As Boston Properties announces a mix of new commercial tenants, the Reston Merchants Association continues to decry paid parking at Reston Town Center roughly eight months after ParkRTC scaled back its parking structure.
Seven businesses reported a downslide in revenue over the last year, losses that owners said were caused by paid parking.
Others worry that parking will drive out small businesses and cause RTC to lose its appeal and accelerate its transformation into a downtown similar to other town centers. Tenants also say customers often express gripes over paid parking.
Last June, Boston Properties, RTC’s owner, changed its paid parking structure, which originally charged for weekday parking, following major outcry from tenants and customers. Parking is free for one hour during the day and after 5 p.m. Street parking is $3 for one hour and $6 for two hours, with no charges on Sundays.
The narrative by merchants upset over paid parking stands in stark contrast to official statements from Boston Properties, which currently owns more than 4.6 million square feet in RTC. The company has successfully inked long-term leases with major tenants.
Although the company did not respond immediately to a request for comment, the company indicated RTC is a “top experiential” development in the country.
New commercial tenants have recently signed long-term leases with the company, including Balducci’s Food Lovers Market, &Pizza, Muse PaintBar and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls.
“We have listened to the community and are thrilled to announce a combination of new national, regional, and local retailers that will continue to enhance the shopping experience. Developing best in class retailers that strengthen Reston’s connection to the Town Center is our priority,” wrote Stephanie Friedman, director of leasing at Boston Properties, in a statement announced new developments in RTC.
Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery, said that despite changes to the structure, requiring customers to pay for parking was the “worst decision” made by RTC. He reported a 37 percent drop in income over the last two quarters of last year, as compared to 2016.
“What took decades to make us the true center of Reston has been undone by one shortsighted, money-grabbing decision. Reston Town Center is more a ghost town than town center,” Gordon said.
Ray Pugsley, owner of Potomac River Running, said business between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. is “terrible.”
“Even when doctors refer people to use, they tell us that their patients refuse to patronize Reston Town Center,” he said.
In the statement, other businesses reported the following:
- Big Bowl reported a 15 percent drop in sales compared to 2016. A major portion of the drop happened during lunch hours, when parking is not free.
- Ben and Jerry’s estimated a 10 percent decrease in sales.
- Pitango reports an 11 percent drop in sales last year, as compared to 2016.
- Edibles Incredible Desserts reported $135,000 in losses last year compared to the previous year.
- PR Partners says its new quest business is down an average of between 25 and 30 percent “as a result of paid parking.”