Tenants worry as real estate giant in Avon begins charging for parking
Citing elusive responses from Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate management, local business owners and employees foresee new parking system causing complications for their customers
The company that purchased much of downtown Avon in 2013 started charging on Nov. 6 for parking in the lots it owns within the town. As the paid parking system kicks in, many tenants are still left with questions.
Earlier this fall, red signs began appearing in parking lots throughout downtown Avon. When closely examined, the signs detail a series of rules for parking in the lots, which are privately owned by Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate, a subsidiary of the international Hoffmann Family of Companies, a Naples, Florida-based family-owned company that operates over 115 national brands within the United States, and in over 30 countries.
As the Vail Daily reported in 2013 when the Hoffmann family first bought a substantial portion of downtown Avon, the Hoffmanns have personal ties to Eagle County — they have been skiing Vail and Beaver Creek for over 30 years.
For businesses that rent spaces from Hoffmann in Avon, the introduction of the paid parking system has felt personal for some.
‘They’re taking spots from our customers’
“I am very much worried about how this is going to affect our business,” said Karl Krupp, the deli manager at Foods of Vail, a tenant business of Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate. “For one, I think the signage is so poor that most people don’t even notice that — most people that have come in here haven’t even asked me about it yet,” Krupp said.
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“They’re taking spots from our customers, and we have no recourse,” said Joe Peplinski who has owned P Furniture & Design II for over 40 years, and Vail Lights, Inc. for over 30 years, with his wife, Kathy. The businesses have been tenants on Hoffmann property, in the Annex in Avon, for nine years and seven years, respectively, after relocating from EagleVail.
A representative of Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate declined to comment on the parking situation when contacted by the Vail Daily.
Joe Peplinski’s concern relates to the way the paid parking system is meant to operate, and how it has been implemented thus far.
In August, Hoffmann management held two meetings for tenants, on back-to-back days, to announce the introduction of the paid parking system through the Hoffmann-owned company Five Star Valet. The initial email notifying tenants of the meetings went out on Aug. 1, with the hour-long meetings held on Aug. 3 at 4 p.m., and Aug. 4 at noon. Many tenants were unable to attend either meeting and were left to play catch-up.
Hoffmann management said the paid parking system is to deter skiers from parking in Hoffmann lots. The town of Avon is implementing paid parking for the first time beginning in late 2023. According to emails Hoffmann management sent to tenants, the new “parking management system” in Hoffmann-owned lots is a response to the town’s paid parking meant to preserve parking for customers of tenants’ businesses from those looking to avoid paying Avon’s fees. Avon will be providing free parking for three hours, and then charging one dollar per hour for each additional hour.
In practice, Joe Peplinski said, he does not expect the payment system to prevent skiers or other longtime visitors from parking in Hoffmann lots, and, rather, it will penalize his customers.
“They said this is going to be a deterrent, and over two hours our customers become the same as the people abusing the parking,” he said.
As tenants reached out to Hoffmann management in email chains that included every business owner operating on Hoffmann property, they struggled to receive full answers from Hoffmann management on several questions.
In email chains shared with the Vail Daily between Hoffmann management and tenants, tenants with questions were repeatedly directed to speak individually with members of the Hoffmann or Five Star Valet teams, rather than asking their questions on a reply chain of all Hoffmann tenants.
“My concern is they didn’t want everybody aware of what questions people are asking,” Joe Peplinski said.
On Aug. 25, the next email from Hoffmann came in, declaring the intention to have patrons pay for parking via the Text2Park system — a company with the motto, “Turn empty space into revenue,” — and setting payment rates. Parking will be monitored via a camera system Hoffmann management installed throughout the company’s lots earlier this fall.
“I’m incredibly worried about how this is going to affect our business,” Krupp said.
Even if there are plenty of spaces in the parking lots, just the introduction of a registration system to park, Krupp believes, will impact his customers’ desire to visit.
“Our clientele doesn’t like to use apps. They don’t want to press in text numbers,” he said.
Who, exactly, will the new rates deter?
Hoffmann parking rates will be as follows:
- Free for up to two hours
- $6 for 2-3 hours
- $10 for 3-4 hours
- $30 for 4-24 hours
Patrons can park free for up to two hours without validation, according to emails from Hoffmann management to tenants. Those who park for more than two hours and do not pay for parking in Hoffmann-owned lots will incur fees of $87, sent to their home address, which is located through their license plate number. As the parking lot is private, the fee cannot be administered by a member of law enforcement.
Owners and employees of the tenant businesses on Hoffmann properties will receive free parking if they provided the license plate number of their vehicle to Hoffmann and Five Star Valet management earlier this fall.
Joe Peplinski believes Hoffmann is implementing the paid parking system as an “excuse” to make money off parking that is meant to service tenants. “I’ve asked them to put the word ‘deterrence’ in writing and they won’t do it,” he said.
Kathy Peplinski also stated concerns that the payment system will actually encourage skier parking by legitimizing it, with skiers entitled to a space after they pay for it, leading to fewer spots available for customers.
“I’m just afraid (customers) will get here and there’ll be no parking and then of course, that would affect my business because they can’t even come in,” she said.
That the Hoffmann Family of Companies owns Five Star Valet is suspicious to Joe Peplinski. The operation, he said, can easily turn profitable for Hoffmann. “They can’t make money without the parking spots being occupied,” he said.
If the parking spaces are all occupied, Joe Peplinski said, potential customers who might otherwise visit the tenant businesses will not be able to find parking. “If they’re (Hoffmann) making money, we’re getting hurt,” he said.
Even if the payment system does initially deter skiers and other long-term parkers from parking in the lots on Hoffmann-owned property, the alleged lack of transparency and difficulty communicating with management has foreboding implications for tenants.
“(The parking lot being full) may not be an immediate problem, but when it becomes a problem, there’s no recourse to solve it,” Joe Peplinski said.
Joe Peplinski also voiced the concern that two hours of free parking is not enough time for customers to do business at some of the businesses, which include a doctor’s office and hair salon, locations that can require extended visits.
Some customers, who might otherwise have spent time visiting several businesses, will likely shorten their stay in the lot to adhere to parking limitations, Joe Peplinski suspects. “It’s going to deter people from going to multiple shops,” he said.
Crossing the starting line
On Oct. 25, Hoffmann management sent an email listing the start date of the new paid parking system: Nov. 6. With less than two weeks to prepare, and several questions still unanswered, tenants braced to see changes, with many feeling unprepared and unable to warn their customers.
“We have been very lackluster-informed about what is going to happen. We ask all the time,” Krupp said. “I would say that it’s been very slyly set up.”
As paid parking begins in the Hoffmann-owned lots, tenants grimly prepare to endure the change. “Parking is an issue, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Joe Peplinski said.