Parking Rates Adjusted Downward
To Accommodate Modern Retail Industry Trends
The Board of Supervisors has approved a new minimum parking rate for large shopping malls. This has been a highly controversial issue receiving much debate within the Planning Commission. The changes give Fairfax County’s largest commercial retail centers additional flexibility to adapt to a changing retail marketplace as residents increasingly shop online.
The minimum parking requirement for malls of 800,000 net square feet or more is being reduced from four spaces per 1,000 square feet to a rate of 2.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet.
This approved change comes after a parking analysis conducted by Nelson/Nygaard revealed that no more than 70% of available spaces were occupied during peak holiday shopping seasons at Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center. That number has been disputed since the survey was not taken on the peak shopping day of the holiday season. It also occurs after analysis by the county’s Department of Planning and Development of parking regulations for all regional malls in the county including current abilities to reduce parking at these retail centers.
According to a study presented by Tony Calabrese, a DLA Piper attorney representing Fair Oaks Mall, the number of parking spaces needed at malls decreases with the increase of online shopping. County staff echoed that sentiment adding that demand for retail parking is expected to continue to decline due to other transit options. Significant alternative transit options only exists at some, not all, of the suburban malls. Additionally, only a limited portion of Northern Virginia is served by Metro rapid transit leaving most citizens no choice but to drive and park.
“Fair Oaks Mall is also currently looking at redevelopment opportunities and an evaluation of the parking rates is viewed as critical to ensure the long-term vitality of the mall,” according to a county staff report. A great deal of the opposition has been based on reducing the parking requirements at the two Tysons Malls. Dwight Fuller, a managing partner with Great American Restaurants who have recently opened two additional restaurants in the Tysons corridor*, told the Planning Commission in November that parking is already a problem for staff and diners in the Tysons area. Fuller strongly suggested that taking away parking from Tysons would only tip this problem to a far more critical level.
Unable to direct this parking reduction to just Fair Oaks Mall, a one-size-fits-all approach was adopted. The two Tysons Malls are not expected to reduce their parking in the foreseeable future.
Re-purposing Parking Spaces
Reducing required parking at large malls will provide an additional opportunity to re-purpose parking areas and is aligned with several key county goals including reducing environmental impacts and fostering the ability to create a higher-density, mixed-use, multi-modal community.
Conventional malls around the United States are re-purposing underused surface parking areas for redevelopment activities including adding new residential and commercial development, urban plazas and enhanced design for pedestrian activities.
Locally, Tysons Corner Center and Springfield Town Center have similar approved plans for redevelopment that utilize surface parking. These redevelopments are possible because of nearby mass transit, which further reduces parking demand.
*Best Buns Bakery and Café and Patsy’s American Restaurants are located next door to one another at 8051 Leesburg Pike, Tysons.
Photo credit: Ser Amantio di Nicolao - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https:/ commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78851140
Author: Andy Farmer is the manager of Virginia Energy Sense, the Commonwealth’s statewide energy education program under the guidance of the State Corporation Commission (Copyright © 2012 Annandale Chamber of Commerce. All rights reserved. (Photographs & images, on this page, and on this website, are not available for use by other publications, blogs, individuals, websites, or social media sites.)