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by Dave Emke October 18, 2017 at 9:00 am 8 Comments

Opioid Roundtable Planned — The discussion, scheduled for the Fairfax County Government Center at 2 p.m. Saturday, will be hosted by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The event is open to the public. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Reston Woman Pleads Guilty to Role in Gang-Related Killing — Cindy Blanco Hernandez, 19, entered pleas to abduction and gang participation Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors. She was among 10 members and associates of the gang MS-13 charged after the January killing of 15-year-old Damaris A. Reyes Rivas. She may face up to 30 years in prison when she is sentenced in May. [Washington Post]

Herndon Adds Parking Enforcement Position — The part-time officer was hired Oct. 3 and will work 30 hours a week, which has at least one resident worried about “end[ing] up like Reston Town Center.” [Connection Newspapers]

Silver Line Phase 2 Hits Two-Thirds Point — More than 5 million hours have been spent on the $2.78 billion project so far, according to updates expected to be presented today to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board. [WTOP]

by Dave Emke August 25, 2017 at 2:45 pm 27 Comments

Aaron Gordon has owned Red Velvet Cupcakery (11939 Democracy Drive) in Reston Town Center for seven years.

He does not believe there will be an eighth.

“I feel very, very, very confident that they are planning not to renew our lease, and they’re stonewalling us,” Gordon said. “This is all retaliation, plain and simple.”

Gordon has been one of the most outspoken opponents of paid parking at Reston Town Center, initiated in January by RTC owners Boston Properties. Gordon was one of the organizers and is the mouthpiece for the Reston Merchants Association, a group of business owners and managers at RTC fighting the system.

Now, as Gordon looks at negotiating a lease extension with his landlord, he believes the spotlight he’s put on himself through the Merchants Association is making such an extension impossible.

“I have no doubt that they are retaliating against me and Red Velvet Cupcakery for being one of the leaders of the fight against paid parking,” he said. “I have a whole timeline of reasons I believe this to be true.”

We reached out to Gordon’s landlord, Boston Properties, and were told by spokesperson Marion Myers that “lease negotiations with tenants and prospects are not communicated publicly until both parties are in agreement.”

Gordon said Red Velvet Cupcakery’s lease at the Town Center comes up in May. Last year, he said, he was in negotiations not just to renew, but to bring another of his concepts, Bakers and Baristas, to the Town Center as well.

“Before this whole battle, they loved Red Velvet, they loved me as an owner, and they loved the new concepts I [would be] putting in,” he said. “Until, of course, now.”

Gordon says he is almost certain there will be no agreement with the landlord, as he feels they are going out of their way to make sure he knows he is no longer welcome at the Town Center — where he says he makes a “fairly modest but steady income” despite what he says is an 8-10 percent drop in sales in 2017.

(more…)

by Dave Emke July 28, 2017 at 10:15 am 30 Comments

After hearing concerns from the community, including more than 9,000 signatures on a petition about the issue, leaders of Reston Association will attempt to engage Boston Properties in conversation about paid parking at Reston Town Center.

RA’s Board of Directors voted unanimously at their Thursday meeting (video) to authorize CEO Cate Fulkerson, Board President Sherri Hebert and Board Vice President David Bobzien to pursue the talks. Hebert and Bobzien said it is important for RA members to know the Board is actively working toward a solution.

“This is the first step, [and] we think it’s an important step,” said Bobzien, who participated in the meeting by phone. “I think it’s very important that we engage with [Boston Properties].”

Suzanne Zurn, the organizer of the petition and the founder of the Keep Parking Free at RTC movement, addressed the Board during the meeting and encouraged them to take action.

“Your neighbors, your constituents, responded in large numbers to the petition opposing paid parking at RTC,” she said. “I encourage you to read their comments and consider how RA could add weight to their voices in this important community issue.”

Paid parking went into effect Jan. 3 at Reston Town Center, requiring $2-per-hour payment in garages all day Monday through Friday, and $3-per-hour payment for street parking Monday through Saturday. On June 5, parking became free in garages between 5 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., and one hour of free parking is also offered during the day.

Many merchants at RTC validate garage parking for customers, but which of the five garages is validated varies by business. Parking at the Town Center while paid parking is in effect requires the use of the ParkRTC app, though the Town Center announced earlier this week that parking sessions can be started without the app using newly updated kiosks. Parking in the Orange Garage at the Town Center is free for Jackson’s customers, without use of the app or any other method, thanks to an injunction in a lawsuit the business has against Boston Properties.

Zurn said all of the information one must know before visiting the Town Center and parking has only complicated matters and continues to keep potential customers away.

“I don’t know of any paid parking situations in our region that are this complicated,” she said to the Board. “Do you?”

Reston Town Center is not in the jurisdiction of Reston Association. However, Director Victoria White (Hunters Woods/Dogwood District) asked if the parking situation has resulted in disruption to surrounding streets. Zurn said it has, as workers constructing The Signature building at RTC have been seen parking on New Dominion Parkway, Temporary Road and North Shore Drive.

Paul Steidler, who also addressed the Board about the issue, said the Reston Town Center paid parking outrage is hurting the character and direction of the community.

“Are we going to become an area that’s an elitist, gated community with all the decadence that brings?” Steidler said. “Or are we going to go back to our core values of being inclusive of all, of having a place we can all come and go more freely and enjoy what Reston has to offer?”

Hebert said she is hopeful she and the other RA leaders can have productive conversations with Boston Properties and help them understand the community’s plight.

“We feel like we owe that to the folks that live in the Reston Association, to speak on your behalf to them,” she said.

by Dave Emke July 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm 28 Comments

Saying they have heard the concerns of visitors who do not want to use the ParkRTC app, Boston Properties has updated the payment kiosks in the Reston Town Center parking garages.

According to information released on Reston Town Center’s Facebook page and elsewhere, new kiosks in the parking garages do not require the use of the ParkRTC app. Rather, it says, payment can be made by swiping a credit card or by paying with cash and receiving change. The information also says parking validation provided by a business is “easy to apply” using the kiosks.

More than 200,000 downloads of the ParkRTC app have been made, according to the announcement.

Anti-ParkRTC group Keep Parking Free at RTC called the new kiosks a win for their cause.

Share this! And then this happened… #ScraptheApp! Looks like Boston Properties has abandoned the requirement to use…

Posted by Keep Parking Free at RTC on Monday, July 24, 2017

Paid parking went into effect Jan. 3 at Reston Town Center, requiring $2-per-hour payment in garages all day Monday through Friday. On June 5, parking became free in garages between 5 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., and one hour of free parking is also offered during the day.

by Dave Emke July 24, 2017 at 10:15 am 44 Comments

After repeated member comments on the issue, the Reston Association Board of Directors will consider taking a more aggressive role regarding the paid-parking situation at Reston Town Center.

According to the agenda packet for Thursday’s meeting of the Board, they will consider moving “to authorize Reston Association (RA) Board President Sherri Hebert and Vice President David Bobzien to engage with representatives of Boston Properties and Reston Town Center (RTC) to inform and discuss with them the pressing requests from RA Members that further consideration be given to RTC’s paid parking system.”

In May, members Suzanne Zurn and Paul Steidler addressed the Board and asked directors to take a position against paid parking at the Town Center. Steidler again addressed the Board on the matter at its June meeting.

In her statement, Zurn — who has created an online petition about the issue that has nearly 10,000 signatures — argued that the ParkRTC system has negatively affected the Reston community.

“Not only is the system complicated and the data tracking creepy, it’s also deterrent for attracting new or occasional visitors,” Zurn said. “The livelihoods of our neighbors who work there and its local business owners have been hurt by significant reductions in revenue, fewer work hours and dramatically less tips. One only needs to look at the barrage of negative comments that appear on every RTC Facebook post to understand how the community feels.”

As of June 5, Boston Properties stepped back from 24/7 paid parking at RTC, allowing for free garage parking after 5 p.m. each day, along with one hour of free parking prior that time. Monday morning, Reston Town Center posted on its Facebook page that its parking garages now feature “easier-to-use” park-and-pay kiosks that do not require use of the ParkRTC app.

Reston Town Center is not under the purview of Reston Association; however, Zurn says she is hopeful RA can “engage in the conversation and use [its] clout to convene a community conversation about parking at RTC.”

Among other topics at Thursday’s meeting:

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive), and the meeting will also be broadcast live on RA’s YouTube channel.

by Dave Emke June 22, 2017 at 2:45 pm 33 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.”

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