News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Flashback Monday: A Video Trip Back To 1987, When Woodsy Reston Was Even Woodsier

Set the controls of the Earth Toned Wayback Machine to 1987, when YouTubes user "Cowboy Frank" recorded a fancy VHS "video tape" of a motorcycle ride through our woodsy nirvana. The picture above shows "Cowboy Frank" driving up (then, as now, as shall ever be) Temporary Road, taking in the breathtaking vista of our favorite "stressful city-like shopping center" ELITE clump of trees while navigating around the shockingly boxy cars that were the vogue then. Of course, given the size and weight of video recording equipment back then, it's a surprise the motorcycle didn't tip over every time "Cowboy Frank" made a turn.


Thrill along to this exciting loop around an even woodsier Reston of yesteryear, from a starting point on Chimney House Drive near Lake Anne, to North Shore to Wiehle to Fairway to (then as now) Temporary Road to Reston Parkway (nee Reston Avenue) to Baron Cameron to North Shore and back home. Mostly you see woods. Lots and lots of woods, interspersed with some of the finest motor vehicles of the K Car era. A few "highlights":

Tall Oaks Stucco Wasteland on the left, invisible then as now. No CGI grannies for another three decades, but there's some rando dude out for a relaxing stroll down Wiehle on the right.

The intersection of Reston Avenue and Baron Cameron, with Home Depot (then Hechinger's? Definitely not Memco?) in the background. Classic big box architecture is timeless. And speaking of which...

Back in the 80s, no big box stores surrounded the then massive four-story office building soon to be home to Reston's tallest mauvecsraper. Which of course means that the Macaroni Grill is still to be, and still to be cut down in the Great Chain Eatery Attrition of the Oughts.

Dammit! We told ourselves we were not going to cry, the end.

Monday, June 5, 2017

No Way To Run A Railroad, Or A Swimming Pool For That Matter

Confidential Restonian Operative “Adam” sent us this "Twitter pic" of the useful signage to help people do the one thing they voluntarily go to RA Headquarters to do: pick up a pool pass. Apparently more people than usual are having trouble with what we're going to stop calling WebTrak and start calling PoolRTC, in honor of another exceptional app the people of Reston love, so they've set up a process to help people through.... the process.

Now, we’re not what the kids call “UX” design experts, but any process which requires this much explanation is probably not the most efficient. We feel sorry for the front office staff at RA headquarters trying to help people through this mess, though the multiple lines and explanations make a trip to the DMV look distinctly non-Soviet by comparison.

Also, if we’re going to have this fancy rule requiring pool pass applicants to submit photos in order to crack down on the menace of BIG TIME SWIMMING POOL FRAUD, couldn’t they have added a, whazzitcalled, “upload button” to the WebTrak SwimRTC system instead of requiring people to send photos to a random email address? And what’s next, urine samples so they can sequence the DNA of perpetrators of future pool “accidents” and bring them to justice?

Alls we know is that the RA loves their flowcharts, like this one to remind them to actually tell people before they start ripping up fields and whatnot:

Looks like we should have opted for the UX major instead of the "web logging" one when we shelled out for our PhD by mail degree, the end.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

RTC Partialpaidparkingpocalypse Now: Boston Properties Backs Off On Paid Parking, Makes First Hour, Evenings Free (Updated)

Facing lawsuits, a loss of goodwill and foot traffic (with one exception), confused astronauts, and general embarrassment over its ham-handed implementation, Boston Properties has backed off slightly on its awesome paid parking initiative at our favorite fake downtown "stressful city-like shopping center." Starting next week, the first hour of parking at RTC will be free, and so are evenings after 5 and (as has always been the case) weekends. Um, yay?

Let's hear the elite crisis managers earn their retainer:

Based on a study of traffic patterns and behaviors as well as retailer input--
We think that was loud and clear.
--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.
"Community reinvestment?" LOL.

The change is long overdue, and good on BPX for recognizing the damage they've already done and manning shoppingcentering up. But it's still not ideal -- people will still be rushing through their midscale chain lunches to avoid getting ticketed, something that could have been easily addressed by making two hours free. And while they're making changes to the parking kiosks, the ever-popular ParkRTC app has yet to be tossed onto the ashheap of smartphone detritus with the likes of Angry Birds and Draw Something. In fact, you need it even to get your one hour of free parking before 5pm. But haters gonna hate, revenue's gotta be augmented, and crisis managers gotta eat, amirite?

But be warned: On-street parking is still paid at all times. Or, as the crisis managers put it:

To ensure convenient parking for RTC retail customers, there will be no changes to the existing street parking structure.
Translation: The bumblebee isn't going back in dry storage just yet.

Update: According to this fancy online poll, fewer than 1 in 5 people think that Boston Properties have made this right. The rest are almost evenly split between thinking 2-3 hours of free parking is more appropriate and wanting parking free at all times (not gonna happen).

Also, this insightful comment:

To understand Boston Properties' debacle with paid parking, take 3:45 minutes to watch this video from 2011 of Reston business and civic leaders praising Boston Properties for embracing Reston's community concept and ethic.

https://vimeo.com/23486042

Boston Properties had been one of the shining regional examples of how to blend community with development. But early last year, something changed within the company. Some tone-deaf company executives decided on a bone-headed plan to charge for weekday and weeknight parking at a town center where parking had been free for 25 years. From the start, the plan was ill-conceived, drawing the company needlessly in a fight with the same community that had praised it for years. Among other things, the company failed to consider the impact of fees on low-wage workers, forcing BP to backpedal. The company announced the fees without first informing its tenants, leading to lawsuits and ill will. The company failed to gauge community sentiment, and make itself available to the public to explain its reasoning. Worst of all, the company failed--until now-- to consider a reasonable compromise to allow some free parking on weekdays and weeknights. It has been a textbook public relations fiasco from the start, and may take years for Boston Properties to restore its reputation in Reston.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Red Alert: Reston Wegmans Rumors Exciting, But Also A Good Test Of What's To Come

The recent rumor that fancypants grocery store Wegmans is considering a Reston location just south of the Toll Road on Sunrise Valley Drive is v. v. exciting. Finally, all those smug Loudounites, what with their "town centers" with, whazzitcalled, "free parking" and all those particleboard homes with, whazzitcalled, "two-story foyers" and "one-sided brick facades" no longer have bragging rights to the one thing they have that is indisputably better than their western Fairfax brethren: a grocery store with prepared food and... what, sushi? We're not exactly sure. But we haven't been so excited since the grocery that used the feminine wiles of "Susie de los Santos" to peddle sexist bread first opened at Tall Oaks!

Far be it from this filthy "web log" to dampen everyone's enthusiasm about this potential bonanza of shrink-wrapped grilled green peppers, but here's a few HOT TAKES that we should all stop and consider:

1. The site Wegmans is reportedly considering, currently home to some dowdy one-story concrete association office buildings, is also the future site of the proposed -- and much-needed -- Soapstone Connector bridge -- something that might get built someday, assuming the county can find the remaining $167.5 million needed to build what must be a very fancy bridge. Given the opportunity to get some sweeeeeeeet tax revenue in the shorter run, will the county stick to its guns and demand the connector road stay there, essentially making the property unsuitable for a low-rise shopping center surrounded by acres of surface parking?

2. Given its proximity to the Metro, even without the Soapstone connector plans, is this really the best place for a low-rise shopping center surrounded by acres of surface parking? Or will Wegmans, which like its Loudoun customer base doesn't prefer being part of "stressful city-like shopping centers" (with a few exceptions), become part of some mixed-use development full of woonerf and whatnot? Or is this all just a negotiating ploy as it looks at other, presumably less expensive, property closer to (gasp) Herndon?

3. With plans to push even denser, less car-oriented development than ever before, will the county stick to its guns -- or just go for the sweeeeeet short-term tax revenue?

It's a good test of principles and promises made on the part of county planners. But given recent events, we think we all know the answer to those three questions. At least we'll have access to some nice prepackaged sushi, though it'll spoil by the time we make it back across the Toll Road through all the gridlocked traffic, the end.

Friday, May 19, 2017

If There's No One To Take A Selfie at RTC, Does That Make It A 'Lonie'?

Please to be enjoying this cellular telephone photo from the busy lunch rush at our favorite fake downtown "stressful city-like shopping center" "texted," or maybe "Snapchatted," to us by a Confidential Restonian Operative. Sure looks like all that recent unpleasantness about paid parking has finally died down and normalcy restored to our vibrant commercial hub. Let's step back and check out all the vibrancy!

Wow.

You may not have to wait in line for that classic RTC selfie replicating a smartphone app people actually want to use -- but don't try taking any other photos. Just ask the teevee news crew that recently got busted by RTC's ever-vigilant Parking Brigade, in keeping with longstanding policy at our favorite ersatz third place.

The crisis managers couldn't buy better publicity. We're still not sure why the local Action McNews Team from Hagerstown, Maryland, decided to do a story about paid parking in Reston, but after RTC owner Boston Properties got embarrassed by a question about the pushback against paid parking at RTC during a Wall Street earnings call a few weeks back, we guess word got around or something.

The concept of "embedding" "video" hasn't quite made it to Hagerstown just yet (they'll get it shortly after color tevee maybe?), but you can watch the Action McNews crew getting busted at the link here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lake Anne Is For Lovers, At Least For One Week In June

V.v. exciting news from everyone's favorite playground of brutalist concrete adornments, child-free children's fountains, and raw materials for jet-age air conditioning! Turns out that the state's "Virginia Is For Lovers" tourism campaign is adding yet another assortment of structures to Lake Anne Plaza for a week in June -- the giant "LOVE" letters pictured above in a slightly less brutalist setting.

To be displayed at Lake Anne from June 9 through June 14, the LOVE letters befit Lake Anne's recently signposted status as the Colonial Williamsburg of Concrete. It'll be fun to have the LOVE letters there for the week, though we'll be angling for a slightly more permanent -- and site-specific -- addition.

You're welcome, Lake Anne. You're welcome.