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Living Up to High Expectations

At first there was worry Equity Office Properties would not be a good community partner.

Fourth in a series of profiles of those honored as The Best of Reston.

As if managing the heart of the urban center of Reston is not a hard enough job, with over 726,000 square feet of office space, and 230,000 square feet of retail space, Equity Office Properties at Reston Town Center has decided to take it upon itself to reach out to the Reston community in other ways. Raising $1.3 million in 2004 for charities exemplifies how Equity Office contributes to the Reston community.

Since taking control of the area in 1996 from Mobil Land Development Corporation, Equity Office has made it a mission to contribute to the community, especially to charity and non-profit organizations. Sometimes it writes a check for a donation; other times, it offers a certain percentage of the profit from an event held at Reston Town Center to a charity.

The most recent example of that is the South Lakes High School ice skating tsunami relief fundraiser. Equity Office offered the ice skating pavilion to South Lakes students free of charge, and donated 50 percent of the profits from three days, Feb. 7 through Feb. 9. Marion Myers, the president of Myers Public Relations, a company hired by Equity Office for marketing purposes, said events held at the ice rink this year have already raised thousands of dollars for charities and non-profits.

The use of the Reston Town Center pavilion is what generates the most money for charities and non-profits that are trying to raise funds. Not only do those groups raise money by holding fundraisers at Reston Town Center, but they also raise visibility. Myers said her company would promote the event to be held by the charity at no charge. Local, and at times national, news media cover the events promoted by Myers Public Relations. The charity is then exposed to more than just the people who happened to be at the scene when their event was held.

“THIS IS OUR HOME,” said Laura McNulty, the general manager of Equity Office. The personnel at Equity Office feel attached to Reston, and to the charities they help provide space and funds for, said McNulty. When a member of the Equity Office team leaves the work, even if it is for a good reason such as a promotion, it is hard for them to leave, she added. “This is personal for Equity, it’s not just about business,” she said.

It is because of this sort of thinking that Equity Office was awarded as one of seven Best of Reston honorees in 2005, for “Fostering Community Responsibility.” Tracey White, the President and CEO of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, said Equity Office does a great job of keeping Reston Town Center open to the community at-large. She said Mobil Land was an amazing community partner, because it used to provide services to many community organizations. When it sold the Town Center to Equity Office everyone worried whether the work Mobil had done to support the community would continue. “Equity Office has lived up to that standard,” said White. The Chamber, she added, always found Equity Office to be very supportive of community groups.

In writing a nomination for the award, Barbara Haight of Booz Allen Hamilton, wrote that Reston Town Center provides a core for the business and residential community. The management administered by Equity Office “maintains Reston Town Center as an internationally renowned destination.”

McNulty said the award inspired Equity Office to keep doing the charitable work. “We are very excited, and very honored about this award,” she said.

Equity Office wants to be a part of the process which makes Reston the unique community that it is, said McNulty. She said as a business, Equity Office has to be aware of what the needs of those surrounding it are. “If you go to a meeting in Reston,” said McNulty, “you are going to get into a conversation where you will hear a need.” In other communities the need may be ignored, but in Reston, people act on it. It is an active, and vocal community, she said. When she hears about a need in Reston, she offers a great resource, which is the Reston Town Center, and a process begins to help eliminate the need. She added there is a sense of obligation in Equity Office to work on eliminating those needs, and that the employees of Equity Office are committed to the community. “You can’t help but get attached,” she said.

McNulty said organizations approach Equity Office for support, and are rarely turned away. When the company did its budget for 2004, it decided that it really wanted to give more back to the community. The result was the $1.3 million raised for charities.

To view the listing of upcoming events at Reston Town Center, visit, http://restontowncenter.com.