Dedicated parking not optimal for Clarendon Trader Joe's
Excitement is building around the arrival of Trader Joe's in the heart of Clarendon. Before they move in, the grocery chain wants Arlington County to guarantee reserved parking spaces. But handing over free dedicated spaces isn't the only option.
Construction at Clarendon Center. Photo by author.
Last week ARLnow confirmed the long-standing rumor that Trader Joe's is interested in occupying retail space in the brand-new Clarendon Center mixed-used development. When construction is complete, the new development will contain residential and office space, ground floor retail, and will be located literally steps away from the entrance of the Clarendon Metro.
Trader Joe's knows that their store would be a welcome addition to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and they're using parking as their bargaining chip with Arlington County. Rebecca A. Cooper reports that Trader Joe's submitted a site amendment to the County, requesting up to 72 dedicated parking on the first two floors of the Clarendon Center garage. These spaces were originally intended to be available to the paying public.
The grocery business is, understandably, more parking intensive than other types of retail. People may be inclined to walk, bike, or take Metro or a cab when visiting Clarendon's bars and restaurants, or even when shopping at one of the many stores. By its nature, grocery shopping often requires hauling around heavy bags of food.
Of course there will always be people who drive everywhere, and others who do all their grocery shopping on foot or by bike. And there are perfectly reasonable people who want to take a car with them grocery shopping because it's the easiest way to carry everything home.
Clarendon is a dense urban neighborhood. Applying a parking model that works at suburban shopping centers isn't necessary. Trader Joe's needs parking spaces, but reserved spaces aren't the only option available.
Arlington County and Trader Joe's should explore a few alternatives:
Parking Validation. Assuming the Clarendon Center parking garage is to be a privately operated and utilize a "pay by the hour" system, validation would allow Trader Joe's customers to share spaces in the garage with the paying public.
Shoppers would have their parking ticket validated at the register for a free or reduced parking rate for the first 60, 90 or 120 minutes. A number of urban grocery stores the region already use this system. During peak hours, shoppers at the Clarendon Whole Foods can have their ticket validated at one of the nearby parking garages.
Meter Enforced Spaces. If the garage instead utilizes meters, spaces closest to the Trader Joe's could be configured to allow a button press for the first 30 or 60 minutes free; and a fixed rate for additional time. Spaces farther from Trader Joes but closer to the entrance of the garage could be set at a fixed rate at all times.
High Turnover Enforcement. Alternatively, meters could be used to enforce high turnover at the spaces closest to Trader Joe's. A button press would allow each vehicle to be parked 60 or so minutes while the driver shops. After 60 minutes the meter would expire and the vehicle would have to be moved. A similar system is already in place at the Harris Teeter garage on Capitol Hill.
Trader Joe's request for such a large number of dedicated parking spaces is arguably the result of a messy parking situation down the street at Whole Foods, which has 71 dedicated spaces in its lot. There are a few notable differences, however. Trader Joe's is set to occupy significantly less retail space (12,000 square feet at Trader Joe's versus over 30,000 square feet at Whole Foods) and the garage at Clarendon Center could more easily accommodate any parking overflow during peak shopping periods.
Granting reserved parking to individual retail stores often leads to an inefficient over-allocation of spaces. Trader Joe's has better options available in Clarendon, and they should use one or more of them.
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