How Will Paid Parking Affect Reston Town Center? Look Towards Rockville

by Karen Goff June 20, 2016 at 2:45 pm 51 Comments

Reston Town CenterIt is about six weeks until paid parking will go into effect at Reston Town Center.

Visitors will have to pay $2 an hour on weekdays — weekends will still be free — and some stores and restaurants say they will validate for at least a few hours of free parking. Still, hundreds of Reston-area residents say they will stay away just on principle.

Many store owners, particularly those who run locally owned businesses, are concerned with what a downturn in customers, combined with validated parking eating into profits, will do to the bottom line.

They should look towards Montgomery County as a cautionary tale.

Last week, downtown Rockville Town Square business owners told Rockville City Council members that parking spaces requiring payment are to blame for their declining sales. Unless something changes, “you’re going to have a lot of boarded up businesses,” the owner of the Ben & Jerry’s franchise said and Bethesda Magazine reported.

Rockville Town Square is a mixed-use destination — retail, as well as an arts center and public library, among others — that charges $2 an hour for parking seven days a week. However, stores validate for two hours of free parking with purchase.

Rockville businesses owners say their sales have fallen as patrons head to RIO Washingtonian Center and Downtown Crown retail developments in Gaithersburg. Both of those offer free parking.

Bob Daly, who owns the franchise of California Tortilla on East Montgomery Avenue, told the council the restaurant earned $1.45 million in sales in 2000, his first year operating the location, and did $900,000 in sales last year while paying a higher rent. Daly said he sold the restaurant and then took it back over in 2014 after paying for a half-million dollar renovation.

“It’s been a disaster for me now and I really regret at this point taking it back over,” Daly said. “I don’t think you guys realize how much we’re suffering here. We’re basically slaves now. We’re stuck in these leases.”

Town Square is owned by Federal Realty, but the garages were built by the City of Rockville.

From Bethesda magazine:

In February, the council and Mayor Bridge Donnell Newton held a forum that included the business owners and a parking consultant for Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT), the developer of Rockville Town Square. The city leased three city-owned garages with a combined 958 total spaces on the property to FRIT in 2011.

FRIT operates the garages with daily paid parking under a 50-year agreement in which it pays the city about $315,000 in annual rent and an additional $50,000 annually in a revenue-sharing formula.

While FRIT does provide free parking for the first two hours if a driver gets the parking ticket validated at a local business, the parking consultant said in February the parking revenue is needed to pay for garage operating costs and the annual rent required by the lease agreement.

Meanwhile, in Rockville, authorities are also writing $40 tickets for expired meters, which is adding to patron frustration. Rockville City Council member Mark Pierzchala has suggested a five-minute grace period.

He suggested parking enforcement officials carry a yellow card that can be placed on a vehicle’s windshield when its meter is expired.

Last week’s testimony by business owners was the second in recent months. In February, many of the same owners appealed to city leaders.

Rita Gale of the Montgomery County Public Libraries facilities and strategic planning division, said paid parking for a public facility has not been received well

“In their minds, in a suburban environment, the concept is that you have free parking. I think in many peoples’ minds, in an urban setting because there’s public transportation, people are more likely to pay for parking,” Gale said. “But we don’t consider Rockville to be an urban setting. We consider it to be suburban, and that’s part of the reason why people come here expecting free parking.”


  • Arielle in NoVA


  • Bob Kane

    I just volunteered at Taste of Reston on Saturday which would still offer free parking under the proposed scheme, but what about Friday? Is that considered weekend? These proposals might damage events as well as retail at the Town Center.

    • Karen Goff

      They say “weekend and special events” would be free, so i imagine the Friday portion of Taste or Oktoberfest etc. would have free parking. Stay tuned.

  • RunDMC

    Comparison to Rockville is not apples to apples, as the paid parking in Rockville operates 7 days a week, while RTC is free on weekends.

    Paid parking in RTC is definitely a money grab, because if they really cared about actual parking enforcement they would just get meter maids. Paid parking isn’t going to deter me from going to RTC but it is kind of a hassle. It *is* about a million times better than when I have to drive into DC for work and pay $20 even if I’m only parking for a couple hours!

  • Gregory Toland

    A worker at one of the establishments has been told by management that the paid parking hours are only going to be from 9am-5pm M-F. I said I thought it was Sunday 12:00am until Friday 11:59pm

  • We may see a fundamental change coming to all of Reston and
    especially the Town Center as it moves more and more toward a typical down town
    location rather than a community center which it is now.
    I remember being in Robina in Northeast Australia which was built in the 1980s+
    by the Donald Trump of Australia a man named Alan Bond. They came and looked at
    Reston but did not exactly follow the Reston model. So Reston faces the
    challenges of an entirely new economic paradigm being blended with Bob Simon’s
    vision. It may not be easy.

  • EliteinReston

    The clumsy way Boston Properties rolled out paid parking– failing to involve its tenants, failing to consider the impact on low wage employees and failing to compromise with the community on free weeknight parking– runs counter to Reston’s values. From the start, there’s been a making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel to it. Why is it not clear at this late date whether “special events” include busy Friday nights? What constitutes a “special event” anyway? Restaurant week is a special event. Is parking free on Friday night during restaurant week but not on Thursday? Is the Christmas holiday shopping season a “special event”? Boston Properties could simply compromise and charge for parking during weekday commuting hours and allow free parking on weeknights and weekends.

    • SydneyP

      Gimmee gimmee. How do you low wage employees afford car payments, insurance, and gasoline? We know taxes and tolls are rock-bottom.

  • LC

    What?!?! You mean the businesses aren’t all thriving and the patrons so excited to pay the parking fee?!? I don’t get it because I’m pretty sure that’s what Boston Properties said the natural response is to doing paid parking – it makes everything BETTER!! YAY!

  • Why do you bother?

    Quelle surprise…not.

  • MBarrett

    The parking fee will have a negative effect on service industry people, such as house cleaners, dog walkers, personal trainers and others who have independent businesses that serve residents here since residents will not have the ability to provide such people with a two-hour grace period. What about baby sitters? Will disabled drivers be allowed free parking? Was there any consideration of fixing a maximum daily rate, or no charge after 6:00 pm at least on Friday (although every night would be more considerate). I recognize that paid parking was inevitable to discourage Metro commuters from using the Town Center’s free parking now or once the station in the TC opens, but this has every aspect of a money grab with little consideration for the residents or the businesses here. I live in the TC so this is very discouraging.

    • EliteinReston

      Great questions that underscore Boston Properties’ failure to include town center residents’ feedback when it began mulling a parking fee. The company’s address is on Democracy Drive; very little democracy went into the consideration and implementation of this fee.

    • Yes, I own a pet sitting business and I don’t know how we’re going to continue to care for our Reston Town Center clients, other than passing the cost on to them. It’s a losing proposition either way.

    • Lazy

      I live in TC, but I drive there instead of walking so I can complain about parking. I have a personal trainer in TC, I pay him to do my workout for me, I just have to show up. If I have to start paying for parking when visiting the PT, I think I’ll have to look at other options.

      • ceefer

        Greater Greater Washington is thataway —>

        • SydneyP

          Yeah, where you been, Bro? We miss the angry rants of sore suburbanites shut out of civilization by people who can hold down jobs. Don’t drive angry!

          • ceefer

            I’m retired, Sid. Anything else?
            I see you’re still a jealous, smart-aleck prick. Will you ever grow up?

    • Arielle in NoVA

      I don’t agree “that paid parking was inevitable”, but other than that you bring up some very good points. I don’t remember pet walkers, babysitters, house cleaners, and so forth being mentioned in the discussions before now.

  • BooBots

    Ah, soon Boston Properties will taste the lash of the free choice of thousands of people shunning their parking lots, and Reston Town Center, altogether, during the week.

    • SydneyP

      Uh-huh. “Yer livin’ fer yer car, man.”

  • Rick

    Guess what dies first? The movie theater. Herndon has a beautiful AMC theater with free parking and recliner seating a couple of miles away. When they drove out Barnes and Noble with higher rents I started drifting over to Fairfax and the surrounding malls more frequently. Soon they will not see me at all, other than possibly Best Buy.

    • vdiv

      That Best Buy leaves lots to be desired. Go to the one in Sterling instead, better stores around too.

      • JoeInReston

        Parking near Best Buy could be worse than paying for parking, particularly near the holidays. What a mess!

    • LC

      I thought the same thing about Bow Tie and I feel bad for them. They did that renovation only to get screwed by this parking fiasco. I’m sure folks going there were already thinking of going to the fancier theaters and now this just gives them more reason to.

    • SydneyP

      I live for me car, so I don’t care where I live. The uglier, the better, in fact. Better for cars. People judge my character by the car I drive.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    Let’s see. What does RTC have that I can’t find in Herndon? Bike shop? Nope. Restaurants? Nope. Ice cream parlor? Movie theatre? Nope. W&OD? Nope. Metro? Nope. Cell phone store? Nope. Over-Priced “Taste of…? event” Yep.

    Seems like the only thing that RTC has that Herndon doesn’t is a police force that doesn’t yell at you for taking pictures.

  • Cliff Longenberry

    I think paid parking is sort of like the tea parties dream because now the government taxation system overlaps and runs counter to private and corporate service fee assessment. No longer does uncle Sam needs to do the dirty work of scaling maintaining and providing a service infrastructure, instead the task lies squarely with private and corporate entities that are then taxed accordingly. It’s a wet dream for tea partirs because now we can shrink government to just a few cells and enforce via specially trained, sophisticatedly equipped special agents that can be deployed if the private tax code is broken. A digital army this is not but rather a robust return to law and order as we used to think it.

    • susie

      Lois, how did you find your way here?

    • BlahBlahBlah

      wow, lot’s of words with lots of syllables, kind of like regurgitated synonymatic phraseology

  • Karen Goff

    Last I heard they were going to install paid street meters too. I need to revisit that.

  • Waitwhat

    Me now: Oh, jeez, I have to go over to RTC and deal with parking garages. Me in the future: Oh, jeez, I have to go over to RTC and pay to deal with parking garages?! Time to google where else I can go.

  • UStifosi .

    Can’t wait to spend my money at the other fine establishments we have in this area. Thank god we have some other great choices.

    • CeeTee55

      Paying for parking is anti-freedom. If they like it so much they should move to Europe.

      • Dentro

        Is that a joke? Freedom means nondrivers paying for the storage of massive metal tubes for drivers? Forcing nondrivers to sit in traffic on government-furnished roads in order to recoup the costs your forcing them to pay is freedom? Being tethered, in general, to two-ton metal tubes is freedom? We have diff definitions of freedom.

  • Kevin

    I think this is a good idea. Pretty sure condo residents are taking advantage of free parking which makes it harder for spending customers to find parking.

    • JoeInReston

      If such problem exists, it can be solved easily without instituting paid parking.

  • Phil Lilienthal

    I’m looking for a group to join that will come up with a proactive way to protest, such as boycotting Town Center one day a week to show we can make a dent in the commerce there. The innocent merchants will suffer at first, but, hopefully, Boston Properties will catch on and rescind the foolish money-grab.

  • taylor13

    Boston Properties needs to generate more income in order to pay to fix the parking garages, which are falling apart due to THEIR lack of planning and maintenance. Just a few weeks ago a ceiling light in the garage decided to fall on someone’s fancy new BMW. Thank goodness it refrained from falling on someone’s head!

  • Tom H

    I can state with absolute confidence that I will only be visiting the town center on weekends after paid parking is effective.

    • Jennifer Loizeaux

      Agreed, assuming I go there at all. There are a ton of similar activities, businesses, etc. just a short drive away with free parking.

  • J

    Market rate parking is the solution, not a random flat rate set by the government. This is why we don’t have the government set fixed prices on things. Do not forget, though, that free parking is a government-fixed price of zero, leading inevitably to shortages.

    • CeeTee55

      It facilitates driving, which has positive externalities for liberty.

  • Sean

    I always find it interesting that people put a higher value on the price of parking than on the value of their time. I hope people realize that free parking is never really free and someone has to pay the cost for that space. The cost of parking is just another cost of owning a vehicle. I value my time enough to pay a few bucks to park versus driving out of my way to visit another store, theater or restaurant just because the parking is free.

    • John Higgins

      Your points are well taken. I wonder, though, on your cost recovery basis, why the same logic does not apply on weekends? One might conclude that the real target of these fees are those hundreds of people the RTC is an employment center.

      It is fair to say that parking is a cost of owning a vehicle. It’s also fair to say that if one operates a retail esstablishment

  • clarkesq

    There are many other options for shopping and restaurants. Paying for parking is a disincentive for me to go to RTC.

    • SydneyP

      Good. It’s working.

  • msinva

    As usual, Reston will not learn from others’ experience.

  • Jarvis210

    NOTHING is being done about the MASS FRAUD that is being perpetuated on the homeowners across the state. John Driscoll III substitute trustees Hillman , Farnsworth, Gantt, law firm of Samuel I White, are submitting FORGED, FABRICATED documents to the courts and using that fabricated evidence to foreclose. Fannie Mae, in cahoots w/bank of america, fka Countrywide, lied about modifications in regards to their ponzi scheme loans , bundled up the loans instead , but not before forging owner’s signatures and adding falsified endorsements, fabricated some assignments and then handed them over to others, just one example: Ditech (FKA GreenTree) AKA a Walter Co, who then handed the fabricated documents over to their handy dandy substitute trustee attorneys (Samuel I White: Farnsworth, Hillmans, Gantt,Driscoll, Harris,Britt- Lane,Garner, etc) who skipped and still are skipping to the courthouses across the country to turn in their fabricated evidence to foreclose on thousands of homeowners, who were NOTHING , but bamboozled from the start. But it’s ok because evil bank of america dished out anywhere from $300-$2000 per homeowner a few years ago as their hush hush punishment. Then the games began…lies about modifications, lies about trial payments, lies about lost modification applications….all to stall and then bundle them up again with the newfound forgeries and falsifications. But it’s ok because after Fannie Mae kicks the defrauded homeowners to the curb, they’ll make up for it by selling the home to minorities or small time investors. Sorta like if a child molester rapes a child and then on the way home stops by the candy store to buy a gumball for a kid on the street. How pathetically evil! And even more evil: the judges that intentionally ALLOW the fraud to continue..paving the way for them to skip, skip, skip.

  • Jennifer Loizeaux

    I really feel for all the businesses at RTC who are getting screwed over by this. You can’t take something that was once free and then charge for it. Regardless of the reasoning (or seemingly lack thereof) behind this, the reality is it makes people feel cheated and angry.

  • D. from Vienna.

    This I think is just another example of how the basic concept of Reston has been lost that is, a beautiful relaxed surburban community structure where people could shop and visit without the stress of parking that comes within a city. Boston Properties likely feels that this is over all a wealthy area and people can afford to pay and will soon adjust once the dust settles. Well guess what, as much as I used to travel the distance from Vienna to Reston because I enjoyed the Town Center so much, that will end. One thing else, cell phones were meant to place calls not to be used to park cars. Bye Reston, so sad.

  • Lilly Llompart

    RTC is becoming inaccessible to Restonians. Just look at the high priced ice skating fees? Not all local families can afford them, especially low income families.


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