When Reston Town Center opened in 1990, the region was suffering from the worst real estate recession in 50 years. Town Center, however, was an immediate success — largely because of the efforts by the project’s marketing director, Linda Miller.
Miller, who has been named as one of the recipients of the 2004 Best of Reston awards, was the force behind the Town Center’s original advertising, public relations, and many of the events that still draw thousands of residents to the shopping center annually.
“Simply put, Linda put Reston Town Center on the map,” said Jim Cleveland, the former president of Mobil Land and Reston Town Center, in a letter nominating Miller for the award. “Many others played significant roles in the formation and leasing of Town Center but no one had a bigger influence in making it the premiere regional attraction it has become today.”
The perception of Town Center when it opened was that it was primarily office buildings with few retail offerings. To combat this misperception, Miller helped create such events as Taste of the Town, Clyde’s Oktoberfest, Christmas with Santa Claus, and the summer concert series.
“We figured once they’d come, they’d love it,” she said.
These days, Miller runs her own marketing firm, Miller Marketing, located across the street from the shopping center she helped make a success. A day rarely goes by that Miller does not walk across Reston Parkway to Town Center for a cup of coffee or lunch.
“You can’t help but love the place and want it to succeed,” she said.
Miller has a reputation for being a tireless cheerleader for the Reston business in general, often helping young businesspeople get their start, said Marion Myers, who runs a public relations firm in the same suite as Miller’s marketing business.
“She’s a nurturer and a motivator,” Myers said. “She helps people get to where they want to go.”
MILLER BECAME acquainted with the Reston community in 1985, when she was managing the volunteers at the “Builder's House,” a home on Bennington Woods that was built in three days. The project, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Homebuilders Association, involved selling $10 raffle tickets, one of which gave the home to the ticket holder. More than $1.3 million was raised for different area charities.
“That was the first time I really got to know Reston and the community and I was hooked,” she said.
Reston Land Corp., which was Mobil’s Reston developer, took notice of Miller’s diligence and attention to detail, soon hiring her as a community liaison.
Working with different community groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Reston Interfaith, Miller began to play a greater role in local community service projects.
In 1987 and 1988, she served on the board of the Reston Childcare Consortium, which was dedicated to opening a childcare facility for Reston area business. That facility, the Robert E. Simon Children's Center, is now open near the Reston Regional Library.
When the Reston Town Center project was started, Miller was a natural choice to handle promotions. In addition to drawing business to Town Center, Miller ensured the project gave back to the community by opening the facilities up for nonprofit events. Over six years, approximately $1 million was raised for charity. In 1995 alone, 308,775 people attended fundraising events at Town Center, garnering $327,385 for local nonprofit organizations.
MILLER ALSO helped develop a program in which pennies were collected from the Town Center fountain by Girl Scouts, who kept 25 percent of the take. The rest of the fountain coins were donated to regional charities, such as the Vienna Women’s Center.
“The problem was the money was so dirty, so first they’d have to wash it,” Miller said. “But the Girl Scouts loved it.”
More recently, Miller has served on the Greater Reston Arts Center’s board of directors and developed a pro bono marketing strategy and produced the promotional material for GRACE’s capital campaign.
She is also still active on the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, having been a member on the Board of Directors for 11 years.