The parking situation in the West 7th development has gone from bad to ridiculous. People visiting the newly branded Crockett Row at West 7th – a five-block collection of bars, restaurants, and retail outlets within the larger development – are complaining about their cars being towed from parking garages.
The latest complaint: People park in a garage, walk away, and then see their cars being towed away within minutes. Why? Well, the West 7th garages are intended for patrons visiting one or more of the West 7th development’s 30 “official” merchants. People have been led to believe that they can have their parking receipt validated by one of those merchants within a four-hour time limit for free parking. Not so. The fact is that if you park and do not “immediately” visit one of the 30, you’re liable to have your car towed.
When towing victims complained to parking attendants, they were shown signs that say the garages are for guests “immediately visiting” a Crockett Row merchant. Parking patrons seen visiting a nonofficial merchant first – even though they fully intended to visit an official merchant as well – say they had their cars towed.
A parking victim we spoke with on the phone said she parked at a garage because she planned to party at Bar Louie, an official merchant. First, however, she popped into Bar 2909, a nonofficial merchant, to grab some friends. Twenty minutes later, they all headed to Bar Louie and hung out for more than two hours.
“When I got back, my car was gone,” she said.
She thinks she was seen by the parking attendant walking into the nonofficial bar and was towed immediately. Later, she said the attendant told her she should have moved her car out of the garage, gone to Bar 2909 to fetch her friends, and then re-parked in the garage before going to Bar Louie. How convenient and customer-friendly.
Another parking victim became so angry about her car being towed that she wrote a letter to Mayor Betsy Price and posted it on Facebook. The woman and her teenage daughter had parked with the intention of going to an official merchant candy shop but stopped first to buy a soda at Steel City Pops, a nonofficial merchant. Within about 10 minutes, she saw her car being towed, she said, despite being told by a parking attendant that she had up to four hours to have her parking receipt validated. The parking attendant directed her to a towing company on South Riverside Drive, she said.
“My daughter and I called for an Uber car to take us to the location,” the woman wrote. “It was a very dark, frightening place, and the Uber driver didn’t even want to leave us there. I don’t get scared easily, but my daughter and I were both fearful. I was charged $293.30 to get my car back.”
In her letter to Price, the woman described the towing practice as “predatory” and said it “gives visitors a bad taste for the city of Fort Worth.”
Late last year, we described how the West 7th garages began charging $20 to anyone parking without validation from an official merchant (“West 7th: Parallel Universe,” Dec 16). Few people knew about the policy change until they were told to fork over 20 bucks for parking in a garage for 45 minutes while visiting a nearby retailer.
Fort Worth-based developer Vestar created both the entertainment district and the garage rules. The new parking policy, stated on the website, says that guests parking in Crockett Row garages will be towed if they visit any other area restaurants or bars, at any point.
Believe it or not, some people visit West 7th to party and have fun without first pulling out magnifying glasses to read all of the small print buried on some developer’s website or on a sign hanging somewhere not instantly noticeable on a garage wall. Towing these people’s cars and forcing them to find a ride to a towing company late at night in a shady part of town to hand over $300 in extortion, er, towing fees is about as customer-friendly as slaying them with a ball-peen hammer.
Vestar’s general manager, Max Holderby, said the new parking policy went into effect on April 14 because of the shortage of parking in the area.
“We made this change to the policy because there has been a shortage of parking due to many non-Crockett Row restaurants and bars allowing their customers to park in the garages,” he said in an email to us.
He confirmed that parking attendants are watching whether patrons immediately visit an official merchant.
“We have attendants that monitor traffic and enforce the parking policy,” he wrote.
Holderby said about 3,800 cars park in Crockett Row garages in peak evening hours and that about five to 10 cars are towed on an average night. Five of those towings have led to court cases, he said.
“We have won four of the five cases,” he wrote.
Holderby is on the board of the Cultural District Alliance, a nonprofit group championing the area’s stakeholders. He said the group is meeting with city, school, and police officials to discuss the parking situation. One solution, he said, might be to establish an agreement with the Fort Worth school district and nearby Farrington Field for more parking.