-foot building that will be fully occupied by Leidos is also complete.

In Northern Virginia, leases amounting to 900,000 square feet of space are in active negotiations.

CEO Owen Thomas said it is difficult to determine where market rents are today and how the pandemic will impact the overall market.

As in past recessions and economic slowdown created uncertainty, which reduces some users need for space, business leaders can become more cautious and reluctant to invest capital in new offices.”

The complete transcript of the call is available online.

Photo by R. Dawson/Flickr

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Many businesses in Reston Town Center have closed in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Northern Virginia and beyond.

Readers have described the town center as a ghost town as an increasing number of businesses put up signs announcing temporary closures on their storefronts.

BowTie Cinemas closed yesterday (Monday), noting that it’s concerned for the “health and safety of our customers, staff members and the greater movie-going community.”

Few tenants indicate when they plan to reopen. But the Apple store says it will remain closed until March 27. J. Crew, Kendra Scott, and the Crafthouse are also temporarily shuttering.

Paddywax Candle Bar, which offers guests a chance to make candles in a workshop-style setting, is also closed for all workshops until March 30.

Reston Town Center tenants are encouraging customers and guests to find resources online.

While most retail tenants are closed, many restaurants and bars remain open for now.

Ted’s Bulletin is still open for dine-in, but with adjusted hours of 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sweetgreen is also open.

Morton’s The Steakhouse is also open, but is closely monitoring the situation.

Jackson’s is open and is offering more carryout options.

We will update this list as we confirm additional closures.

Photo by Heidi Clark

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Monday Morning Notes

School Buildings Closed — All Fairfax County Public School buildings are closed until further notice. Beginning today (Monday), grab-and-go food distribution sites will be set up at 18 locations. Breakfast is served from 8-10:30 a.m. and lunch from 10:30 a.m.t o 2 p.m.[Fairfax County Public Schools]

Local Parks, Libraries Closed — The Fairfax County Public Library System and local parks will be closed for due weeks to the novel coronavirus threat. [Patch]

Telecom Entrepreneur Dies — John McDonnell Jr., who started Recon-Based Transaction Network Services, died in March at a hospital in Florida. He was 82. [The Washington Post]

Boston Properties Sell Properties — The company has sold its New Dominion Park property, including 499 Grove St., in Herndon to an affiliate of USAA Real Estate. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo by Cbreezy

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of deferring a decision on a request to reduce parking at a major mixed-use project near the future Reston Town Center Metro Station.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D) motioned that the board postpone a decision on the proposal by Boston Properties to a later date.

“Considering the history of Boston Properties and parking in Reston, I deferred the decision on Reston Gateway in order to get more information on Boston Properties’ assumptions on parking needs at Reston Gateway,” Alcorn wrote in statement to Reston Now.

The developer is seeking to provide 1,663 fewer parking spaces than what was already approved for Reston Gateway, a mixed-use development currently under construction between Reston Town Center Metro Station and RTC.

Alcorn said that he wants to take a closer look at the assumptions Boston Properties used to guide its decision. For example, the company assumes that “residents and visitors to the development will require parking at rates no higher than similarly-located transit-oriented development in Arlington,” he said.

Overall, the proposal aims to reduce parking by 20 percent. Residential parking for the 2,010 units planned on the site would take the biggest hit, with an average reduction of 38 percent.

So far, county staff backed Boston Properties’ proposal, which it says is acceptable because of the site’s proximity to the Metro station and the need to reduce parking demand by encouraging other modes of transportation.

Reston Gateway includes nine buildings spread over 33 acres. The first phase of the project — which includes office space anchored by Fannie Mae — is currently under construction.

Handout via Fairfax County Government

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Boston Properties is looking to reduce the amount of parking at Reston Gateway, a mixed-use project currently under construction between the Reston Town Center Metro Station and RTC.

The company wants to provide 1,663 fewer parking spaces than previously approved plans outlined. The move — which would parking by 20 percent — is being considered because of the project’s proximity to the future RTC Metro Station. Parking for residential units would drop by an average of 38 percent. The company also wants to drop any requirement for parking in the lodging component of the hotel on the site.

The county’s planning staff approved the request, noting that the mixed-use center is near a Metro Station where mass transit should be encouraged via parking reductions:

The character of high-density, mixed-use development, both at the subject site and surrounding neighborhoods, and the proximity to rail and other forms of transit, provides opportunities to reduce parking demand. Analysis of multi-family development adjacent to Metro stations has shown that residents of this type of housing are less likely to own one or more personal vehicles. The availability of Metrorail and other transportation options at the site will encourage people from other neighborhoods and communities to travel to the redevelopment area for work and leisure activities using alternative modes other than their personal vehicle. Collectively, these support the applicant’s proposal for this parking reduction based on the proximity of mass transit.

The proposal heads to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for a vote on March 10.

The project includes nine blocks with nine buildings spread over 33 acres. It’s located on the north side of Sunset Hills Road between Town Center Parkway and Reston Parkway. Four office buildings, three residential buildings with 2,010 units, two hotels and more than 162,000-square-foot in retail and restaurants, are planned on the site.

Crews are working on the first phase of construction, which includes four new buildings at the intersection fo Sunset Hills and Town Center Parkway. Fannie Mae plans to lease about 850,000 square feet of office space at the site.

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17Fifty — the newest office tower in Reston Town Center is nearing completion. Leidos, the full-building tenant of the 17-story building located at 1750 Presidents Street, is gearing up to move into its new headquarters by March 2020.

A spokesperson for Boston Properties told Reston Now that the top of the building has been topped off and the the work to enclose the building has been completed.

The company is now working to construct the interior space for Leidos, a Reston-based information technology contractor.

The new building has roughly 276,000 square feet. The tower is designed by Shalom Baranes Associates.

County permits for the building’s sprinkler system were recently processed.

Photos by Jay Westcott

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