Reston, VA

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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Facebook has inked a lease for roughly 75,000 square feet in Reston Town Center.

During a quarterly earnings call this week, Boston Properties President Doug Linde disclosed that the company reached a deal with the social media giant.

County permits indicate Facebook will take up space at 1818 Library Street, a 250,000-square-foot building in the town center.

No other information about the deal was immediately available.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

 

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Uncle Julio’s, a Mexican restaurant in Reston Town Center, has reached a settlement in a lawsuit the business filed against Boston Properties in late 2018 over its paid parking policies.

In early August, the case was voluntarily dismissed and all parties were ordered to pay their own legal fees. Uncle Julio’s, which has been located in RTC since 1992, sought $5 million from Boston Properties to account for the effects of paid parking on its business. The restaurant argued that the system — which has been in effect for more than two years — led to $1 million in losses annually.

A spokesperson for Uncle Julio’s told the Washington Business Journal that the issue was resolved “amicably.” The business plans to continue to offer validated parking for all customers for dining at Uncle Julio’s.

Here’s more from the WBJ report: 

One of the issues Uncle Julio’s had raised in its complaint was that its closest parking garage in the development had become less accessible as a result of another parking-related lawsuit at the property. According to the Uncle Julio’s complaint, after Jackson’s restaurant sued over paid parking, a judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing Reston Town Center from enforcing the pay-to-park system on Jackson’s customers in the Orange garage. Subsequently, according to Uncle Julio’s, the pay-to-park system was disabled at the Orange garage.

“As a consequence, patrons throughout the Reston Town Center now attempt to park at the Orange Garage in order to avoid the imposition of parking charges,” stated the complaint, which was amended in March. 

In March 2017, Boston Properties and Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge settled a dispute over the paid parking system — part of a continuing uproar from local businesses and residents over the parking system. Previously, public backlash has pushed Boston Properties to cut back hours when payment is required by allowing free parking on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

Image via Google Maps

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Recently, Reston Town Center shed its iconic logo of the Mercury Fountain in favor of a more modern and simplistic design.

For weeks, Boston Properties and their public relations company TAA PR have been mum about the rebranding effort, as well as the latest on a planned renovation to RTC’s common areas.

In response to multiple requests from Reston Now, company representatives said they have some “exciting news to share” about the future of RTC in the coming weeks. In absence of hard details, Reston Now is turning to its readers to get their thoughts on what they think about the new logo and what message the new design seeks to convey.

RTC’s first logo features a line drawing of the 20-foot Mercury Fountain, which was designed by sculptor Saint Clair Cemin and anchors the pavilion. While the new logo retains the original blue palette, its circular form — with a ‘C’ rested in the center — lends itself to many interpretations.

A new crop of tenants are expected to open up in RTC by 2020, including Jinya Ramen Bar, The Candle Bar and Muse Paint Bar. The company also announced plans to renovate most of its gathering places in over the next several months. 

Until more details are made public, we’d love to know your thoughts about the new logo and the future of RTC in the comments below.

File photo

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Artists of all ages and skill levels can now save the date for ChalkFest at Reston Town Center.

The annual event, which challenges artists to create chalk drawings on Market Street, is set for Saturday, September 14 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Registration is open in the following categories:

  • Professional artist: $25
  • Amateur artist: $25
  • Families and kids: $15

Prizes will be given to winning artists in each category. Participants will also get the chance to vote in the “audience choice awards.”

ChalkFest is presented by Public Art Reston and Reston Town Center. All proceeds from the event will benefit Public Art Reston’s projects and programs.

Last year’s event was cancelled due to the forecasted rain, but in 2017, the event drew more than 4,000 people.

Photo by Public Art Reston

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In recent years, Boston Properties has proffered to set aside a parcel of land in a recently approved mixed-use development for a new performing arts center. The circular center would be located on Block J as part of Reston Gateway, 4.8 million square feet of development near the future Reston Town Center Metro Station.  It would contain up to 50,000 square feet and would sit near an office building with eights levels, including three levels of underground parking.

The proposed proffer has prompted Reston Community Center to explore Reston residents’ opinions on the center and whether or not RCC should play a role in pushing the initiative forward. These questions will be posed in a community survey that will be conducted this summer.

RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon told Reston Now that if the center determines it should construct such a venue, it would seek a bond referendum to fund the construction. Gordon said that RCC’s Board of Governors has no intent to raise the current tax rate.

If RCC takes part in the effort, it hopes to ensure the facility is large enough to host dance, choral and orchestral music, and theatrical musics with large casts. Its primary service audience would be community-based non-profit arts organizations and Fairfax County Public Schools’ arts programs.

Gordon also reiterated that RCC will not compete with the Wolf Trap or negatively impact its operations. RCC also hopes to ensure the center is accessible to all — with affordable rents for local art users and affordable ticket pricing.

Others have also discussed leveraging cash contributions from the county, nearby towns like Herndon and Vienna, and other entities.

“If those were to be realized, those contributors would potentially achieve calendar access to use of the new venue, and/or perhaps some role in its mission. This would be a complicated scenario to pursue, but it’s one worth exploring,” Gordon wrote.

Discussions are preliminary, as RCC has not yet discussed future possibilities with Boston Properties or the county’s land use staff.

Rendering via handout/Fairfax County Government

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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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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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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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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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