Exclusive: Pike Businesses Leaving Owing to Parking Challenges at County-Financed Garage

(Up to date at 11:10 a.m.) A pair of Columbia Pike companies say they are preparing to leave when their leases are up owing to parking worries at a county-financed garage.

Missing Doggy Cafe and Joule Wellness Pharmacy equally notify ARLnow that comparatively significant and baffling parking costs in the garage are costing them thousands of pounds a calendar year in buyer organization. The entrepreneurs of each say they will not be renewing their leases when they expire arrive 2023 and 2024, respectively.

“This parking issue has produced it so untenable,” says Lost Doggy Cafe franchise owner Jim Barnes. “We website link this to our income and our gross sales are not superior. There is a correlation with this parking great deal.”

The parking garage, situated at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Push, is owned by Ballston-based mostly apartment developer AvalonBay. Nevertheless, it was crafted primarily based as section of an unusual 2006 arrangement with Arlington County.

The county contributed $2.96 million to its development with the assure of acquiring 45% of parking revenue as a kind of payback each thirty day period going forward, according to the “public parking advancement agreement” attained by ARLnow.

It is a person of only two parking garages in the county that has an agreement of this mother nature, county officials ensure, with the other also along Columbia Pike, at Penrose Square.

The settlement does not specify a length for which the county will go on to obtain the parking income and county officers declined to offer an “interpretation” of irrespective of whether that could indicate into perpetuity.

They also did not specify how significantly revenue the garage generated for the county in 2020.

The parking garage is owned by AvalonBay and was obtained by the organization with its $102 million invest in of the considering that-renamed Avalon Columbia Pike apartment setting up — formerly the Halstead Arlington — in 2016.

Although this settlement had been in put for a ten years and a 50 %, in the beginning signed by a distinct developer, a majority of the challenges for the organizations commenced in March 2020, just days ahead of the pandemic commenced to strike Arlington.

That is when, according to Shed Doggy and Joule Wellness, the parking devices ended up turned on and enforced for the 1st time in years.

Misplaced Pet dog Cafe, a franchisee of the original in Westover, moved into 2920 Columbia Pike in Could 2009. At the time, Barnes said that parking was absolutely free soon after 5 p.m. and on weekends, which he states was an ample compromise. A massive part of their consumer-foundation arrived when parking was totally free in any case, with the garage capable to earn earnings at other instances, he claims.

When AvalonBay acquired the making, notes Barnes, all those constraints went absent and the parking equipment ended up turned off. Enforcement also stopped.

Then four decades afterwards, with very little see in accordance to the companies, the machines were being turned back on, enforcement restarted, and parking charges had been remaining charged 24/7. The devices require drivers to fork out for parking in progress, and anyone who fails to do so — or who overstays the total of time they compensated for — gets ticketed or towed.

A sign outside the garage advertises a parking amount of $1.75 per hour, which can be paid via a income-only machine within the garage. Barnes claims the machine “has by no means worked” and “steals people’s funds.”

Drivers can also use the ParkMobile app, but lousy mobile telephone reception in the garage helps make that hard, and the app fees $2.25 for the very first hour.

“Customers can’t use their phones to accessibility it infuriating them and they simply opt for to no more time occur to our business enterprise as a outcome,” Barnes reported.

Paid out street parking is readily available nearby, but is confined. Parking on surrounding neighborhood streets, in the meantime, typically necessitates a residential decal, and nearby parking tons are restricted to other firms and their prospects.

AvalonBay, in an e mail to ARLnow, disputes Barnes’ model of occasions, producing that parking was currently being collected prior to March 2020.

“Equipment experienced been in spot and parking revenue was gathered prior to March 2020,” writes a business agent. “In March 2020, an up-to-date parking technique was put in with the County’s approval.”

Barnes, even so, says that he acquired “no notice whatsoever” about the change or any updates.

The management of Joule Wellness Pharmacy, which opened its Pike area in early 2014, mentioned they did obtain recognize, but it was only two to three months prior to the improve. What is much more, they claimed there is no point out of paid out parking in their lease.

“There was not no point out of that in our lease,” suggests manager Alex Tekie. “And in point, we’re instructed parking is cost-free for us and our workforce and for clients coming on the retail aspect.”

Tekie and pharmacy owner Winnie Tewelde convey to ARLnow they now shell out nearly $800 a month in parking, typically so workforce can park in the whole lot.

They’ve talked a law firm about the condition, but grew weary of spending even additional income to struggle the parking variations from a substantial, publicly-traded developer.

“We acquired exhausted. Drained,” suggests Tekie. “It’s David vs. Goliath.”

Each individual small business says their staff members have gained tickets and threats of towing. Barnes claims that he’s read specifically from consumers that shelling out for parking and the menace of a ticket has dissuaded them from patronizing his small business. Compensated parking also will get talked about in opinions of the cafe (beneath).

In addition, there would seem to be ample confusion about which entity is really in demand of operating and managing the parking garage.

Both equally Barnes and the pharmacy’s supervisors say that they listened to from AvalonBay that the county has tied its palms in phrases of charges, charging, and enforcement.

But officers — together with county parking supervisor Stephen Crim and a spokesperson for the Section of Environmental Services — wrote in an e mail to ARLnow that AvalonBay is liable for the functions and management of the parking garage, which include ticketing, towing, and payment.

“Ticketing and towing is carried out by a firm less than contract with AvalonBay,” wrote the spokesperson. “If there are problems about ticketing and towing or payment devices not performing, we persuade clients to get hold of AvalonBay.”

Later, AvalonBay verified that it is, in simple fact, in cost of the garage’s operations and management with a third-celebration hired by the enterprise undertaking the ticketing and towing.

Either way, Barnes believes that his business enterprise warrants to have parking backed in some way, both by the county or AvalonBay. Building the initially hour of parking totally free, he recommended, could at minimum solve the difficulty of parking expenses driving buyers away.

This sort of community parking agreement involving a non-public developer and the county is extremely abnormal and one particular that probably would not occur these days, County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol tells ARLnow.

“It is pretty much difficult for me to envision, as a Board member, supporting applying standard fund dollars or a general fund-backed bank loan to assist build what is just about solely private parking,” she said. “It is counter to our adopted procedures about managing parking and handling community parking as a public asset.”

She speculates that the 2006 County Board permitted this deal in an energy to help the Pike redevelop, particularly to support and prepare for more business advancement.

Cristol says that she’s spoken to Barnes several instances about the scenario. She believes there are, at the very least, partial methods to this in the kind of creating truthful every month parking charges for employees and instituting short-expression pick-up/fall-off zones or areas for clients.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Corporation also suggests that limited-expression parking choices could assist ease the trouble.

“We want to be as supportive as achievable of small corporations,” CPRO Govt Director Kim Klingler writes ARLnow in an e mail. “We are actively performing with the County to uncover ways to deliver parking relief for tenants and option shorter term parking options and/or [pick-up/drop-off zones] for clients.”

But, in conditions of the county subsidizing parking, that is not heading to materialize.

“The policy issue is, should really we subsidize retail parking in a person spot in the county for a few of suppliers wherever just about everywhere else we demand for parking?” Cristol asks. “I don’t consider that is reliable with our policy and, in particular, I actually don’t believe it is fair to the hundreds of other compact businesses all over the county for whom we consider to handle community parking in a considerate way.”

When questioned no matter whether AvalonBay would like to address these tenant issues and if they experienced any tips about how to make this problem additional palatable for both equally the corporations and the company, the corporation responded: “We have heard from some existing and future retail tenants that compensated parking can be a deterrent.”

All of this arrives as Columbia Pike is on the cusp of huge variations. A variety of development assignments are in the will work alongside the Pike, such as Westmont Procuring Middle, in which Rappahannock Coffee currently stands, and Fillmore Gardens Browsing Facilities. The 16M bus line, a large-frequency, just one-seat trip connecting Skyline to National Landing, remains on the docket to be carried out in the 2023 fiscal calendar year.

But all of this change and development, alongside with the lingering results of the pandemic, could start out to drive some lengthy-managing Pike companies out. It’s already begun to materialize with the closing of Mom’s Pizza right after three many years and Cynthia’s Bakery II more down the Pike.

And it now appears that 3 extra organizations are also set to depart the Pike.

A nail and hair salon is now up for sale, according to a the latest sign posted on a window at 2920 Columbia Pike. ARLnow has not been capable to access its entrepreneurs.

Though Barnes suggests that every month staff parking and decide-up/fall-off zones would be useful, it does not improve his stance that Missing Pet Cafe will no longer do small business on the Pike. Joule Wellness Pharmacy is also preparing its upcoming transfer.

“We have unquestionably no explanation to renew our lease,” claims Tekie. When questioned if it was owing to the parking problem, Tekie was unequivocal. “One hundred %.”