Dennis Hays and Hank Schonzeit of the Reston Citizens Association were among the more than 60 people who met at the Vapiano restaurant on February 6th to express unhappiness and concern over Boston Properties' decision to charge for parking at the Town Center. The meeting, primarily of owners and managers of businesses in the Reston Town Center, was organized by Aaron Gordon of the Red Velvet Cupcake Shop and Aaron Mervis of Big Bowl.
Speaker after speaker told of the direct and indirect costs to their businesses caused by the imposition of parking fees, where for 25 years there had been none.
In general, business is down from 10 to 40 per cent. Several managers stated that "walk ins" - people who stop into a store as they are passing by - are down by 50%. Waiters and waitresses note their weekly earnings from tips are down hundreds of dollars. Stores have cancelled weekday programs. At least two owners said they may be forced to close their shops or leave Town Center. A restauranteur expressed concern that he has not had a single person apply for a job since the parking fees were instituted. A handicapped employee who used to park next to her store has been told to park three and a half blocks away.
Ironically, a number of managers said some customers blame the stores for the new fees!
The organizers stated they have tried to reason with Boston Properties, but without success. The next step is to publicize the plight of the businesses through events such as this one. A possible third step is to consider obtaining legal representation. The organizers have already been in touch with a distinguished law firm and a decision on this will be made in the coming days. A large number of those present signed a pledge to support any legal engagement.
The RCA representatives expressed their strong support for the merchants. They noted RCA had met with a representative of Boston Properties last summer to express concern that the then proposed parking fees would cause great damage to the merchants, the public and for that matter the reputation of Boston Properties. RCA noted there were alternative ways to address Boston Properties' expressed concern about commuter parking, such as have the first three or four hours be free, but charge after that. The BP representative did not appear to be interested in alternative solutions.
RCA will continue to work with the merchants and the public to find a reasonable path forward. Interested residents of Reston (including residents of the Town Center) are welcome to work with us. Please contact RCA@northernva.com to find out more.
- submitted by Dennis Hays, RCA Director