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Reston Town Center business owners say new paid parking is driving customers away

Heads of businesses at Reston Town Center met Monday afternoon and decided to explore their legal options against a new pay parking system they say is driving customers away.

Early last month Boston Properties, which owns Reston Town Center, began charging people to park on the street and in the development’s garages.

Although parking is still free Saturday and Sunday, Monday through Friday the charge is two dollars for up to an hour, four dollars for between one and two hours, and then it goes up to $24 for stays longer than 12 hours.

Dozens of business leaders met at Vapiano Restaurant starting at 3 p.m. Monday to talk about what to do. Many say business was well down this January compared to January of last year, even though last January featured a blizzard that drove many customers away.

Aaron Mervis, vice president of Big Bowl, says his restaurant was down 1200 customers this January compared to last.

“All the retailers are mentioning the same thing, [they’re] anywhere from 10-50 percent down in sales,” Mervis said. “Unfortunately the way they rolled this out has been so poor and they’ve upset so many people that the longer this goes on, the harder it’s going to be to gain our customers back.”

The Reston Town Center business community is upset not just at the new parking fees, but also at the system put in place for paying them. They say many customers find it confusing and don’t like that it encourages them to download an app.

Rob Weinhold, spokesperson for Boston Properties, says the new parking fees will pay for things like infrastructure, landscaping, and events at the town center.

He also says the fees are meant to keep people from using the parking garages as a free parking lot to then commute on the Metro. But business owners counter that problem could be fixed by making several hours free and then charging after that.

Weinhold says Boston Properties believes the situation will settle down as customers get used to the new parking situation.

“It would be unfair to look at a very, very small snapshot. Paid parking has only been in operation for 30 days,” Weinhold said. “To do a proper analysis just takes a longer period of time, from Boston Properties’ perspective.”

Weinhold added: “Nobody is diminishing the concerns of retailers.”

Although some businesses offer to validate parking for their customers, others say they can’t afford how much it would cost.

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