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Alexandria wants to start charging businesses rent for use of ‘parklets’

After nearly two years of dining and shopping in parking spaces outside of local businesses, Alexandria wants to start charging rent.

City Council will review a staff proposal on Tuesday (March 8) to start charging annual rent to business owners for their use of parklets — converted parking spaces that have been used for outdoor dining, fitness classes and retail.

Council officially approved the parklet program in October 2021, but previously approved a temporary program in May 2020. The city was experiencing pandemic shutdowns at the time, and restrictions were eased on outdoor dining, curbside pickups, and selling to-go alcoholic drinks.

The City is proposing:

  • $150 per linear foot for businesses along King Street, or $3,000 per space
  • $50 per linear foot in Arlandria and the West End, or $1,000 per space
  • $100 per linear foot for all other area, or $2,000 per space
  • Short-term fees would be $100 application fee  and $30/$40 per day for reserved parking
  • Businesses would pay half of the proposed fees for the first year
  • If approved, fees would start July 1

While appreciative of the program overall, some business owners say that the proposed fees are too high.

Mike Anderson has four parking spaces in Carlyle — two in front of Sweet Fire Donna’s and two in front of Tequila & Taco. Every parking space is about 40 linear feet, which will end up costing Anderson about $8,000 a year.

“We are really appreciative of the fact that we’re allowed to have parklets,” Anderson said. “Pre-Covid, if we had gotten the city and said, ‘We want a couple parking spaces on the front to serve customers,’ we’d get laughed out of Hall.”

Anderson isn’t opposed to paying a fee, but said that restaurants are already paying a 5% meals tax, which he says more than makes up for the city’s lost revenue from spaces that would otherwise collect parking fees.

Charlotte Hall, managing director of Old Town Business, is working with the city and businesses on the project.

“It’s going to help us clean up or make our places look better,” Hall said. “And make them look more inviting, and that’s what we want, right? The money we put into those parking spaces, we want to make good money out of that. In order to do that, we have to make those spaces look sharp. No droopy plants, but a clean, crisp look.”

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