Paid parking pushes Reston’s hot button
Reston Town Center landlord Boston Properties found out just how much of a hot button paid parking can be for retailers and customers.
In January Boston Properties, which bought out Beacon Capital Partners in 2015 to make it the center’s sole landlord, instituted a $2 an hour fee for street parking and for all six garages. Parking had been free since the town center opened in 1990.
Several hundred people marched in protest, not on Town Center property but on streets nearby. Complaints focused not just on the cost of parking but on the imposition of what protesters called an overly complicated mobile pay phone app.
Retailers responded by forming the Reston Merchants Association and issuing an open letter stating that “Most of the retailers have indicated that paid parking has been a disaster for business and projected sales are down dramatically.”
And Jackson’s Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge, part of the Great American Restaurants group, filed suit in Fairfax County Circuit Court alleging breach of contract. The suit sought an end to paid parking as well as damages.
The Reston Merchants Association has been considering joining Jackson’s lawsuit or filing its own suit, says association head Aaron Gordon, whose restaurant group owns the Red Velvet Cupcakery.
“The landlord seems to be standing pretty firm. We’ve asked them to provide customers with three to four hours of free parking. That would give people time to have dinner, ice cream, a cupcake,” Gordon says, while addressing concerns about commuter parkers taking up spaces.
In response, he says, “we’ve had zero help from these guys.”
In a statement issued at the end of April Boston Properties noted that paid parking has only been in effect for a few months and that it “has worked with retailers and office tenants to provide customer support, parking validations and other assistance as the Reston Town Center complex adjusts to paid parking.”
Garage usage by non-office tenants have steadily increased, week over week, according to the company, and more than 143,000 users have downloaded the app.
But Gordon says shops continue to lose revenue.
“For people like me who are restaurant or shop owners looking to go into a certain area, I’d say be very cautious. If you are on the fence about going into a property that’s going to become paid parking – don’t do it,” Gordon says. For landlords: “Whatever system you implement make it as user friendly as possible. It’s a simple thing. Ease people into the idea.”