Survey Says: Resident Satisfaction High — Resident satisfaction with Arlington County is high, according to Arlington County. The county’s fourth Resident Satisfaction Survey, conducted by an outside research firm, suggested an 89 percent overall satisfaction rate with the quality of county services. “Just two percent of residents were dissatisfied with the overall quality of County services,” said a press release. One notable area for improvement: maintenance of county streets, with a satisfaction level of only 42 percent. [Arlington County]
Peak Memorial Day Traffic Expected Thursday — Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst Memorial Day holiday traffic in the D.C. area will be Thursday evening, not Friday. According to an analysis of average travel speeds, drivers hoping to escape local holiday traffic should leave at night, around lunchtime Wednesday or Thursday, or Friday morning. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]
Split Board Approves Reeves Farmhouse Sale — The Arlington County Board voted 3-2 last night to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. “The County worked with the community for six years to find a way to retain public ownership of the house, or to create a public-private partnership to restore the house and open it to the public, but we were unable to achieve such a partnership, and the cost of restoring the property and bringing it up to code for public use was prohibitively expensive,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. Much of the land around the house will remain publicly-owned. [Arlington County]
County to Outsource Volunteer Program — The County Board also last night voted 3-2 to outsource Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer management program. The county will now seek a nonprofit with which to form a public-private partnership. [Arlington County]
ACPD Patrolling Trails — Auxiliary officers with the Arlington County Police Department will be increasingly patrolling trails around the county this spring, to help keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe. [InsideNova]
Arlington Transit Survey — Arlington County is conducting an online survey of residents as part of its update of Arlington’s Transit Development Plan. The 10-year-plan is intended to identify transit goals and prioritize improvements. This latest update will include recommendations for future transit on Columbia Pike. [SurveyMonkey]
Forums Shut Down — Due to an influx of uncontrollable spam and an unresolvable technical glitch with the latest version of WordPress, ARLnow.com has made the decision to shut down our message board indefinitely. Thank you to our forum participants for four years of vigorous community discussion.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Advocates Decry Proposed Bike Cut — An optional budget cut floated by Arlington County Manger Barbara Donnellan in her proposed FY 2015-2016 budget is attracting some push back from cyclists. Donnellan said the County Board should consider a $800,000 cut in funds for the county’s BikeArlington program if it wants to make additional cuts beyond her base budget. Bike advocates say the cut “would be a huge mistake.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Condo Fence Mowed Down — A car ran through the fence of a condominium complex next to Long Branch Elementary School Sunday evening. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Resident Survey to Be Mailed — Arlington County is planning to mail its fourth resident survey to 3,600 randomly selected residents. “This survey will help us find out how we’re doing across many different service areas – and also pinpoint where we need to improve,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. [Arlington County]
Custis Trail Added to Beer Guide — A guide intended to show D.C. area cyclists where they can grab craft brews near local trails has added Arlington’s Custis Trail to its directory. [Bikeable Brews]
A-SPAN To Help Meet Homeless Goals — Arlington County has signed on to a pair of ambitious goals: to house all homeless veterans in the community by the end of 2015 and end chronic homelessness by 2016. The Arlington Street People’s Network, the nonprofit organization that will be running Arlington’s soon-to-open year-round homeless shelter, is preparing to do its part to help achieve those goals. [InsideNova]
In 2000, 19,740 apartments owned by for-profit property owners in the county were affordable for someone making up to 60 percent of the region’s area median income, according to findings from the county’s three-year Affordable Housing Study. In 2013, there were 3,437 “MARKs,” as they’re called.
(“Affordable” is defined as costing less than 30 percent of a household’s income.)
If the trend holds, there will be a “negligible” amount around the county by 2020, according to Russell Danao-Schroeder, senior housing planner in the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
“If you just look at that chart [above], and if you do a trend line analysis projecting that out, it’s easy to see where that goes,” Danao-Schroeder said. “It crosses zero before 2020.”
That is the reality the Arlington County Board will grapple with as it works toward adopting an Affordable Housing Master Plan in July. The affordable housing study has completed its research and staff, along with the Affordable Housing Study Working Group, released findings and recommendations last month in a draft master plan.
While affordable, market-rate housing is drying up, the county could try to kick-start committed affordable housing development to balance the scales. The county currently has 6,731 committed affordable units (CAFs) rented or leasing, with another 220 being developed, less than 10 percent of total apartment stock.
The draft master plan sets a goal of making 17.7 percent of all housing units in the county affordable at 60 percent AMI. If county projections hold true, that would mean asking developers to build 15,800 CAFs in the next 25 years. Even Danao-Schroeder, who helped draft the plan, admitted the goal isn’t pragmatic.
“That 17.7 percent number is what we would need to have sufficient housing for households at all income levels,” he told ARLnow.com on Friday. “That’s an awful lot. It’s going to be hard to hit that, but that’s the mark that we need to aim for.”
Members of the County Board have time and again reaffirmed their commitment to affordable housing, and a county-run survey of Arlington residents indicates the community approves of the Board’s efforts. In 2012, the Board launched the study with a charge of creating “a shared community vision of Arlington’s affordable housing as a key component of our community sustainability.”
Proponents of affordable housing often say it’s necessary for Arlington to have places for people like teachers, policemen and firefighters to live within the county. However, according to a survey of 336 CAF residents — 5 percent of the county’s CAF population, “a fairly large sample size” Danao-Schroeder said — only 1.8 percent work in education. Of those respondents, none were Arlington teachers or classroom aides.
There is no data for public safety employees, CPHD staff said. If any live in CAFs, they would be among the 6.3 percent who responded “other” to the survey.
“Arlington County pays their teachers well and pays their public safety people well,” Danao-Schroeder said. “Other areas in other service sectors that we all depend upon in our daily lives are the primary clients and tenants of affordable units.”
The largest industry represented in CAFs is restaurant and food service at 16.7 percent. Construction workers account for 11 percent of CAF residents, with office workers like receptionists in third place at 9.2 percent, followed by taxi and other drivers at 8.3 percent.
The study, tabulated in infographic form (left) by county-funded transit research organization Mobility Lab, used 2013 data to analyze the commuting habits of of 131,300 working Arlington residents and the 180,300 who work in the county.
According to the study, 7 percent of all commuting trips by Arlington residents are either on foot or with a bicycle, and 4 percent of Arlington workers report either walking or biking to work. While 7.4 percent of commuting trips were biking and walking in the previous study, conducted in 2010, Mobility Lab Research Director Stephen Crim told ARLnow.com that he believes the 576-resident sample did not represent the county’s changing commuting patterns.
“We looked at this in comparison to census figures, and the census is showing really strong growth [in walking and biking] between the 2013 community survey and the 2010 community survey,” Crim said, “so we think there is an increase, but the sample didn’t pick that up.”
The longer term trend is clear: in 2004, only 4 percent of county residents biked or walked to work, and only 2.8 percent arrived at their jobs in Arlington via bike or foot.
The number of Arlington residents that drive alone to work is virtually unchanged — from 55 percent in 2010 to 54 percent last year — and hasn’t decreased significantly over the last 10 years, despite local officials’ emphasis on the “Car Free Diet.” Crim said that transit advocates should not be discouraged, however.
“A few percentage points over that period I’d say is real progress,” he said. “For Arlington residents, it’s a kind of hard argument to make because a lot of them are not going that far to work. Satisfaction across all the different modes is about the same. It’s that much more difficult sometimes, to make the argument, when someone still owns a car to not use it for work. They might have to drive a short distance or not get on a crowded interstate, so it’s a real challenge for all of Arlington’s programs.”
Compared with other jurisdictions around the region, Arlington’s residents lag behind only the District’s in alternative modes of transportation to driving. The regional average for those who drive alone to work is close to 70 percent, but only 38 percent of D.C. residents drive solo to the office.
Arlington residents’ use of Metrorail took a slight dip, from its peak of 27 percent in 2010 to 26 percent last year. The number coincides with the region as a whole; according to Mobility Lab, Metro’s ridership has been in decline since 2009.
The biggest statistical shift in working patterns comes from employees teleworking. In 2004, only 13 percent of Arlington residents said they teleworked at any point during the week. In 2013, that number is 30 percent, with the respondents teleworking on average 1.3 days per week. In addition, 19 percent of Arlington residents said they can’t telework at their current job, but “could and would” if the option were available to them.
Image courtesy Mobility Lab
The results were tallied in APS’ biennial community survey, released this month. The survey, conducted by a District-based polling company, randomly selected respondents and polled 1,680 staff, 1,160 students, 602 parents and 600 Arlington County residents without a direct connection to the school system.
The company says its results had a “95 percent confidence score.”
While 12 percent of teachers and staff gave Murphy a failing grade and 20 percent graded him at a “D,” teachers were generally satisfied with other aspects of their positions. Seventy-two percent gave their school administrators or department’s assistant superintendent an “A” or “B” grade, 85 percent gave high marks for their school and 91 percent gave high marks for their colleagues. Two-thirds of teachers also said they were satisfied with the compensation they receive.
Students also gave the school system generally high marks — 78 percent gave their school either an “A” or “B,” with 70 percent of teachers earning those high marks from students — but 18 percent of students agreed with the statement that they felt bullied in school. Eighteen percent of students also responded that they disagree that “School staff stops bullying in school whenever they see it.”
Parents were even more positive about their school experience, with 94 percent giving high marks to their child’s school and 90 percent giving high marks to APS as a whole. What’s more, 81 percent of parents are satisfied with their involvement in the School Board’s decision-making process — APS teachers and staff are, by contrast, 55 percent satisfied with their inclusion in the School Board’s process.
Other items of note from the survey results:
- 8 percent of students report that they spend too little of their after school time on homework.
- 64 percent of students said they don’t like “to wake up early for school,” the top response in the survey asking about local students dislike. Fifty percent said they dislike doing homework, and 42 percent said they are “bored at school” (students were allowed multiple answers).
- 55 percent of parents gave Murphy an “A” or “B” grade, but 37 percent said they “don’t know” how they feel about Murphy’s job performance
- 93 percent of parents agreed that “my child likes to go to school.” The top response in the “I like to go to school because” question for students was “I like to see my friends,” with 83 percent, followed by “it will help me in the future” at 75 percent.
A new, county-funded study, polling young professionals who live and/or work in Arlington, found those who live in the county do so because of their job, not necessarily because of its amenities or social scene.
The study was conducted by the Southeastern Institute of Research on behalf of Arlington Economic Development, and polled 400 residents who identify as either Millennials or Generation X-ers. Of those polled, 139 live and work in Arlington, 137 live in Arlington and work elsewhere and 124 work in Arlington and commute from the surrounding area.
Of those who live and work in Arlington, 45 percent said they live in the county because of their job or because of “professional opportunities,” while 39 percent of those who live in Arlington and work elsewhere said they are in the county for professional reasons. “Location” was the second-most popular reason given to live in Arlington, followed by “friends/social scene.”
“Arlington County does not appear to be an area [young professionals] consider initially beyond a focus on a job opportunity,” the study’s authors, two AED interns, write. “It is not a place with YPs who have strong roots there or who are moving there for the people. With this being a strength, Arlington County should lead with jobs when promoting the area to YPs. During a time when it is hard for young people to find a job, this may prove a great strength for Arlington.”
Young professionals, despite moving to Arlington largely for work reasons, like living in the county, with 89 percent of people who live in the county calling it “a great place to live.” Eighty percent of respondents who live and work in the county also called it a “great place to live.”
“There is a great opportunity among those who only work in the County to showcase the reasons why Arlington is a great place to live,” the study says. “These respondents are not likely to recommend Arlington County as a place to live and when asked if they were to consider living in the County, only three in ten say they would. One of the goals moving forward should be to decrease these gaps.”
The top reason among those who work, but don’t live, in Arlington for living elsewhere was the cost of housing.
“I couldn’t even rent a spare bedroom for under $1500 in a decent neighborhood,” one respondent said. “Rent/housing is way too expensive.”
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
A majority of Arlington residents between the ages of 25 and 34 say they are likely to leave the county within five years because of the cost of housing, according to a county-sponsored survey.
According to the survey, which polled 1,744 Arlington residents, 60 percent of 25-34 year olds responded “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to the question: “In the next five years or so, how likely is it you will have to move out of Arlington because you would not have the kind of housing you want at the price you can afford?”
Thirty-four percent of respondents said it was “very likely” they would move away.
The survey is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which launched in July 2012 and is being run by Arlington’s Affordable Housing Working Group. Michael Spotts, the vice chair of the working group, said the high cost of housing in Arlington is an impediment to those hoping to start families here.
“It was a little surprising to me,” Spotts, 30, said about the survey results, “but I think whether [current 25-34 year olds moving out of Arlington] will actually happen depends a lot on how consumer preferences change moving forward.
“I’m a millennial myself and my wife and I live in Arlington, and we bought a house in Arlington and are very happy here,” Spotts continued. “I think it was a little surprising, but given how expensive it is, especially as people get older and start a family, it’s not particularly surprising.”
According to the study, 39 percent of the 25-34 age range said they want to buy a home at some point in the future, and Arlington is out of their price range. The study also included the figures on which ARLnow.com reported earlier this week that suggested residents generally approve of the Arlington County Board’s affordable housing policies and priorities.
County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes is the Board’s liaison to the working group, and she presented the survey to the Board last week. While Hynes said everyone is aware of the housing struggle in Arlington, even she was surprised that so many younger residents were planning to leave.
“The numbers do jump out at you,” Hynes told ARLnow.com on the phone from Los Angeles yesterday. “It is one of the reasons we’re being so proactive around housing, because we know it’s a challenge for people. It’s not just a challenge for Arlington, it’s a challenge for the whole region.”
The same question about moving within five years, when asked to minority groups, received a lower but still high “likely” response.
Forty percent of Hispanic respondents and 50 percent of African Americans said they were somewhat or very likely to leave Arlington within five years due to housing costs. The lowest “likely” response came from current property owners, at 28 percent.
The region’s economic prosperity is generally viewed as the main factor that housing prices have escalated to the point where such a study is even worthwhile, but Spotts said Arlington may have inadvertently contributed to its own predicament.
“One of the things that a lot of people, generally speaking, would find surprising is that all of the things that go into the county that make it great are also things that can add cost to housing,” Spotts, who studies affordable housing policy as his career, said. “You want to protect your parkland and streams, and there’s a direct cost of those elements in terms of maintaining green space, but there’s also sort of an indirect cost. If you’re restricting some of the housing you can build because of other goals, then that drives up the cost of housing.”
‘Republican’ Not Found on GOP Candidate’s Signs — Republican candidate Dave Foster, who’s running to represent the 48th District in the Virginia House of Delegates, has a notable addition and omission on his campaign signs. Foster’s signs include a union label, but do not include the word “Republican.” Foster will face Democrat Rip Sullivan in a special election on Aug. 19. [InsideNova]
Arlington Transportation ‘What Ifs’ — Three shelved transportation proposals could have had a big impact on Arlington over the past 50 years. One would have seen a new 22-mile Blue Line built through Arlington, under the Potomac via a new tunnel, to Georgetown and eventually to RFK stadium. Another would have converted Route 1 through Crystal City to “Interstate 595.” A third would have built a new bridge from Spout Run Parkway to Georgetown. [Washington Post]
Clarendon ‘Good Morning Guy’ Profiled — Robert Gordon, the Express newspaper distributor who excitedly wishes Metrorail commuters in Clarendon a good morning on weekdays, says his is “the best job I can ever have in the world.” [WJLA]
Blues and Brews in Crystal City Tonight — Clarence “Bluesman” Turner is scheduled to perform in Crystal City tonight for the monthly summer “Blues and Brews” concert. The event, in the courtyard of 2121 Crystal Drive, also features a craft beer garden. [Crystal City]
Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4
According to a survey, cited during last week’s County Board meeting, 65 percent of 1,744 respondents believe it’s “very important” to help senior citizens age in place. Meanwhile, 60 percent believe affordable housing options for the county’s workforce are “very important,” and 58 percent believe it’s important for “moderate and low-income families with children in public schools” to have affordable housing options.
When “very important” answers were combined with “somewhat important,” those figures jump to 92 percent, 88 percent and 90 percent, respectively.
The survey, which was conducted in English and Spanish, is a component of the county’s ongoing affordable housing study, which was launched in July 2012. The study’s recent work includes a review of best practices, a preliminary report on housing needs and a “complete assessment of strategies/program approaches, with community review.”
County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said the survey revealed “strong support for what [the County Board] has been doing.” She also said that the survey wasn’t an attempt to “duplicate census information,” but rather measure the priorities of the community.
“We were instead trying to find out what people thought about how housing is at the moment in Arlington,” she said. “As well as their attitudes about housing objectives and policies that this board has been pursuing… It’s good validation for us, and really helpful information for our group as they continue to work on refining what will become, we hope, a comprehensive plan.”
The study weighed residents’ opinions on the county’s affordable housing policies. Forty-six percent of respondents “strongly favor” Arlington’s affordable housing ordinance — which allows developers bonus density if they dedicate affordable housing units or donate to the county’s affordable housing fund — while 44 percent strongly favor the county’s affordable housing grant program. Twenty-four percent of survey takers either somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the affordable housing ordinance.
The County Board is expected reveal more survey results at its September meeting. Another phase of the affordable housing study is expected to conclude in June 2015.
Arlington County dedicates about 5 percent of its non-school budget to affordable housing investment.
Morgan Fecto contributed to this report
A month after a particularly rowdy St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl this year, the county announced in April that it’s exploring the idea of establishing new regulations for pub crawls, perhaps also providing a bigger police presence and making crawl organizers pay for the police and medical support.
Meanwhile, the county has created an online survey, asking those who live and work in Arlington for their thoughts on setting a time limit for bar crawls; a cap on the number of bar crawls per year, per month or per neighborhood; and who should pay for police, fire department and street cleaning services.
The one area where there is nearly universal agreement: bar crawl organizers, not the county, should pay for the added police, fire/EMS and street cleaning services.
There was also a free-response section for “other views and suggestions” on bar crawls. Opponents of the bar crawls — who seem to outnumber those who support such events in the survey’s “responses” section — didn’t hold back.
Excerpts of some of their responses:
- “Bar crawl participants should be prohibited from entering residential areas adjacent to the commercial area where the bar crawl occurs, unless they (1) can demonstrate they live there, or (2) have parked there and pass a breathalyzer test.”
- “Beer bottles in my yard; drunks found sleeping on neighbors’ porches… I think the hours of the crawl need to be limited… much, much too long.”
- “‘Bar crawling’ needs to be sharply curtailed. The noise and public urination at these events lowers property values, resulting in lower tax revenues for the County. Even worse, the binge drinking that occurs at these events can prove fatal to the drinker.”
- “I am shocked that our county board promotes public drunks and for MONEY no less… What kind of a reputation does that render?”
- “Organizers should need to obtain a license/permit to hold such an event, and that should cost money. “
- “We are not U St (I don’t want to live there), so an overabundance of large professional bar crawls would not be pleasant for those who have lived here for a while. I would be more in favor of an event where they shut down streets where the crawls are located, hopefully making it safer for both drivers and revelers.”
- “I think these are totally inappropriate events. They encourage binge drinking, littering, public obscenity, assault, and other bad behavior. I have seen a group of 40-50 bar crawlers walking through my neighborhood (Lyon Park), directly in front of my yard in broad daylight. They were drinking from solo cups, swearing loudly and littering — and this was only on the way TO the event.”
- “We already have bar crawl participants throwing up on lawns in the Clarendon area. It is unfair to expect people who live nearby to absorb this level of nuisance. Bar crawls also model bad behavior for Arlington teens.”
- “My main concern with bar crawls isn’t the crawls themselves (although they have an annoying impact on parking availability), its the long-term impact they may have on the character of the business’ that move into the area. There’s been a trend over the last few years for restaurants to close down and be replaced by ‘sports bars’ and other establishments dedicated solely to getting smashed.”
- “Residents with or without kids should not have to put up with the additional late night noise and other nonsense (fights, vomit, public urination, black outs requiring paramedics, petty property crimes) that can reasonably be expected to happen from time to time when dealing with groups of drunken pub crawlers.”
- “The police and fire/EMS are busy enough on regular weekends and holidays without adding unnecessary insanity and work. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think we don’t need bar crawls at all. They’re more of a headache than they’re worth.”
There were also comments generally supportive of bar crawls:
The number of homeless individuals — adults without children on the street or in one of the county’s shelters — dropped from 268 to 178 from 2013 to this year, a 34 percent decrease, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which published the report.
The Arlington Department of Human Services coordinated the local study, and staff and volunteers with the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) performed the field work. The number of chronically homeless in Arlington fell 52 percent from the 2013 survey, from 156 to 74. The number of homeless families in Arlington also dropped 46 percent, but the county explained in its press release that some families who were counted as homeless in the study last year no longer fit the homeless criteria.
Arlington’s homelessness officials warn that, while the numbers are undoubtedly encouraging, observers shouldn’t give too much credence to a “point-in-time” count. The survey was conducted the night of Jan. 29 this year, when temperatures dipped down to 13 degrees overnight.
“Some people may be homeless and we may not be able to count them,” Jan-Michael Sacharko, director of development for A-SPAN told ARLnow.com. “We did find abandoned tents or places that used to be used for shelter. People might have rented a hotel room for the night or pooled resources with each other for shelter.”
The survey is conducted to comply with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s snapshot surveys. HUD changed their methodology this year, requiring localities to conduct the study overnight, where previously it was conducted from sunup to sundown, Sacharko said.
The COG’s report said the cold may have “depressed the unsheltered count,” but Sacharko doesn’t think the numbers should be disregarded entirely. To give an idea of just how harsh the winter was, Sacharko said the Emergency Winter Shelter opened for full days 30 times this winter, compared to just eight times in 2013.
“We don’t know the exact numbers, but we know we’ve reduced the [homeless] population,” he said. “There’s definitely been a reduction in the number. There are definitely more people getting into housing.”
In addition to A-SPAN’s volunteer efforts, Sacharko credited Arlington’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and the 100 Homes Campaign, which places previously homeless individuals and families into permanent housing, for the reduction.
“The point-in-time count is one of several important indicators we use to gauge progress in the effort to prevent and end homelessness in our community,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in the press release announcing the study. “There is still much work to do, but I commend the organizations and individuals who have played a role in this effort.”
(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Arlington will be rolling out a pilot program for S. Eads Street this fall that will give residents an idea of what the future of the Pentagon City/Crystal City corridor will look like for years to come.
The county has decided that the four-lane road, which runs parallel to Jefferson Davis Highway from Army Navy Drive to Four Mile Run, is unnecessarily wide, and should be changed to a three-lane road — the center lane for left turns — with increased pedestrian and bicycle amenities.
The county’s Department of Environmental Services recently released a survey asking residents which plan for S. Eads Street they prefer: a regular bike lane with a buffer and a larger parking lane, a street-level “cycle” track with a physical buffer, or a “raised cycle track” with a larger barrier less space for both parked and driving cars. The survey will be open until June 18.
“The reallocation of the available street space allows for other uses such as widened sidewalks, bicycle facilities, pedestrian median refuges, and on-street parking, all to meet the existing and future needs of S. Eads Street,” the county writes at the beginning of the survey. “This pilot program will include many elements that may be included in the final design of S. Eads Street. During the pilot, various aspects of roadway operations will be monitored, including travel times and vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts.”
The pilot program this fall will reduce the traffic to three lanes and institute a “protected bike facility,” as well as increased pedestrian crossings and reconfigured parking. The program will be installed between 15th Street and 23rd Street S., according to DES spokesman Eric Balliet, and most closely resemble “Option 2,” which includes the street-level cycle track. Balliet said the dimensions of the program will differ from those presented as the long-term Option 2 changes.
The Crystal City Sector Plan calls for increased density along parts of S. Eads Street closer to Army Navy Drive, which is also a part of the alignment for the Crystal City streetcar. There will be a meeting for residents to discuss their thoughts and concerns over the future of S. Eads Street on Wednesday, May 21, at 7:00 p.m. at the Aurora Highlands Community Center (735 18th Street S.).
(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Arlington County surveyed more than 250 residents, workers and visitors to Courthouse Square to assess public opinion of the area’s future.
The survey was conducted as part of the county’s “Envision Courthouse Square” initiative, which is trying to get the public involved in the process of planning the future development of the 9-acre area surrounding the county’s large surface parking lot.
That lot in particular was the subject of many survey respondent’s suggestions, who desire to see it become an underground parking lot with a different use for the surface area up top.
“I live in the neighborhood, so for me the parking is a waste,” one respondent said. “However I recognize the need for parking near the courthouse and government buildings to serve other residents of Arlington. I would think that an underground parking structure with a public space on top would be the best way to balance these needs.”
“Please underground the parking,” another said. “The surface parking detracts from the neighborhood’s streetscape. We should create a walkable environment that encourages visitors to utilize Arlington’s multimodal options.”
More than 13 percent of respondents listed “market events” as their preferred future use of open space in Courthouse Square, followed by 12.2 percent in favor of outdoor movies and evening events. Social gathering and social seating received 11.7 and 9.8 percent of the vote, respectively.
When asked if public events, celebrations and demonstrations should be encouraged in Courthouse Square, 73.1 percent of those asked answered, “yes,” but some said they worried the events would benefit only those from other areas.
“Courthouse Square should be a place for those who live there or nearby to enjoy the open space,” one response said, “not an area for out of towners or others to use to hold political events.”
Of the “yes” answers, many cited Courthouse’s civic identity as a reason to encourage First Amendment expression in the open spaces.
“It should be celebrated as THE civic space in Arlington,” one answer said. Another respondent said only, “Because America, that’s why.”
A majority, 53 percent of respondents said Courthouse Square should be a “beacon” for all of Arlington, while 29 percent said it should be mostly designed for the surrounding neighborhood. Only 17 percent said it should be designed for use by the entire D.C. metro area or region.
“Courthouse does not currently have much of neighborhood feel,” said one of the “neighborhood” respondents. “It is nice to feel some smaller community in a large city. New York City neighborhoods have this and it makes them unique. It also draws people from other places to experience their unique aspects.”
“We all have plenty of regional attractions,” said a respondent who thought Courthouse should be designed for all of Arlington. “[We] need to develop sense of place — Arlington specific, beyond just being across river from D.C.”
Said another: “Arlington needs a town center. An identity. A place people can say ‘I’ll meet you on the town square.’ Arlington lacks that now — and I think that harms our identity and cohesiveness.”
Clarendon Center Wins Architectural Award — The Clarendon Center development has won a 2013 Charter Award, which is a global architectural award for excellence in urban design. The building straddles the 3000 block of Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd. Clarendon Center was highlighted for being an example of walkable urban density in a suburban context and for its use of Art Deco styling. [Congress for the New Urbanism]
Arlington Transit Bus Survey — Arlington Transit is asking residents to fill out an online survey regarding the county’s bus service. Survey respondents are asked to suggest improvements for ART and Metrobus service. The information will help shape updates to the county’s six-year Transit Development Plan. The survey closes on Friday, June 28. [Arlington Transit]
Dream Scholarship Award Ceremony on Friday — Twenty-nine students from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax will be honored at Friday’s Dream Scholarship award ceremony. Undocumented students in good academic standing qualify for the scholarship if they or one of their parents were born outside of the United States, and the student will attend an accredited college or university. The ceremony takes place on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street). [Facebook]