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Reston Town Center Store Owners, Employees Say Pay Parking Will Hurt Business

by Karen Goff March 16, 2016 at 2:50 pm 55 Comments

Reston Town CenterMany Reston Town Center store owners and employees have serious concerns about a downturn in business and an effect on their bottom line when paid parking is instituted at town center garages this summer.

A town center spokeswoman said on Tuesday that an app-based paid parking system is going into place in all seven of Reston Town Center’s public garages. The system is being installed, in part, to deter from drivers who are parking at RTC all day and taking a bus over to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.

It will cost $2 an hour to park during the day, with a daily maximum of $12, said spokeswoman Marion Myers. There will be validation, though, and parking will be free on weekends and during big community events like the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival.

Store owners were told of the change a few weeks ago, said Anne Mader, an owner of The Bike Lane. She said it is already hard for local (i.e. non-chain) business owners to afford a town center location. Paid parking is not going to improve things, she said.

“I absolutely think it is going to be awful for business,” she said. Mader said she is concerned about retail employees, some of whom may be sacrificing at least an hour of pay just to park for the day.

Ray Pugsley, who owns Potomac River Running, says he is furious with the town center’s decision.

“This will devastate shopping at Reston Town Center,” he said. “People will not be agreeable with paying for parking. People in the suburbs just don’t roll that way.”

Mader said Boston Properties, which owns Reston Town Center, is leaving it up to the stores to provide validation.

“We can validate for 10 minutes or five hours,” she said. “That puts pressure on us to want to make the customers happy.”

But the validation may be coming out of the store’s register. Pugsley, for one, said, he cannot afford to subsidize employee parking.

One retail manager, who asked her name not be used because she is not authorized to speak for her store, said it is her understanding that validation means the store ends up paying for the customer’s parking.

“I am worried about the bottom line,” she said. “For smaller companies, it is going to be hard. We have people who come in here, who stop by on a nice day with their dogs and kids. They are not going to do that now. Why are they going to come over here if they have to pay to park?”

The store manager pointed out no other area shopping centers — Fairfax Corner, Tysons Corner, Fair Oaks Mall and the Mosiac District — have paid garages.

May Bernhardt, owner of Mayflowers, a florist at Reston Town Center, said instituting paid parking “is the cost of progress.”

“We’re not going to go backwards,” she said. “We have to go forward. In the long run, people will get used to it. There will be employee discounts.”

Mader, of The Bike Lane, says it is progress in the wrong direction. She is a Reston native who says this goes against Reston’s principles.

“What Reston was founded on was being a community,” she said. “Of everyone having access to everything. This is putting borders up between the old Reston and the new Reston, and making things unfeasible.”

Pugsley said the national chains may be able to cope with the change. For the local owners, though, it could spell doom.

“To us local guys, this is our life,” said Pugsley, pointing out he recently closed one his stores in Rockville near paid parking storedue to falling sales. “If sales go down 50 percent and I am losing money I will be in trouble.”

  • Ming the Merciless

    There is nothing people hate, hate, hate than suddenly having to pay for something that used to be free. Just ask all the news sites that put up a paywall.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    As the interviewees said: We live in the suburbs. Plus, that is Reston. Paid parking is NOT how things work around here.

  • Mel

    Not only is it hard to find a parking spot in OUR neighborhood shopping areas, it will now be at cost. Another reason I am shopping elsewhere AND why I am hearing from shop owners that they are moving to other locations and home buyers moving. So sad.

  • compactdisqus

    The first three hours should be free. After which, validation can kick in. There could even be a two-hour limit to validation.

    Employers should also be able to register their employees’ tags with the system, giving them free parking.

    • June Smith

      What about their customers? Will the businesses be able to validate parking so their customers are able to park free?

      This is nonsense – especially if their lease agreements include free parking for their employees and customers.

      • compactdisqus

        Yes, the customer will have three hours free to walk around. If they shop somewhere, they can get validated giving them up to 5 hours free.
        Essentially, you can go to Bowtie for a Tarantino movie, then to Il Fornaio for a full tasting menu dinner and still have free parking.

        Employee tags will be registered for all day free parking.

        • June Smith

          This is not an acceptable solution if the cost for the validated parking is billed back to the businesses

          Unless Boston Properties is willing to absorb this cost – it may be a violation of the businesses lease agreements – and this could become a very messy legal matter for Boston Properties.

          Tysons Corner also has a Metro station and free parking garages for the stores and businesses. The same situation applies there … It would be in Boston Properties’ best interest to contact people who manage Tysons to see how they are working around this issue.

          • compactdisqus

            Agree, just trying to make the best of it. The validation (and cost billed to the store) wouldn’t process unless the ticket is over three hours.

          • June Smith

            I honestly believe there is no “making the best of it” with this stuation. There are hundreds of businesses in the Town Center also – some of which host full day seminars and meetings – they pay very high sf rates for their office space – and their leases included free parking in the garages for their employees and clients.

            I predict if Boston Properties follows through on this, leases will not be renewed and the Town Center will find itself with high commercial vacancies. And we all know what happens when retailers and businesses abandon a commercial location – especially one as large as the Town Center.

            This will come to no good end.

          • Cliff E. Hanger

            What happens? You can’t leave us hanging like that!

  • Reston Resident

    Sadly, this just means I won’t be going to Town Center as frequently. We use it as a space for the kids to enjoy the public art and fountains, sometimes on the weekends (so thanks for that) but sometimes after work/school. Why is RTC implementing paid parking if Tysons hasn’t had to do it? It just seems silly. Reston is all about community enjoying community spaces. RTC is significantly reducing its community but doing this.

  • Brian

    I will stop going to RTC except for very special occasions. Thank you FFX County leaders for forcing Reston to become a city. Now we pay for parking, have violent crime spreading, higher and higher taxes and endless gridlock. I don’t blame RTC for this move – they can’t have commuters using their garage, but this makes eating and shopping there that much more expensive.

  • Mike M

    The owners are just going to press their renters and clientele to see what the market will bear. This market can bear a lot more and they know it. Keep in mind that the owners are already going to benefit from the Metro for which we will all be paying a hefty and hidden price tag for a long time. Tolls and parking fees will help define the limits of what the owners can scrape. But I think they will gain from this. I think it is true that the outlying Reston commercial entities, many of which were harmed or ruined by RTC’s success will benefit from this move. But you will also see gridlock in the RTC at times as drivers cruise while their partner hops into a retailer. The renters and clientele will change and prices will climb.

    And what if you don’t have a smart phone?

    • UStifosi .

      All the local neighborhoods will require parking stickers like the zone parking setup in DC. The Best Buy lot will certainly pick up. Just think, that $10000 reserved parking spot at Midtown just might pay itself off in a few years.

      • Mike M

        Welcome to Arlington West.

  • Ashley

    This is honestly such a bad move. What about anyone without a smartphone who doesn’t have access to the app? Why would anyone want to connect their credit card to this app for a charge of $2? There are much better ways of going about solving their problem than this.

  • RoadApples

    Congrats to the Editor: for writing another viewpoint concerning this parking fee issue.

  • cosmo

    Like I said yesterday, they should institute a system like they have at Ballston. First two hours is $1. The flat evening rate, if you enter after 6:00, is $1. After two hours, ramp up the fees some but allow for validation. They should also do this for the Comstock ParkX garage at Wiehle once retail and restaurants start opening up – the daily fee is a deterrent to those who want to grab a quick bite to eat or visit the new farmers market there.

    • Robert Mowbray

      I won’t be going to RTC at all during the week if I have to pay anything to park, I am a retiree who visits RTC on weekdays – including for the monthly free movies for seniors.

  • DN
    • Mike M

      Some straight-up from that August 2015 article:

      Boston Properties, Johnston said, will adjust parking rates “to what the market will bear.” He specifically cited Metro’s parking charges, which generally are $5 to $6 a day.

      • Karen Goff

        That article is actually from Aug 2012, so they have been warning of this for a while.

        • Mike M

          Wow! My bad. Thank you.
          Maybe the way to delay it is to yoke the same issues that have kept them at bay thus far.

  • UStifosi .

    Horrible stupid idea. Penalize everyone for the misdeeds of a few. Where have I seen this before. What they don’t get is that the majority of those going to the restaurants during the week are usually business related and folks from out of town. Imagine trying to tell your business client that you have to download an app in order park, so that you can drink your $8 beer that has a new meals tax added to it.
    No we don’t we don’t need to get used to it because we have choices.

    • compactdisqus

      I think the commuter reason is just an excuse. If that really was the case, they could have gates which open once your tag is read by the scanner. Same for the exit. If your tag stayed more than 6 hours, then you get a bill via a partnership with the DMV.

  • Annie

    Does greed have to spoil everything? This will keep me away from Reston Town Center. So sick of money grabs taking over our society. I’m saying no.

  • Danielle

    Paid parking at Fairfax Corner, Tysons Corner, Fair Oaks Mall and the Mosiac District? I’ve never seen it and have not paid to park in any of those places, and I go to all of them. I will not pay to park at RTC. If I want to get lunch and walk around on a nice day, I’ll just go over to Lake Anne and enjoy the lake.

    • RestonYesterday

      I read it that way at first too, but it says there is not paid parking at those places.

  • June Smith

    Didn’t the businesses in the Town Center sign leases with free parking as part of the lease agreement? If so,how can the Town Center change the rules mid stream? If had a business in the Town Center, I would be hiring an atty to find out how I could fight this – or cancel the lease and charge the leasing agent for my cost to relocate.

  • Joe Heflin

    Incredibly stupid move which risks Town Center’s office vacancy rate as well as the upcoming leasing of the Signature apartments. If foot traffic diminishes the value of office space, a condo at MidTown or the Savoy, the monthly rent at the Avant-all take a hit.

    Then we can talk about waitiing to have your name called at the Apple store or the line at Panera.

    Should I mention the ice skating rink?

    I want to add this: I have been parking once or twice a week for lunch or dinner at Town Center since it opened. The number of people who park there and ride a bus to the Metro I can probably count on one hand.

    And, why do I want another APP? For that matter why do I want any APP? What if I don’t have my cell phone with me?

  • June Smith

    People should contact the Headquarters of the stores they frequent and tell them that they can’t shop at the Town Center stores because they will not pay the new parking fees.

    When I have out of town guests, I usually take them to the Town Center for lunch or dinner … I will not pay to park my car so I can pay $100+ for dinner, when I can go to any number of wonderful restaurants outside the Town Center.

  • Laurie Nasta

    So we stage a sit in or a protest at RTC or Boston Properties HQ to show our displeasure. ..complaining about it wont change their mind… picket signs and negative media attention will. Make it like a flash mob

    • Mike M

      Feelin’ the Bern?

    • Throw the bums out!

      Do I have to pay to park to attend this sit-in?

  • Sam Johns

    Buuu bye….

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I don’t go to RTC for much, but now I have a reason to go there less. Bye bye, Bow Tie. Bye bye, Chipotle. Bye bye AT&T. Bye bye Apple.

  • John Farrell

    Once this charging system is implemented, it will actually be cheaper for Restonians to drive the Toll Road to Tysons for a weeknight dinner and a movie, since Tysons has no plans to charge for parking even though it’s closer to Metro than RTC.

    Given that Metro will be more than a half-mile away from RTC, the opening of station in 2020 is hardly a credible excuse for charging for parking in 2016.

    One wonders if Ms. Myers was able to keep a straight face while offering
    this transparently baseless pretense for an obvious money grab.

    While the national chains may be able to absorb the cost of parking validation for their customers, local retail and office tenants already struggling to pay Boston Properties ultra high rents will be forced out. Maybe that’s one of the desirable side effects for BP besides the cash infusion.

  • LakeNewportLady

    Can someone explain to me why this change is happening this summer when the metro is at least 2 years out? How is metro parkers the motivating reason for this change??

  • Work Live and Pay

    Hard to believe the old man has been under for less than a year and already the bloodsuckers are taking over. No wonder they call it the clown center.

  • Newport

    So the majority of us are paying the price for the small number of individuals who are finding the loopholes? What about after 5:00 pm? I’m guessing the restaurant bars will have a check-in / check-out stamper for their patrons who stop by on their way home from work? Wow…….. this was not properly thought out by any logical group. There should be a 2 hour limit for validation!! in this day and age NO ONE can get anywhere on Metro and back in 2 hours.

  • Nate_VA

    Here’s a contact link for Boston Properties…


    I let them know that I was not happy about the change.

  • jmsullivan

    It’s basically time to get out of Reston. What I came here for just isn’t here anymore.

  • RestonYesterday

    This is really going to affect Crunch Fitness. Spending an extra $4 for a decent workout day, it is gonna more than double the average gym goers monthly costs.

    • Caitlin

      I asked Crunch- they will be a validation process for crunch members, as long as you stay less than 2.5 hours. Something to do with the app, and I bet you will have to “check in” at the desk.

      • KenD78

        And they will have to increase prices to cover the parking fees. Watch and see.

  • Ayer

    Boston properties: who decided to charge customers? This is the suburbs, not the city looking for parking. Penny wise pound foolish, will hurt businesses. And no, the customers will not pay for a casual stroll or a quick purchase. I’ll take my business to Fairfax Corner or Dulles Town Center. Good grief!

  • Joel Patterson

    Incredibly bad decision given that nothing else in the region charges for parking. I expect my RTC trips will plummet. And I live in Reston.

  • Patty Acerenza Meagher

    “The system is being installed, in part, to deter drivers who are parking at RTC all day and taking a bus over to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.” So is this practice creating a dearth of parking spots in RTC? If not, leave well enough alone….unless someone is soooooo upset that commuters are taking advantage of this opportunity.

    • compactdisqus

      as I mentioned above, I think the commuter reason is just an excuse. If that really was the case, they could have gates which open once your tag is read by the scanner. Same for the exit. If your tag stayed more than 6 hours, then you get a bill via a partnership with the DMV.

      • KenD78

        Clearly a bogus excuse. How many people are really even doing that? Not many, I bet. There are a dozen ways to prevent Metro users from parking at RTC. Make the first two hours free, for example.

        This is nothing but a cash grab by Boston Properties.

  • KenD78

    This is absolutely NOTHING but a cash grab by Boston Properties. I am so glad now that we moved our business offices out of there a couple of years ago – can you imagine all of our employees paying for parking every day? Might as well be downtown in DC.

    There is ZERO chance I will ever go to Reston Town Center again during the week if I have to pay for parking. Those store owners should just plan now to go out of business this summer. Including Mayflowers. I wonder how Ms. Bernhardt is going to like THAT progress.

  • Jon May

    I’ll just go to Tysons or Mosaic if I want to have a night out without going all the way to DC. Both have metro and neither charge for parking. Atleast with Tysons they were smart enough to figure out that all you have to do is keep the garage gates closed until after commuting hours. Why RTC refuses to do the same is beyond my comprehension.

  • Mel

    I just wonder if we, and we could pass it on and encourage others to do so as well, called Boston Properties and shared our thoughts and concerns, if popular opinion and feedback might help them reconsider…especially with free parking in Tysons, etc.? I am willing to try….have a good Monday everyone!

  • Joe

    what a bunch of complainers… really, you can’t pay ten bucks to go spend hundreds in the town center? in one of the wealthiest parts of NoVa ? Seriously? Go live in Annandale, you losers.

  • Caroline Hemenway

    I go to RTC at lease once a week, often more. I spent thousands of dollars there last year. With paid parking, that stops DEAD. I may go to the two stores run by friends, when I have to, but that’ll be it. I have loads of other choices nearby for my retail and social needs – with free parking. I’m a member of a huge triathlon team and our chapter meets there twice a week to run or cycle – and go to happy hour. That will end, too. Idiotic policy is short-sighted and lacks any creative juice.


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