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by Dave Emke — June 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm 28 Comments

Customers of Jackson’s restaurant can park for free in the Orange Garage at Reston Town Center all day, every day.

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.

by Kalina Newman — June 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm 12 Comments

Reston Town Center restaurants are vying to woo customers back now that parking rules have changed.

Starting today, parking in Reston Town Center is free for an hour before 5 p.m. and completely free all evening after 5 p.m. Patrons still have to pay a minimum of $2 for any time spent over an hour in the garages before 5 p.m.

In celebration of the new parking deal, at least two Reston Town Center restaurants are offering specials tonight.

Seafood restaurant PassionFish (11960 Democracy Drive) is hosting a “Parking Repeal Party” tonight in their bar/lounge, according to post on their Twitter account.

“PassionFish has always offered parking validation, but is pleased that its fellow businesses will have the same advantages and that guests can visit more easily,” said Simoneink senior accounting director Meg Malloy, who works with PassionFish.

In addition, according to a Facebook post by French bistro Mon Ami Gabi (11950 Democracy Drive), the restaurant will have a special dinner menu item this week “to celebrate the return of free parking.”

by Dave Emke — June 5, 2017 at 9:00 am 9 Comments

Expanded Free Parking Starts at RTC — As of today, garage parking at Reston Town Center is free for the first hour before 5 p.m., after which time it becomes free until 3:30 a.m. [Reston Now]

Mullins Memorial Details Released — A memorial service for former Fairfax County GOP chair and Republican Party of Virginia chair Pat Mullins, who died May 28, will be held June 21 at McLean Bible Church (8925 Leesburg Pike, Vienna). [Bearing Drift]

Fire Station 39 Rescues Stuck Pup — A crew from the North Point Station (1117 Reston Ave.) responded to a residence in Great Falls recently, where they tracked down and rescued a 60-pound pet dog that had become trapped under the home. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Human Trafficking Awareness Walk Held — The Just Ask Prevention Project, which was created by detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department, hosted its first awareness event Saturday at the county government center. The nonprofit’s goal is to bring together county agencies, schools and community leaders to educate and raise awareness about human trafficking in Northern Virginia. [WTOP]

by Dave Emke — June 2, 2017 at 11:30 am 49 Comments

An announcement earlier this week from Boston Properties regarding changes to the paid-parking fees in garages at Reston Town Center has prompted a variety of reactions.

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.

by Dave Emke — June 1, 2017 at 9:00 am 6 Comments

Majority Say They’ll Go to RTC — With our story Wednesday about changes to parking fees at Reston Town Center, we posted a poll asking whether those changes will make readers more likely to visit the Town Center. With nearly 900 votes on the unscientific poll, about two-thirds of responders said they would. [Reston Now]

Herndon Festival Starts Tonight — The 37th annual festival will run tonight through Sunday in downtown Herndon. Several streets, including Elden Street, will be closed throughout the event. Free parking and shuttle buses will be provided to get to the festivities. [Herndon Festival]

Community Center Board Meets Monday — The Reston Community Center Board of Governors will continue the decision-making process regarding the budget outline for FY19, and possible timelines for capital projects including the proposed  renovation of the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center, Monday at 8 p.m. at RCC (2310 Colts Neck Road). The annual public hearing for programs and budget is slated for Monday, June 19. [Reston Community Center]

Barton Hill Tennis Courts Closed — Reston Association says the courts are being resurfaced, and it is hoped they will be reopened by mid-June. [Reston Association/Twitter]

Halogen Lamp Starts Fire — A blaze earlier this week south of Reston caused about $125,000 in damages after a lamp in the basement ignited nearby combustibles. Two residents of the home have been displaced. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

by Dave Emke — May 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm 84 Comments

(This article was updated at 1:45 p.m. with additional information and comments.)

Nearly five months after instituting paid parking at Reston Town Center, Boston Properties is modifying the system to allow for more free parking.

According to a statement released Wednesday morning by BXP, changes will go into effect Monday that will rescind the pay requirement for users of Reston Town Center parking garages after 5 p.m., and it will also allow for one hour of free garage parking for sessions that begin before 5 p.m.

“As promised, Boston Properties has listened to community and retailer feedback and evaluated the paid parking initiative at Reston Town Center (RTC) over the first quarter of this year,” reads the statement.

Garage parking for the second hour will remain at $2, with subsequent hours charged based on the existing pay scale. No changes will be made to street parking, which is $3 an hour.

“Based on a study of traffic patterns and behaviors as well as retailer input, Boston Properties identified that one hour of free parking and free parking after 5 p.m. would address the primary concerns expressed by the community while still supporting the original goals of paid parking: protecting the parking rights of RTC tenants and visitors and augmenting revenue dedicated to community reinvestment.”

Free parking will be in effect each night from 5 p.m. until 3:30 a.m.

Anyone parking before 5 p.m. will still need to register a parking session with the ParkRTC app or at a kiosk, spokesperson Kathy Walsh said on behalf of Boston Properties.

“This is necessary both to allow patrons and visitors to extend a session should they decide to stay longer than an hour, as well as for enforcement purposes,” she said.

Walsh said those parking after 5 p.m. will not need to take any action, just as with parking on weekends, holidays and during special events.

(more…)

by Dave Emke — May 24, 2017 at 2:05 pm 16 Comments

Free parking returned to Reston Town Center for a fleeting moment Wednesday afternoon.

Social media users reported earlier today that the ParkRTC app at Reston Town Center was not charging, but Boston Properties says the situation has been handled and everything is back to normal.

The app read “There is free parking at the Reston Town Center until further notice” when users attempted to begin their parking session. Angie Goff, news anchor for NBC Washington, first alerted us to the situation in a tweet she sent to her more than 54,000 followers at about 1:20 p.m.

https://twitter.com/OhMyGOFF/status/867430928288804864

PassionFish (11960 Democracy Drive) later tweeted a notice to alert potential customers to the situation.

Kathy Walsh, spokesperson on behalf of Boston Properties, told Reston Now just before 2 p.m., though, that the “technical issues” had been fixed.

“Apparently there were some technical issues with the parking system this afternoon that have since been resolved and normal parking rates are in effect,” Walsh said. “Parking actually was free while that message was displaying.”

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

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

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

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

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

by Dave Emke — March 29, 2017 at 4:35 pm 74 Comments

In a statement sent to media Wednesday afternoon, Boston Properties responded to recent developments in the ongoing saga regarding paid parking at Reston Town Center.

The statement comes after a lawsuit filed by Jackson’s restaurant, an announcement by Reston Merchants Association of continued declining sales, and a statement from the Reston Citizens Association denouncing BXP’s apparent unwillingness to compromise. Released through public relations firm Fallston Group, Boston Properties’ statement claims:

  • There is “variability” in month-to-month performance of RTC merchants. Some have reported increases in sales in the past 90 days, some have reported flat or decreasing sales.
  • Boston Properties continues to work with retailers to provide customer support, parking validations and other assistance regarding the paid parking implementation.
  • Planned enhancements of the system include the addition of change machines to better accommodate cash customers, as well as improvements to payment kiosks.
  • Car counts represent “high adoption rates” of the paid-parking policies. More than 112,000 downloads of the ParkRTC app have been made, including 22,000 in the past week.
  • The $8 million of annual paid-parking revenue estimated by groups including the Reston Citizens Association is “outdated and inaccurate,” and true expectations are “significantly less.”
  • Boston Properties is committed to reinvesting a comparable value to its profit from paid parking back into the Town Center and the Reston community through ongoing maintenance, capital improvements, community events and charitable donations.
  • BXP is “very confident” it will prevail against all legal challenges related to paid parking.

The full text of the statement is below:

Boston Properties is prohibited by the terms of most of its leases from commenting on the specific sales results of its individual tenants. In any given year, Reston Town Center’s retail tenants see fluctuations in sales for a variety of reasons, from weather to seasonality to marketplace conditions. Additionally, monthly sales trends can vary widely among those tenants, depending on their business model, marketplace adaptation and sales tactics.  Based on the information provided to date under the terms of our leases, we have seen variability in the month to month performance of the merchants at Reston Town Center prior to the introduction of paid parking. That trend has continued over the past 90 days, with some tenants reporting sales are up and others reporting flat or decreased sales.

Boston Properties has always been committed to working with its tenants for mutual success. Since paid parking was implemented, we have worked with our retailers to provide customer support, parking validations and other assistance as the Reston Town Center complex adjusts to paid parking. (As a reminder, parking in the garages is free on weekends and select holidays, and parking remains free at all times for retail employees.) Boston Properties continues to monitor paid parking adoption and will consider all appropriate policy and technology amendments as needed to ensure the long-term success of the Town Center. For instance, upcoming planned enhancements include the addition of change machines to better accommodate cash customers and improvements to the payment kiosks.

Additionally, Boston Properties’ car count continues to reflect high adoption rates of the new parking policies by the community. The ParkRTC app has been downloaded more than 112,000 times — with 22,000+ people signing up in the last week alone — and to date, nearly 85,000 individuals have utilized the app to pay for parking. Since paid parking was rolled out in January, garage usage by non-office tenants have steadily increased, week over week.

Regarding the $8 million annual revenue number that has been repeatedly referenced, the estimated figure was from 2011 and was based on very different operating assumptions. It is both outdated and inaccurate. While Boston Properties does not report property-specific performance, revenue expectations are significantly less, as the vast majority of visitors and tenants are either validated or do not pay for parking. Further, Boston Properties is committed to reinvesting a comparable value to its profit from paid parking back into the Town Center and the Reston community through ongoing maintenance, capital improvements, community events and charitable donations.

Finally, regarding recent legal action, Boston Properties is very confident it will prevail against any and all legal challenges related to paid parking.

Much of the information provided in the statement echoes previous statements from Boston Properties regarding the paid-parking initiative.

by Dave Emke — March 29, 2017 at 11:45 am 55 Comments

The Reston Citizens Association says it wants Boston Properties to give the money it is collecting from paid parking at Reston Town Center — a number the group projects to be $8 million annually — back to the community.

In a Tuesday statement, RCA says it has attempted to engage with Boston Properties for more than a year in the effort to “find a compromise that would allow the Town Center to retain its character while respecting [BXP]’s development rights.” Further, the Citizens Association challenged Boston Properties to — if paid parking is here for good — commit the revenue to “community betterments and activities that benefit Reston.”

“RCA makes this call because of the misinformation and untruths that [BXP] provided to RCA. From the very beginning, knowing how central the cellphone app would be for the paid parking experience, RCA asked many questions regarding how the App would work. Despite the assurances that were given to RCA that the ParkRTC App would provide a very user-friendly experience, today it is clear this is patently not true.”

In its statement, RCA says the paid-parking system is “confusing, contradictory and [the] subject of great frustration for users.” The citizens’ organization says it stands with merchants and others who are calling for the system to be scrapped or significantly overhauled.

Last week, Jackson’s restaurant filed a lawsuit against Boston Properties regarding the implementation of the paid-parking system. Other merchants within the Town Center say they are likely to do the same, and they continue to organize events to shed light on their displeasure.

The Citizens Association says it is willing to continue to work with Boston Properties on any mutually acceptable agreement that can be found.

“[BXP] has in the past been a good and generous manager of the Reston Town Center and can be this again. RCA stands ready to work with [BXP] to address its legitimate concerns about commuter parking while at the same time preserving the open and welcoming character of the Town Center that has made it such a centerpiece of our community and the greater region.”

by Dave Emke — March 28, 2017 at 4:00 pm 79 Comments

The Reston Merchants Association is not backing down in its opposition to paid parking at Reston Town Center, which it says has drastically hurt business.

In an announcement Tuesday, the group’s organizers says they plan to hold a town hall-style meeting in May to discuss the issue. Merchants, community leaders, elected officials and more will be invited to speak and take questions from citizens. RTC owner Boston Properties, which implemented the paid-parking system in January, will also be invited to participate in the event, according to the announcement.

In addition, the Merchants Association says it plans to work with community organizers to hold a march and rally in June to protest the paid-parking system. A march earlier this month, organized by citizen group Reston United, saw hundreds of participants.

“The community has spoken and they are fed up with paid parking,” said Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery and the head of the Merchants Association. “Not only is it expensive, but the app that people have to download to park is onerous, complicated and an invasion of their privacy. People don’t want to hand over their license plate number and credit card information to Boston Properties. As a result of all of this, we see that many of our best customers are boycotting RTC altogether and others have said they will never come back.”

Last week, one restaurant in the Town Center — Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge — filed a lawsuit against Boston Properties, arguing their lease agreement was violated by the paid-parking system and that it has been an impediment to conducting business. In Tuesday’s announcement, the Reston Merchants Association says its supports the suit and “is likely to seek similar legal action for similar reasons in the following month.”

Boston Properties has so far not backed down from the system, which charges $2/hour in parking garages Monday through Friday and $3/hour for on-street parking Monday through Saturday. It has said the impact of the system on Reston Town Center business has been “far less” than claimed.

The Reston Merchants Association, however, says retailers and restaurateurs have seen “sinking sales figures” and a “precipitous drop-off in foot traffic” in 2017. They say that is directly related to Boston Properties’ paid-parking initiative.

Figures reported Tuesday by the Merchants Association, which they say were provided with consent from companies’ owners or corporate officials, include:

  • Red Velvet Cupcakery reports March sales are down 19 percent. It projects a yearly drop of 25%.
  • Big Bowl reports sales down 26 percent in March. Sales were down 15 percent in February, and it is down 4,500 customers over last year.
  • Busara reports March sales are down 18 percent.
  • The Counter Burger reports March sales are down approximately 24 perent.
  • Dawn Price Baby reports February sales were down 18 percent, while its other locations were up an average of 20 percent for the same month.
  • The Eyewear Gallery reports February sales were down 29 percent.
  • Potomac River Running reports March sales are down 37 percent, while its seven other locations sales are higher.
  • Edibles Incredible Desserts reports February sales were down 28 percent.
  • Ted’s Bulletin reports sales are down significantly on the year, while other locations have even or higher sales compared to last year.

“Paid parking is simply killing business, ruining our reputation and destroying the sense of community that has always been the pride of Reston,” Gordon said. “The merchants are suffering across the board from the greedy money-grab of one company and many of us are being driven out of business.”

File photos

by Dave Emke — March 23, 2017 at 11:00 am 53 Comments

ParkRTC sign in Reston Town Center

(Updated 11:35 a.m. with more information from lawsuit and link to view document; updated 4:30 p.m. with statement on behalf of Boston Properties)

The first lawsuit regarding Boston Properties’ paid parking system at Reston Town Center has been filed.

In a press release Thursday morning, Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food and Lucky Lounge (11927 Democracy Drive) announced the suit, which includes a motion for a temporary injunction over the “cumbersome paid parking system [Boston Properties] implemented in January 2017.”

Representatives of Town Center businesses have been meeting among themselves to discuss their options since paid parking began, and the threat of potential legal action was first made public in early February.

The suit by Jackson’s (view) was filed Wednesday afternoon in the Circuit Court of Fairfax County. In addition to the injunction, the restaurant seeks “an award of damages of $500,000 or other specific amount to be established at trial.”

According to the lawsuit, Jackson’s says it negotiated lease terms preventing Boston Properties from implementing parking controls that “unduly impede” guests and requiring Boston Properties to assure that any paid parking system must allow Jackson’s to validate parking — at no expense to the restaurant — for guests and employees. The lawsuit claims the validation system imposed by BXP violates the restaurant’s lease rights and the requirements it sought.

“Our team has been inundated with complaints from guests who tell us that the process to use the validation system is cumbersome and confusing,” said Orson Williams, managing partner at Jackson’s, in the announcement. “On top of that, Boston Properties’ parking attendants often give incorrect and misleading instructions when our guests seek help in getting unlimited free parking.”

Jackson’s, operated by Great American Restaurants, opened in the Town Center in 2008.

Restaurants and other businesses within the Town Center have claimed major decreases in business since the paid parking system went into place. An organized protest that took place earlier this month saw hundreds of participants from throughout the community.

Boston Properties has said the impact of paid parking on Town Center business has been “far less” than claimed.

“We did not want to have to sue and we tried to work with Boston Properties to address our concerns and our rights under the lease to give our customers free and hassle-free parking, both before and after Boston Properties implemented this parking system. But they were uncompromising and appeared disinterested in working with us to provide our guests a better experience at Reston Town Center,” said Jon Norton, CEO of Great American Restaurants, in the announcement. “It appears to us that they are focused on maximizing revenue instead of honoring the spirit and terms of our lease, and seem unconcerned with the impact their system has had on the Town Center. It is disappointing that they have spent so much time bolstering a PR campaign rather than working with us to fulfill their lease obligations.”

Spokesperson Kathy Walsh of the Fallston Group, speaking on behalf of Boston Properties, said it “would be inappropriate to discuss pending litigation, particularly as there is a confidentiality provision that prevents either party from discussing many of the lease terms.”

by Dave Emke — March 13, 2017 at 9:00 am 4 Comments

Morning Notes

More Speak Out Against Paid Parking — The owner of Obi Sushi says sales are down about a third since Boston Properties initiated paid parking at Reston Town Center. Meanwhile, the president of the Reston Citizens Association says it’s just one more sore spot to a community battling an increasing cost of living. [Washington Post]

Retired Detective’s Story Gains AttentionAs we reported, retired Fairfax County Police Department detective Bruce Wiley took care of a 17-year-old intruder at his Beaver Circle home last week using no more than a flashlight and a baton. Since, he has shared further details about the incident with Washington television stations. “I was lucky that he didn’t have a gun,” he told one. [Fox 5 DC/WJLA]

Nominations Still Open for Reston Volunteer Awards — Candidates for Reston Association’s Volunteer Service Awards can still be nominated until Friday. The awards recognize individuals, families, groups and businesses that make a significant contribution to the community through volunteer service. [Reston Association]

SLHS Baseball Star Continues His Success — Jared Abelson, a 2015 South Lakes High School graduate, picked up two hits for Macalester College in a game over the weekend against Marian University in the Tucson Invitational. The sophomore is batting .478 through six games this season. [Macalester College Athletics]

by RestonNow.com — March 10, 2017 at 12:30 pm 70 Comments

Park Free RTC protestThe following open letter by Aaron Gordon of the Reston Merchants Association is offered in response to the open letter penned by Boston Properties that appeared on Reston Now on March 3.

Dear Fellow Community Members,

Reston is a unique place. Besides living, working and playing here, we are a close-knit group, brought together by the desire to know each other and to be part of a distinct community. Boston Properties’ implementation of a paid parking system is tearing the fabric of who we are, how we choose to live and what we do within Reston.

For 26 years, we have enjoyed the ability to park in Reston Town Center, meet friends or be alone, go to work, walk around, shop (or not), dine and take advantage of the entertainment opportunities. The Town Center has been a formal and informal gathering place, a place that often costs nothing to use, but provides much enjoyment.

Sadly, Boston Properties’ decision to install paid parking has turned a once vibrant community into just another mall.

Boston Properties has given many excuses over the past year for its decision to institute paid parking. Excuses like parking convenience and combatting Metro commuters. Don’t let them fool you … the truth is there is only one reason to charge for parking — profit.

Ray Ritchie, Executive Vice President of Boston Properties, set out his case back in 2011, when in a shareholders call, he laid out just how much money the company would make by charging us for parking. Ritchie outlined that the paid parking plan would make Boston Properties $8 million per year and would be worth $130 million of additional value to the company.

On March 3, 2017, Boston Properties, in an open letter to the community published in Reston Now, stated that their three primary goals for activating paid parking include protecting parking rights for the RTC tenants and visitors, enhancing the parking experience of tenants, visitors and patron and augmenting revenues dedicated to reinvestment in the Reston community.

In the same letter, Boston Properties listed a series of reasons attempting to validate their paid parking program. We find many of these justifications to be inaccurate and offensive and underscores Boston Properties’ overreach.

Paid parking will help manage unwarranted commuter parking.
Commuter parking was never the issue. It is easily solvable by instituting 3-4 hours free parking and charging commuters. Also, Boston Properties lumps overnight and out-of-town parking into this category. This is different from commuter parking. Boston Properties’ paid parking plan is an overreach designed to add revenue for the company.

Boston Properties is committed to assisting retailers during this period.
There is not “regular communication” and “open and honest dialogue.” Rather, Boston Properties gives the same automated answer to everyone, which is to say that it will take months to analyze the situation and right now it is too early to formulate any conclusions.

Paid parking is not having the adverse impact that has been reported.
Why would merchants be so upset if their numbers were not down dramatically?

Boston Properties’ statement is not accurate. Of course paid parking and the onerous parking system has had, and is having, an adverse effect. Most of the retailers have indicated that paid parking has been a disaster for business and projected sales are down dramatically. We are losing long-time customers who may never return. If this continues, many merchants have indicated that they will not be in business long.

Each retailer chooses whether or where to validate parking.
We find it galling that Boston Properties is actually attempting to muddy the waters and place the parking fiasco on the merchants of Town Center!

Boston Properties, which already charges some of the highest rent in the area, now wants its merchants to pay them for validation as well. Validation is extremely costly for every merchant and not workable for stores whose standard items are low value like coffee, baked goods or ice cream. Many merchants simply don’t make enough revenue to pay additional fees for parking. Additionally, it is absurd to expect guests and shoppers to have to figure out which retailer participates in the validation program and where, if the store participates, they may park.

No retailers have closed as a result of paid parking.
Two stores, Origins and BGR Burger, have recently closed and one said that the new paid parking was the “nail in the coffin.” At least one other store has indicated that it will leave when its lease is up in a year. And, new merchants are already shying away from RTC due to the disastrous impact of paid parking.

Boston Properties has already made a number of changes based on customer feedback, including offering: free parking in garages on weekends, holidays and special event days; doubling the number of parking ambassadors, primarily at night to assist retail shoppers; installing additional onsite educational signage; adding a list of validating retailers to the ParkRTC app; regularly updating FAQs on the website.
There is much confusion about this. As it turns out, free parking does not include street parking. It was also not free on MLK Day. And “special event” means any day that Boston Properties deems special, usually an event they are running to benefit their brand.

The “parking ambassadors” are unfriendly and not helpful, and seem to be on hand mostly to warn you that you must pay. They are not knowledgeable about the system and generally can’t help guests figure it out.

Educational signage? The signage is not succinct and/or user-friendly. One customer — an astronaut! — was having trouble figuring it all out in a timely fashion, and complained to the proprietor of the store she was in.

Stop adding things to the app. Treat all retailers the same. Give everyone the same advantage in attracting shoppers. We want everyone to succeed.

As for updating the app, you can update it every day and people still won’t care. People want free and safe parking.

The ParkRTC app is secure to use, and most daily parkers are paying using the app.
The app gets a terrible 1 1/2 stars out of 5 on its reviews from the app store. Users say they don’t trust it, and many wonder why Boston Properties needs all this information about RTC patrons.

Boston Properties remains dedicated to nonprofit fundraising.
Yes, Boston Properties scheduled its last nonprofit fundraiser to coincide with the rally residents and merchants organized against paid parking at the same time on the same day. They did everything they could to limit the protest, including restricting the group from rallying on Reston Town Center property.

Boston Properties remains committed to this paid parking model which they believe meets the objective above.
The longer this situation goes on, and with no negotiating with Boston Properties, the more people will go elsewhere, the harder it will be to bring them back and the community as a whole will become less desirable.

Boston Properties will continue to support our community’s strategic plan.
If the plan is to destroy Reston Town Center, this is the path to take. If the plan is beyond making more revenue, providing conveniences, services, and a gathering place for people to live, work and play, Boston Properties must reconsider the parking program they have implemented.

Aaron Gordon
Reston Merchants Association
[email protected]
www.gofundme.com/reston-merchants-for-free-parking
www.facebook.com/restonunited/
www.facebook.com/RTCparkingfee/
twitter.com/hashtag/ParkFreeRTC?src=hash

by Dave Emke — March 6, 2017 at 10:15 am 52 Comments

Hundreds of displeased residents braved chilly temperatures Saturday to participate in a march to protest paid parking at Reston Town Center.

“We believe it’s a huge success, despite the cold weather,” organizer Guarang Shah said. “Final numbers are 450-plus.”

Reston Town Center patrons and business owners have been making their displeasure known since RTC owners Boston Properties announced last year their plan to institute paid parking. The initiative went into effect Jan. 3, after which businesses have said their customer base has dwindled.

The throng of protesters began their afternoon march in the parking lot of Winwood Children’s Center on New Dominion Parkway. Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery at RTC, stood among the protesters in the parking lot and said the support shown by local residents means a lot to merchants affected by the decision by RTC owners Boston Properties.

“It feels like we’re not the only ones in this battle; it feels like everyone has the same anger,” Gordon said. “We’ve been making the argument that we’re down in sales and customers are no longer coming, and this proves our point.”

The protesters were not given permission by Boston Properties to march within Reston Town Center; however, the marchers’ path did cut through — under the close eye of security — as they worked their way back to New Dominion Parkway. After looping around Not Your Average Joe’s, the protesters lined up along the parkway and were greeted by a large amount of honked support from passing motorists.

Marchers were encouraged to document the event on social media with the hashtag #parkfreertc.

Boston Properties has said that the paid parking initiative is “here to stay” and that the distress claimed by businesses is being overblown. Gordon, who is organizing a group of merchants considering legal action against Boston Properties, said he is hopeful that the company will eventually see business in the Town Center is down “disastrously” and will have a change of heart.

“If there are 500 people out here, that represents 50,000 people that feel the exact same way,” Gordon said. “Just as Boston Properties is saying they’re never going to take away paid parking, we’re never going to go away.”

Wendy Warren, of Herndon, was one of the former Town Center patrons who came out Saturday to support the cause. She said she and her family visited RTC two or three times a week prior to paid parking. Now, they go to the Mosaic District or One Loudoun instead.

“There are no other suburban shopping areas around here that have paid parking, or such a poorly designed app,” she said, citing concerns that have been raised by a number of people who’ve spoken out against the system’s ParkRTC app. Boston Properties insists the app is secure.

Wendy’s husband, William, said Boston Properties should consider a different approach to its paid-parking initiative.

“Three hours of free parking, so that you could come here for something like dinner,” he said. “They state they want it to guard against commuter parking, but they could easily accommodate for people who want to come use the amenities here at the Town Center.”

Shah said if Boston Properties didn’t take notice of Saturday’s protest, there will be more to come.

“If they don’t change their mind, there will be another march,” he said. “We are already planning another march that will take place in summertime.”

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