When Phase 1 of the Silver Line was finally approved, we learned that the Tysons Corner metro stations would not have parking. Who cares though?
I don’t plan on riding the metro. It’s dirty, crowded, and unreliable. Daily parking and rides during rush hour add up. Unless you live in walking distance to a station you also have to drive, find parking, walk to the station, wait for the train, endure multiple stops, then walk to your place of business. Basically, it takes longer to get to work and is more expensive to ride the metro than it is to drive. So yeah, no thanks.
Guess what though, you may not have a choice.
Every commercial property has a parking ratio. They vary depending on use and building square footage but minimal requirements are dictated by the County. Typically office buildings in Fairfax County are required to have a minimum 3 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, but with the metro that’s all changing. Based on proximity to mass transit (metro) developers can request an increase in density or FAR (floor to area ratio), which means they can build a more building on less land. They can also request a reduction in their parking ratio, which means fewer parking spaces.
*Many buildings in Arlington have less than 2 spaces per 1,000 square feet.
In addition, depending on their proximity to the metro, existing buildings may now be forced to adopt permitted parking to prevent metro riders from parking in their building’s parking lot and taking away spaces from paying tenants. Commercial real estate broker or not, we all know that you can fit more than 3 people in 1,000 square feet. So why wasn’t parking an issue before? A few reasons…
One, because it was free and unreserved; unreserved being key. When you reserve parking only those for whom it’s reserved can park there. You park there you get towed. We’ve all been frustrated driving around a parking garage passing empty space after empty space looking for one that’s not marked “Reserved.” Another reason is that many buildings aren’t 100% leased so naturally there would be excess parking and even if a building were 100% occupied some people may be on vacation, home sick, on the road, or simply didn’t come to work leaving enough parking for tenants and visitors.
Those days are now over.
So what does that mean? It means that all of us that don’t want to give up our cars and suffer the metro daily are out of luck. Well, some of us are out of luck. See, when you permit parking you can’t provide more permits than you have parking spaces. A landlord with a 3 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet parking ratio can’t give a tenant 5 parking permits (spaces). The math doesn’t work. And when you have 5 people and only 3 parking spaces you get 2 people riding the metro. So where do you fall in the hierarchy of your company? Are you parking permit worthy?
While there is over 20 million square feet of office vacancy in Fairfax County the only 2 markets most companies want to be in are Reston and Tysons Corner. Naturally that’s leading to rising rental rates in these markets. It’s basic supply and demand and the rules of supply and demand don’t stop there. You start with free and unreserved parking then you get permitted parking and then… you got it! Paid parking.
Because of the metro, tenants may eventually have to factor parking costs into their monthly budgets. Parking charges will most certainly not be as high as say Arlington, at least not initially, but depending on the amount of space and people you have the amount may not be negligible. And, come on, it’s Tysons Corner. I’ve been parking here for free, forever. I already get irritated having to pay for parking at Towers Crescent or Tysons Blvd, and now I may have to worry about that on Greensboro Dr and Spring Hill Rd? Give me a break.
People will try and make the case that Tysons is becoming a work, live, play environment and to a certain extent that’s true or at least becoming true. But how long do we have to wait for that day and what do we do in the mean time?
Executives will need to analyze where they’re drawing their workforce from and factor that into their decision on where to lease space. If you’re millennial heavy this may not be a problem. Companies will want to locate their offices in close proximity to the metro as a way of attracting a more urban, tech savvy employee base.
If you have a more traditional employee base that loves their cars though you’ll want to stay away from buildings within walking distance to the metro that will be forced to permit their parking. Many of these buildings will have shuttles running rides to and from the metro during regular business hours, which may still allow them to attract metro riders.
Finally, when in lease discussions you can try and negotiate free parking for the initial lease term and any renewal terms (less likely). This landlord concession, like all others, will be directly to your company’s square footage footprint; the more you take the more you get. However, when it comes to paid parking landlords oftentimes will outsource management of the parking facilities to 3rd party companies, which means it’s out of their hands.
The point is times are changing and Tysons Corner will experience the associated growing pains. One day Tysons Corner will resemble Arlington. It will be walkable. At least that’s the plan. In the meantime though, load up on hand sanitizer and buy some good books because you may be spending a lot more time on the Silver Line than you’d thought.