Poll: What Improvements Should Boston Properties Make to RTC’s Common Areas?

Last week, we learned that Boston Properties plans to upgrade Reston Town Center’s common areas.

The company will pour in about $5 million to upgrade several areas in order to “soften existing spaces” and modernize the town center, according to a representative for CBRE, who represents the property in lease deals.

While Reston Now hasn’t heard back from CBRE, Boston Properties about what’s planned, we would love to know what kind of improvements our readers are most looking forward to.

Plans are still in the design phase, but the company has already hinted at what could be coming. No changes to parking systems are proposed.

RTC-goers, please let us know your thoughts below.

File photo

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Setting the Record Straight on the RTC Falcon Naming

The following is a statement from Scott Brodbeck, founder and CEO of Local News Now, the Northern Virginia-based online publishing company behind Reston Now.

Yesterday, Reston Now announced the results of its poll to help name the two peregrine falcons that were found nesting at Reston Town Center.

Most of the announcement was devoted to rehashing the paid parking fiasco at the Town Center, because the top vote-getter in the poll, by far, was the names “Free” and “Parking.”

In the end, however, I made the call to select the runners up — Robert and Anne (as in Robert E. Simon and Lake Anne) — as the “official” names of the falcons. I felt the falcons deserved better than to be named after an acrimonious local parking dispute, and as a relatively new parent I did not think it fair for adults to ruin what could have been something fun for kids to participate in and learn from.

As we said, to the extent we have the power to decide such things, “Free” and “Parking” can be the birds’ unofficial nickname and considered the “People’s Choice” option.

The reaction to the announcement was disappointing. While we expected some push-back, and would understand some mild frustration, the cursing and threats of boycotts posted by some on Facebook were uncalled for. This was intended to be a light-hearted contest to name a couple of falcons, and instead the result has grown adults cursing and becoming angry.

It was reminiscent of the UK’s “Boaty McBoatface” kerfuffle, with more unironic invective.

Let’s set a few things straight about how this all came about. Boston Properties and its PR reps approached Reston Now with the idea of running a naming contest for the falcons that had been nesting at RTC. We agreed — I made the decision to move forward — because it sounded fun for readers.

Despite some wording about working with Boston Properties on it, we ran the contest on our own and made our own decisions, like including “Free” and “Parking” in the final poll. RTC’s owner let us know that they did not like “Free” and “Parking” as names, but we moved forward anyhow. Finally, when push came to shove, I made the decision to pick the second-place names — which were, let’s be honest about it, better names — over the first-place novelty names.

To be clear, there was no money or favors that changed hands as a result of this contest, it was done informally and for fun. Boston Properties is not a current Reston Now advertiser and its only recent ad purchase from us was a sponsored post that was published in March 2017. We have also not recently solicited advertising from Boston Properties or Reston Town Center.

The fact that we now have Boston Properties upset at us, for including “Free” and “Parking” in the poll to begin with, and readers angry at us for not selecting those names as the official winner, is frustrating to say the least. But life — and the news — goes on. Hopefully this statement clears some things up.

Scott

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Names Revealed for Reston Town Center’s Peregrine Falcons

Two weeks ago, Reston Now kicked off an attempt to name the two peregrine falcons in Reston Town Center. About 60 name suggestions and more than 850 votes later, one option clearly stood out: Free and Parking.

“Free parking” is a reference to Boston Properties’ paid parking at RTC, oftentimes serving as a rallying cry for protests against RTC or as an inside joke among Restonians. Reston Now frequently finds calls for free parking in comments under articles about business closures at RTC.

The shift from free parking to the ParkRTC paid parking initiative at RTC began at the start of 2017. In June 2017, Boston Properties, RTC’s owner, changed its paid parking structure to allow for more free parking, following a major outcry from tenants and customers.

Even with the changes, the controversy has still continued to this day, including boycotts and two lawsuits by restaurants — one ended in a settlement.

With 64 percent of the vote, the Reston Now Readers’ Choice Award for Falcon Names goes to Free and Parking — the falcons’ new nicknames. But for the official name, upon further reflection, it was clear that the regal birds deserved a more befitting, less joke-y name.

So like Boaty McBoatface before it, “Free” and “Parking” will be how the birds are remembered by many, but the clear second place winner in the voting — “Robert” and “Anne,” a reference to Reston’s founder Bob Simon and Lake Anne — will become the falcons’ actual names.

Happy name day, Robert and Anne.

Photo courtesy Boston Properties

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Poll: Pick the Names for Reston Town Center’s Peregrine Falcons

A joint effort between Reston Now and Boston Properties wants readers’ help naming the two falcons, who call Reston Town Center home.

Last week, Reston Now asked readers for their name suggestions for the two peregrine falcons that call Reston Town Center home.

The pair are both around 7 years old and are expecting four chicks. The dad hails from Maryland while the mom came from Pennsylvania.

About 60 people commented with name ideas below the profile last week and on Reston Now’s social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

From today (April 22) to the end of the week, readers can vote for the two names from this list of readers’ suggestions.

The winning names for the mom and dad falcons will get announced at the end of April.

Photo courtesy Boston Properties

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Help Name Reston Town Center’s Peregrine Falcons

A joint effort between Reston Now and Boston Properties wants readers’ help naming the two falcons, who call Reston Town Center home. 

The story of Reston Town Center’s peregrine falcons started in June 2015 when two chicks were found on Market Street.

The pair was taken to the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, where they were rehabilitated and released, Steve Potts, a raptor biologist who monitors the falcons, told Reston Now.

“That was the first indicator that we had nesting peregrine falcons in Reston Town Center,” he said. Fast forward to 2019, and the birds are still calling Reston home.

“This is our fifth year of breeding and that’s a really high rate of having chicks,” Potts said.

While most peregrine falcons used to live near coastal plains, Bryan Watts, the director of the Center for Conservation Biology in Williamsburg, Va., told Reston Now that he has seen more move inland recently as bridges, buildings and towers mimic cliff faces overlooking a wide vista of landscape for hunting and have updrafts for flying.

“They are one of the most spectacular bird species we have on the planet,” Watts said.

Here are some peregrine falcon fun facts Potts and Watts shared:

  • wild peregrine falcons can live up to about 18 years of age
  • females are larger in size than the males
  • eggs are usually a brick red color and about the size of a small chicken egg
  • chicks fly for the first time at about 42-45 days
  • juvenile peregrine falcons wander and the chicks from the RTC pair may go up to Canada to the Gulf Coast

“The pair up there is incredibly productive,” Watts said. “The hope is that they will be there for a long time.”

Potts said that he saw four eggs in the nest earlier this week. (Reston Now isn’t divulging where the nest is to protect the falcons.)

“It’s in a really remote little spot,” Potts said. “It’s a perfect spot hidden from the rain and sun, and it faces south.”

About 20 days after the chicks are born, Potts plans to return to help band them, which will take place sometime in May.

While Potts said that some people are against banding birds, he argues that annual medical exams made possible by the banding help keep the birds healthy and also allow birders and conservationists to track nest changeover.

The parents — both around 7 years old — have been identified. The dad hails from Maryland while the mom came from Pennsylvania. Reston Now readers will get the chance to name the pair.

Between now and next Friday (April 19), comment below this story and on the Reston Now social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) your name suggestions. On Monday, April 22, readers will be able to vote for the two names out a list of the most upvoted and liked suggested names.

The winning names for the mom and dad falcons will get announced at the end of April.

Photo courtesy Boston Properties

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County OKs Feasibility Study for Performing Arts Center at Reston Gateway

Fairfax County is looking into who should pay for and manage a community-based performing arts center set for Boston Properties’ Reston Gateway project.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a feasibility study with private and public entities at its meeting last week on Tuesday, March 19.

“The community has demonstrated strong interest and support for such a facility,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins wrote in her motion, which Chairman Sharon Bulova read due to Hudgins’ absence.

The 60,000-square-foot performing arts center is slated for the mixed-use project, which includes nearly 2 million square feet of office space, two hotels with 570 rooms and 162,300 square feet in retail and restaurants. Located on the north side of Sunset Hills Road between the Reston and Town Center parkways, the project will connect the future Reston Town Center Metro station to the border of Reston Town Center. 

Block J has been identified as a possible location for the performing arts center, according to Hudgins’ motion. The feasibility study aims to assess if the county or another entity can finance, construct, maintain and program the performing arts center.

Before the board voted, Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth cautioned the board about the upkeep the performing arts will require.

“Having worked through a lot of this sort of thing with the Cap One project in Tysons, we found that operating and maintaining some sort of arts center is costly,” Smyth told the board. “It requires the right people to do it.”

Photos via Fairfax County and Cooper Carry 

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Victoria’s Secret Gone for Good at Reston Town Center

Victoria’s Secret no longer calls Reston Town Center home.

Signs on the front doors say that the location at 11929 Market, Suite 50 is permanently closed. Black tarps were hanging in the storefront’s windows, and the prominent “Victoria’s Secret” sign had already been taken down by the time Reston Now made a visit this afternoon (March 12).

Aba Kwawu, a spokeswoman for Boston Properties, told Reston Now that Victoria’s Secret’s departure from Reston Town Center was a part of a larger pattern of closures expected for around the country.

Victoria’s Secret announced earlier this year that it plans to close more than 53 stories, according to CNBC.

“While it is unfortunate to see this iconic brand face difficulties, we look forward to replacing them with an exciting new tenant soon,” Kwawu said. No word yet on who that new tenant is for that spot, although several newcomers expected to arrive this year have already been revealed.

Locals who miss the lingerie giant can find the familiar pink and black store in Tysons and Dulles. “Please visit our other area Victoria’s Secret stores,” the signs say.

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RTC Apple Store Eyes Neighboring Space Vacated by Pottery Barn

The Apple Store in Reston Town Center has some planned changes in the works.

Apple Inc. filed a building permit for the spot recently vacated by Pottery Barn, which is next door to the Apple Store at 11949 Market Street.

Pottery Barn shut its doors at 11937 Market Street on Jan. 24, along with the Williams-Sonoma store down the street at 11897 Market Street. (Both brands are operated by Williams-Sonoma Inc.)

Replacements for the now-empty spaces haven’t been announced yet. Reston Town Center recently unveiled six newcomers slated to open later this year, but did not indicate the expected opening dates or addresses.

The permit description says that it is for a new tenant layout. It remains unclear at this time whether Apple is considering expanding or moving into the new space.

Reston Now reached out to Boston Properties and Apple for comment and has not heard back yet.

Image via Google Maps 

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Boston Properties Taps New Leasing Agent as Stores Shutter

Boston Properties, the owners of Reston Town Center, recently tapped Transwestern, a commercial real estate company, to provide leasing services for RTC.

The move comes amidst a flurry of recent business closures, from Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn earlier this month to nine retailers and restaurants last year.

“The new leasing engagement by Boston Properties comes at the same time as a major rebranding initiative at Reston Town Center,” Transwestern announced in a press release today (Jan. 31).

While the controversial paid parking has driven some of the businesses out of RTC, six newcomers are slated to open there later this year, including Peet’s Coffee and DC Row.

“This year will hold exciting changes for Reston Town Center,” Katie Yanushonis, the vice president of leasing at Boston Properties, said in the press release. “Our investment in the branding and placemaking of Reston Town Center will help maintain its place as the leading mixed-use development in the United States.”

Transwestern will be responsible for leasing RTC’s “urban core,” which consists of more than 2.5 million square feet of office space and 450,000 square feet of retail space in the mixed-use development.

“Significant” availabilities are expected in the next few years, partly from Leidos’ consolidation at 1750 Presidents Street, the press release says.

The upcoming Silver Line Metro station in Reston and the neighborhood’s changing shopping and dining scene are also expected to boost RTC’s attraction to employers, Transwestern said.

“Transwestern is honored to have the opportunity to lease the most important urban mixed-use project in all of the Washington region,” Senior Vice President Alex Hancock, who is leading the office leasing team with Executive Vice President Joe Ritchey, said in the press release. “Reston Town Center has always been a location with unparalleled ability to help organizations recruit, retain and maximize the productivity of their world-class workforces.”

Ritchey has worked on Reston Town Center for more than 29 years.

Image via Transwestern Commercial Services 

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Uncle Julio’s Fights Paid Parking with Suit Against Boston Properties

Another Reston Town Center restaurant is joining the fight against paid parking just months after the settlement of the first lawsuit challenging Boston Properties’ controversial parking system.

Uncle Julio’s filed a suit against Boston Properties and several affiliated limited liability companies for at least $5 million over the paid parking, the Washington Business Journal reported today (Jan. 11).

The Tex-Mex restaurant at 1827 Library Street claims in the suit that it has lost approximately $1 million in sales annually since paid parking was implemented in January 2017, according to the article.

Uncle Julio’s is suing RTC’s owners on several counts, including breach of contract and conspiracy, according to the story. Boston Properties has not yet responded to the lawsuit, which was filed on Dec. 21 in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Nearly two months ago, Boston Properties and Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge settled a dispute over the developer’s paid parking system. Jackson’s filed its suit, which also alleged breach of contract, in March 2017, Reston Now previously reported

Boston Properties continues to face an uproar from many local businesses and residents. In 2018, nine businesses closed at RTC, with several owners and employees telling Reston Now that the paid parking drove customers away.

In December alone, two restaurants — Hen Penny and Obi Sushi — left.

This year doesn’t look any better. Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, which are both operated by Williams-Sonoma Inc, are set to close at RTC later this month.

Image via Google Maps

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Birthday bash for Mark Twain — Reston Regional Library will celebrate from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. the famous American humorist, who died in 1910 and would have been 183 years old on Nov. 30. [Fairfax County]

Senior movie day — The Reston Association’s “Meet Me at the Movies” will screen “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — the 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers — at 10 a.m. with free refreshments. Tickets are free for people age 55 and older. The monthly movie event is done in cooperation with the Bow-Tie Cinemas at Reston Town Center and is sponsored by Tall Oaks Assisted Living. [Reston Association]

Paid parking lawsuit ends in a settlement — Boston Properties agreed to a settlement with Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge, bringing a close to the restaurant’s lawsuit over the mixed-use development’s paid parking system. [Faifax County Times]

Reston Rotary Club networking — The club will host a networking event tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Reston Hyatt’s bar in the lobby. [Reston Rotary Club]

Flickr pool photo via Chris Gordon 

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Breaking: Boston Properties, Jackson’s Settle Lawsuit Over Paid Parking

A lawsuit by a Reston Town Center retailer against Boston Properties in response to the developer’s paid parking system has been settled.

Under the agreement, customers of Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge will be offered a special parking arrangement. Guests will be able to enter their license plate number into one of the pay stations in the Orange Garage or on a tablet inside Jackson’s to validate parking.

“Both parties look forward to continuing their 10-year relationship at Reston Town Center,” according to a statement published by the company.

The terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed. A representative for Boston Properties declined to comment further on the deal or release any details.

Jackson’s sued Boston Properties in Fairfax County Circuit Court alleging breach of contract in March 2017. The suit sought the immediate termination of paid parking, $500,000 in damages and attorney’s fees. Company officials stated that the restaurant suffered major disruptions since paid parking went into effect.

A number of other restaurants have cited the paid parking system as cause for leaving Reston Town Center in recent months.

This story has been updated.

File photo

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Edibles Incredible Desserts to Leave Reston Town Center Location of 15 Years

Edibles Incredible Desserts will permanently close its location in Reston today (August 28), leaving its home of 15 years in Reston Town Center.

The dessert and candies shop will relocate to its commercial kitchen and production facility, located at 22735 Executive Drive, Suite 190, on September 3. The business won Wedding Wire’s Couples’ Choice Awards this year.

Co-owner and COO Robyn Hannah said she was sad to leave RTC, where she and her husband have enjoyed serving Reston and the surrounding community. The business decision was motivated by a familiar concern voiced by other merchants: paid parking.

“Our lease ended the end of this month. We did not want to negotiate higher rent because the last few years since paid parking went into effect, we’ve lost several hundred thousand dollars in sales,” Hannah told Reston Now. She also said other factors contributing to the decision.

The business will be offering free cupcakes, cakes, and other desserts at 3 p.m. today. A new tenant for the space at 11917 Freedom Drive has not been announced.

The owners are now looking forward to reaching a new milestone: consolidating their retail location with the production facility.

The business began when Hannah and her husband, then single, met at a single’s event. One brought homemade English toffee and the other brought a plate of fudge, attracting attention from others at the event. Utilizing their joint capabilities in baking and decorating, they opened up their first store in 2003. The addition of candies, they hoped, would make their business viable outside the popular window for wedding orders. They married in 2007.

Hannah said she looks forward to a new chapter in the shop’s story. “The Reston location was our baby. It was our home. Now, we’re moving on,” she said.

File photo

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Athletic Field Planned as Part of Boston Properties’ Reston Gateway Project

Boston Properties’ Reston Gateway project, which sets between Reston Town Center and the future RTC Metro Station, will include plans for an athletic field.

Reston Gateway, the first major development on the north side of the station, will bring four office buildings, three residential buildings with 2,010 units, two hotels and 162,300 square feet of retail and restaurants, to the north side of Sunset Hills road between Town Center Parkway and Reston Parkway.

The development has triggered the need for a new athletic field, according to Fairfax County officials. The county’s Board of Supervisors approved the project in July. Several options are included in Boston Properties’ plans.

A full-size, synthetic turf field on an offsite property was pitched by Boston Properties’ officials as the preferred option. Information on the property under consideration has not been publicly disclosed. If the deal, which is currently under consideration, falls through, the developer may build a new field on top of the Purple Garage in RTC. Another alternative is pitching money that would go towards building a new field — a proposition that has some residents concerned due to limited developable land in the planned urban core of Reston.

If no alternatives are feasible, Boston Properties may dedicate 50,000 square feet at Reston Gateway for a performing arts center in lieu of the field.

As of late July, developers have committed $10.3 million to help fund athletic fields in the greater Reston area. All funds are unspent.

Photos via Fairfax County Government

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County Board Approves Nearly 10 Million Square Feet of Development in Reston

In a streak of votes on development proposals in Reston Tuesday evening, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved three projects totaling nearly 10 million square feet of development and up to 3,731 residential units at full development capacity.

The first approval by CoreSite brings nearly 943,000 square feet of space for data centers to Sunrise Technology Policy, a 21-acre office parking with four existing buildings.

David Gill, the applicant’s legal representative, said the project represents a significant investment in Fairfax County and would help serve current and future enterprises in Reston. Gill said CoreSite intentionally chose Reston instead of Loudoun County to serve as the premier data center provider for this reason.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins said the data center would also significantly reduce trip generation. “In some sense, that’s a good news piece,” she said.

Approvals for two other mixed-use projects, Reston Gateway and Reston Crescent, would open the door to a new phase of development in and around Reston Town Center. The board unanimously approved Brookfield Partners’ Reston Crescent proposal, which brings up to 1,721 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of office space, 380,00 square feet of retail and a 200-room hotel. The project is located on Sunrise Valley Drive between Edmund Halley Dive and Reston Parkway and will be the future home of a two-story Wegmans.

On the north side of the Reston Town Center Metro Station, Boston Properties’ Reston Gateway project, which brings 4.8 million square feet of development across 28 acres. The plan includes 2.2 million square feet of office, up to 2,010 residential units, a hotel, 93,900 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

The plan for Reston Gateway piqued concerns by Rob Whitfield, a Reston resident of 20 years, who said an immediate and detailed transportation plan was necessary for Reston Town Center, which he said is already congested during peak traffic hours.

Hudgins said that while projects on the drawing table are largely unfunded, each developer is offering transportation funding that will help fund future improvements that she said are necessary. Hudgins also noted that the arrival of the Silver Line over the next two years would reduce the number of drivers on the road.

“This is a large transition as we see it,” she said. 

Whitfield was the only individual to testify during the public hearings on all three projects Tuesday evening.

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