“Last week, my kids were playing at the new rope park (at Rocky Run Park on N. Barton Street), I noticed a loose bolt on the climbing rope, took a photo, submitted through the [mobile] app and it was fixed within 48 hours,” Clarendon resident Izzy Tepekoylu told ARLnow.com in an email. “Wow! This is how a local government should work! Very impressed. I don’t think I ever thought I’d say this, but this made me feel good about my local taxes.”
The app is available on iPhone and Android devices. It allows users to see pending service requests in their area, check on the requests’ status, and submit their own. Users can also look up what items are recyclable in the county and what aren’t, and view county and Arlington County Police Department press releases.
“I had submitted a bunch of potholes through the app before and all were fixed, everyone should use it, it’s great,” Tepekoylu wrote. “We always write about complaints and what is broken etc., I thought we should also write about the good stuff as well.”
The app doesn’t have any reviews on iTunes, but it has three five-star reviews and two one-star reviews on the Google Play store. The app was updated in July, with a new user interface and a “streamlined request submission workflow.”
The free app has 1,588 downloads from iTunes since it launched in February, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith, and 514 on Android. Of all electronically submitted requests for service, about 25 percent come from the apps, Smith said, and 75 percent come from the “Report a Problem” web page.
In August, there were 151 submissions for service on the from the mobile app, which, along with the web page, was developed by New York City-based tech company Public Stuff.
(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools plans to give a new Macbook Air to every 9th grader in Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown high schools this school year.
The school system negotiated a deal with Apple that allowed it to purchase the laptops with a portion of the existing $1.2 million APS budget for annual high school computer purchases, Assistant Superintendent for Information Services Raj Adusumilli told ARLnow.com today. Adusumilli declined to reveal the exact cost, citing confidential negotiations.
The plan may come as a bit of a surprise — while APS has had a standing strategic goal of providing one computing device for every student by 2017, earlier this year the School Board shot down Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed $200,000 in supplemental funding for iPads and Google Chromebooks for 2nd and 6th graders. With less than a week to go before the first day of school, APS has still not publicly touted the laptop purchase. The school system answered questions about it in response to inquiries by ARLnow.com, which was sent a non-public document by an anonymous parent.
Adusumilli said the Macbook purchase wasn’t finalized until early July. The devices will be rolled out to students in phases, as a pilot program, at the discretion of teachers and principals.
“It’s going to be done in phases, so it’s not like on the first week of school all the students will get it,” said Adusumilli. “The devices are going to be handed out to teachers first, who will be trained to use the devices in instruction. That’s happening in the first week of school. Devices started getting sent to teachers yesterday.”
For now, only the three Arlington high schools are getting the computers; APS is still working on a plan for laptops at the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program.
Currently, APS has shared computers in classrooms, with a 1.6:1 student-to-computer ratio throughout the district, according to Adusumilli. APS has been upgrading its network and WiFi capabilities in recent years in anticipation of moving toward a 1:1 ratio, he said.
Instead of computers being shared and remaining in classrooms, each student will have his or her own “personalized” Macbook. Initially the computers will remain at school (in lockers, when students are not in class), but eventually APS plans to allow students to take their laptops home.
“Down the line, if [parents and students] feel comfortable, and the instructors allow it, it can be done eventually,” said Adusumilli. “The most effective way of the personalized device instruction is if the device is with the kid 24/7, but we know this won’t happen overnight.”
Adusumilli said APS will be closely watching the pilot program to help guide future personalized computer deployments. He said experience with other trial programs has led APS to believe full laptops are appropriate for high school students, while tablet computers like iPads are more effective learning tools for elementary and middle school students.
Earlier this summer, APS vehemently denied a rumored tablet purchase for 9th graders. Some parents have reported that their 2nd and 6th graders have been assigned iPads this year. Asked about tablet purchases for lower grade levels, Adusumilli was vague in his response.
“We are preparing for the transition from shared devices to personalized devices at all levels,” he wrote via email. “As part of this preparation each school is conducting a pilot to learn about the instructional benefits provided by personalization. The devices for all the pilots have been purchased. The purchases were made using existing computer replacement funds.”
One parent who learned about the laptop plan contacted ARLnow.com this week and questioned why APS hasn’t told the community at large about the pilot program.
“Through all of this, nothing on any APS channels, including the ‘welcome to school’ info packets for my 9th grader,” the parent said, without giving his or her name. “Why the cloak and dagger communications of what is actually exciting news?”
WeWork, a company that specializes in co-working office space, plans to gut the 1960s-era office building at 2221 S. Clark Street and convert it into a community-oriented residential building featuring “micro-unit” apartments and large common areas. Many of the 252 apartments in the 12-story building will be 360 square feet or less.
“The Crystal City project will be WeWork’s first residential building, bringing the same benefits of co-working — shared amenities, a sense of community and opportunities for collaboration — to a residential building,” the county notes in a press release. “The project will offer an entirely new type of apartment living within walking distance of the Crystal City Metro Station, several bus stops and Capital Bikeshare stations, and will serve as a model for adaptive reuse of an outdated building until redevelopment can occur.”
WeWork signed a 20-year lease with property owner Vornado. The building is expected to be torn down after WeWork vacates the space, making way for a realignment of S. Clark and Bell Streets, as called for in the long-range Crystal City Sector Plan.
“This temporary conversion of an aging, vacant office building into an innovative live-work space is an example of how we continue to reinvent Crystal City as a more attractive, vibrant place that will attract more entrepreneurs and tech workers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said, in a statement.
In addition to extensive interior renovations, the building’s exterior “fins” will be painted with stripes of bright colors, an “experimental exterior color application” that will change in appearance as one moves around the building. Apartment dwellers will have access to 154 parking spaces and 94 bike parking spaces.
The project’s community benefits include “streetscaping, sidewalk improvements on 23rd Street, and outdoor areas including, play and lounge zones and a community garden.”
Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
ACPD Participating in ‘Click It or Ticket’ — The Arlington County Police Department is participating in the annual Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign this month. The seat belt use rate in Virginia rose from 78.4 to 79.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Still, 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in Virginia last year were drivers who weren’t wearing a seat belt. [Arlington County]
Bayou Bakery Opening New Location — Courthouse-based Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) is expanding to a second location. Chef David Guas’ second Bayou Bakery will be located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, near Eastern Market, in the former carriage house of the Old Naval Hospital. The historic building is now a civic center known as Hill Center. [Washington Post]
West Coast Tech Meetup Coming to Crystal City — The Bay Area-based group Women 2.0 will be holding its first East Coast tech meetup in Crystal City next month. The “City Meetup” will take place on June 26. In choosing Crystal City, the group cited the recent opening of the $50 million Crystal Tech Fund as evidence that the area has a “budding tech ecosystem.” [Women 2.0]
ACPD K9 to Get Protective Vest — Astor, an Arlington County police dog, will be receiving a new ballistic protective vest. K9 Astor is getting the vest thanks to a national fundraising campaign in honor of K9 Rocco, a Pittsburgh police dog who was killed in the line of duty in January. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
Arlington Has Highest Tax Burden for the Poor — Arlington County has the highest tax burden for low income people in the D.C. area, according to a new study. In response, County Board Chair Jay Fisette suggested that the higher taxes go to providing more services, like affordable housing and better public schools, compared to other jurisdictions. [WAMU]
Op-Ed: Lower The Tax Rate — Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki says that the the County Board should reduce the property tax rate by 1.5 cents by utilizing part of the $37.1 million in unspent funds left over from Fiscal Year 2014. Kubicki suggests calling the tax rate reduction a “Vihstadt Dividend.” [InsideNoVa]
National Issues Didn’t Help Dems in Local Race — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze and his allies tried to corner opponent John Vihstadt on issues like Medicaid and his past support of Republican candidates. But it didn’t work, and Vihstadt was elected in a virtual landslide, the first non-Democrat on the County Board in 15 years. Concludes “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark: “Superimposing state and national ideological issue tests on genuine local disputes won’t trump voter focus on the individual candidates’ qualifications and clarity of message.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Venture Fund Founder on Crystal City — Paul Singh, founder of the new $50 million Crystal Tech Fund, which will focus its investments on post-seed stage tech companies, talked to a reporter about why he chose to locate the fund in Crystal City. He said Crystal City is an “attractive” location for tech company founders because of Metro access and airport proximity, along with “great restaurants and great living environments.” [Washington Post]
National Airport Cab Fares May Rise – The cost of taking a cab from Reagan National Airport may rise starting in September. The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering raising the dispatch fee for cabs picking up passengers from $2.50 to $3 per trip. The board is also considering a requirement that all cabs accept credit cards. [InsideNoVa]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Currently, technology firms located in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Crystal City, Columbia Pike and Shirlington only have to pay 50 percent or less of the county’s standard business license tax rate, 36-cent per $100 of gross receipts. For tech companies with between 500 and 999 employees, the rate is 14 cents. For tech companies with more than 1,000 employees, it falls farther to 10 cents.
Tech companies located along the Pike or in Shirlington have no minimum for the amount of employees to qualify for the reduced tax rate. However, in the R-B Corridor and Crystal City — the county’s two “Downtown Technology Zones” — tech firms must have at least 100 employees to pay the 18-cent rate. The County Board could approve waiving the minimum at its meeting this Saturday.
In addition, the Board will vote on whether to expand the parameters for a technology company to qualify for the tax breaks. The ordinance lists a broad range of eligible businesses, but since it was last updated seven years ago, firms in new sectors — the main one being social media — have been left out.
“The fundamentals of the local real estate market have changed,” the staff report, prepared by Arlington Economic Development, states. “Today tenants may choose among more available spaces and sites than ever before. Large deals may come about, but more often an assortment of small and medium deals is required to fill buildings. In many cases, the smaller firms have the most growth potential. They are expanding in a variety of digital economy and creative enterprises such as e-democracy, social media and healthcare data services.”
AED said there have been 12 instances where a tech company that was ineligible for the Technology Zone tax breaks did not choose Arlington to locate. Ten of those instances, the company was smaller than 100 employees.
If the changes are approved, the savings for tech companies in the R-B corridor would amount to approximately $2.25 per square foot of rent for office space, AED estimates.
“While this may not change a business decision on its own, it could be effective in combination with other forms of assistance the County and Commonwealth may provide, or it may help close the gap in rent or other expenses between Arlington and another jurisdiction,” the staff report reads. “AED estimates that — with the proposed changes in place — between five and 10 companies per year may qualify for this incentive.”
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Tech Hub Coming to Crystal City — Crystal City office building owner Vornado is investing $10 million in a venture capital fund called the Crystal Tech Fund. Venture capitalist Paul Singh is hoping to raise a total of $50 million for the fund, and is moving his company, Disruption Corp., to Crystal City. Vornado is also bringing a WeWork co-working space to Crystal City by 2016, and converting an existing building into a 300 unit apartment building for “today’s mobile and collaborative workers.” [InTheCapital, Washington Business Journal]
AFAC Sees Record Food Need – The Arlington Food Assistance Center continues to see record need for food in the community. The food bank served just over 1,800 families per week in February, a 30 percent increase compared to last year. [Sun Gazette]
Sony Store to Close — The Sony store in Pentagon City Mall is set to close, according to the company. The Sony store in Tysons Corner is also on the chopping block. [Sony]
Remembrance for Jean Crawford — Jean Crawford, a local Arlington County official and activist, died earlier this month after experiencing complications from gastric bypass surgery. A remembrance ceremony for Crawford will be held Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd). [Washington Post, Sun Gazette]
Video: Joan Mulholland — Joan Mulholland, a civil rights activist and former Freedom Rider who lives in Arlington, recently donated documents from her private collection to the Center for Local History at Arlington Public Library. The county’s Arlington TV channel created a video about Mulholland and the donation. [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
Lavern Chatman Running for Congress — Lavern Chatman, former president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, has announced that she’s running for the 8th District seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). “We need leaders who understand the struggles and joys of raising and educating children and the benefits of providing them opportunities for economic empowerment,” Chatman, a Democrat, said in a statement. [Blue Virginia]
TandemNSI Launches — TandemNSI, Arlington’s initiative to bring national security technology companies together with government agencies and universities, officially launched Tuesday night. The $525,000 public-private partnership is being launched at a time when Arlington is still smarting from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation. [Bisnow, DoD Buzz]
McKinley Elementary Expansion – A plan to add 225 seats to McKinley Elementary School by the fall of 2016 is moving forward. Arlington Public Schools hopes to complete the design of the addition by the end of 2014 and begin construction by mid-2015. [Sun Gazette]
Restaurant Challenge Begins — The Ballston Business Improvement District is now accepting applications for its Restaurant Challenge. The BID is seeking the area’s “next signature restaurant.” The winner of the challenge will receive an interest-free loan and an 11-year lease on the former Red Parrot Asian Bistro space at 1110 N. Glebe Blvd. “This new program is designed to activate commercial space and showcase the community of Ballston as a magnet for discovery and innovation,” the BID said. [Ballston BID, Washington Business Journal]
Marymount Creates Redskins Gear for Women — Fashion design students at Marymount University in Arlington have created new fashion-forward Washington Redskins apparel for women. The student project was initiated in response to what a professor saw as a lack of stylish options for female Redskins fans. [Marymount University]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
‘Team Kids’ Launches in Arlington — Arlington County is the first locale outside of California to participate in the Team Kids Challenge, which empowers elementary school-aged children to learn about community needs while working alongside police, firefighters, parent volunteers, and other mentors. [WJLA]
Hynes to NVTA Board — Arlington County Board Vice Chairman Mary Hynes will succeed retiring County Board member Chris Zimmerman on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority board. [Sun Gazette]
County Launches Transit Tech Initiative — Mobility Lab, the research and development arm of Arlington County’s transit agency, is launching the “Transit Tech Initiative.” The initiative aims to use technological tools “to look beyond traditional approaches to journey planning and travel visualization.” [Mobility Lab]
TechShop, a workshop that offers access to high-tech equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters, is expected to open in Crystal City early next year.
The Crystal City Business Improvement District announced Tuesday that TechShop would move into the Crystal City Shops at 2100 Crystal Drive in early 2014. Construction is expected to begin this fall.
TechShop, which describes itself as a “membership-based, do-it-yourself creative workshop and fabrication studio,” offers monthly and annual memberships to use its facilities, as well as classes for non-members to learn how to use the equipment. According to TechShop, each location includes more than $1 million of machines, tools and equipment.
In addition to 3D printers and laser cutters, TechShop also offers plastics and electronics labs, a machine shop, a wood shop, a metal working shop, a textiles department, welding stations and a waterjet cutter.
“The arrival of TechShop is a huge win for Arlington County and Crystal City – cementing the community’s role as the region’s center of creation and innovation,” Angela Fox, President and CEO of the Crystal City BID, said in a press release. “TechShop is a catalyst for activity, energy, and excitement offering an incredible amenity to area employees, residents, workers, and businesses.”
The Crystal City TechShop will partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Innovation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to offer a free membership program to veterans. Currently, there are six TechShop locations across the country.
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
The site is being built in phases, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith. The first components of the project — some interior portions of the website — should be launched in “the next couple of months.” If all goes well, the rest of the project is expected to be complete — homepage and all — by the end of the year.
The new county website will built on an enterprise version of WordPress, an open source content management system utilized by tens of millions of websites, including ARLnow.com. By building on WordPress, instead of the current proprietary code, the county should be able to reduce the cost of development and upkeep, and make it easier for employees to update web pages.
Arlington County is also trying to improve the navigation of the site.
“We’re trying to make it more resident-focused, as opposed to county hierarchy-focused,” Smith said. “We’re pretty excited. I think it’s going to be a positive change.”
County staff have proposed making the code that’s custom-developed for its new website open source — in other words, freely available for other developers to copy and tinker with. The County Board is set consider a measure that would allow open source publishing at its meeting this Saturday.
“As new functionality and features are developed by County staff, in the spirit of the open-source community and open government, staff desires to release code developed by County teams under an open-source license, so that others may use and/or improve the code,” staff wrote in a report to the Board.
County staff says developing open source code would come with the following benefits.
1) Open and transparent government
2) Enhances the County’s attractiveness as a workplace; benefits recruitment of programmers who believe in open-source
3) The possibility of even more enhancements being available for County use. Arlington’s changes may inspire others to contribute as well.
4) Lower maintenance needed for code, if County contributions are accepted into the main distribution. If Arlington’s modifications are not shared, the County will have to ensure that any updates made by others and which County staff want to incorporate do not interfere with Arlington’s customizations.
“Website code is a large part of the open-source community because websites are so versatile and have become so easy to set up,” staff wrote. “County staff has found many open-source bits of code that will help the County’s website meet the County’s customers’ needs, and in some cases, staff can easily customize the code for an even better fit. Since the County is benefitting from someone else’s open-source code, staff members want to reciprocate and release County modifications back to the open-source community.”
Although it might sound like a security risk, Smith says allowing the public to view the county’s website code shouldn’t open the site up to illicit activity.
“It shouldn’t present any security risks,” she said. “There are many, many government sites running on open source code.”
Senior Citizens Tour Sewage Plant — A group of three dozen senior citizens toured Arlington’s recently-renovated Water Pollution Control Plant on Friday. The sold-out tour educated the seniors about the sewage treatment process and about the people who work at the plant, whose “informal motto” is “We’re No. 1 with your No. 2.” [Sun Gazette]
Technology and the Homeless — Contrary to a common image of the homeless, most homeless individuals in Arlington have a cell phone and some even have laptops. Such technology is described as a “lifeline” to family, job opportunities and education. [Patch]
Map of the ‘Arlington Loop’ — Arlington County’s Bike Arlington program has published an easy-to-use map of the “Arlington Loop” — the 50 miles of off-street bike trails in the county. The map includes approximate ride times for bicyclists. [Bike Arlington, Greater Greater Washington]
Photo courtesy Chris Armstrong
Dems Planning for the Next Campaign — “The campaign for 2013 begins tomorrow,” the chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee told local Democrats at the committee’s meeting Wednesday night. Next year there will be a gubernatorial election in Virginia and House of Delegates races in Arlington, among other races. Arlington Democrats ran the table on Tuesday, winning every race, with the exception of a state constitutional amendment question. [Sun Gazette]
Bergmann’s Discussion Deferred — The Arlington Planning Commission was forced to defer consideration of a proposed 10-story redevelopment of the Bergmann’s Dry Cleaning site after Hurricane Sandy delayed the mailing of notices to local residents. The Waverly Hills Civic Association, located about a mile from the development, has expressed opposition to it. [Arlington Mercury]
Tech Tutoring at Library — From iPads to social networks to computer software, the Aurora Hills Branch Library is offering 45-minute one-on-one tech tutoring sessions for residents. Appointments are now being taken for Monday, Dec. 3. [Arlington Public Library]
Northern Va. Senior Olympics Come to Arlington — The Northern Virginia Senior Olympics will kick off tomorrow (Saturday) with a day-long track-and-field competition at Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.). The Senior Olympics, which utilize several venues from around Northern Virginia, run from Sept. 15-26. Other events planned at the community center include basketball next Saturday, Sept. 22.
District Taco Not Launching a Food Truck — District Taco owner Osiris Hoil says he plans to continue using food carts, as opposed to larger food trucks, since Arlington is now enforcing a stringent one hour street parking rule for mobile food vendors. In addition to a food cart, District Taco also operates two successful brick and mortar restaurants. [Washington Examiner]
Apology for Network Issues — ARLnow.com has experienced network problems that made our site unreachable for many readers on two separate days this week. We would like to apologize to all readers affected by the problems. Also, we would like to thank our advertisers, who make this site possible, for sticking with us during that time. New infrastructure is now in place to make sure these problems (hopefully) never happen again.
Arlington is attracting a growing number of start-up and tech companies, and the co-owner of a new coworking space in Rosslyn is placing a big bet on that trend continuing.
Raymond Rahbar, a Courthouse resident, is a founder of UberOffices, a shared office space located on one floor of a high-rise at 1400 Key Boulevard. The office opened in July and already a number of young companies now call home.
Rahbar says he was able to attract a number of companies from other parts of the D.C. area thanks to a number of factors, including: Rosslyn’s central location relative to federal offices in D.C. and Northern Virginia; an abundance of nearby transportation options; proximity to the homes of potential employees; and relatively low taxes in Virginia.
“Arlington makes the most amount of sense for start-ups,” he said, before rattling off some additional advantages of Arlington in general and Rosslyn in particular. “The educated workforce… major highways all around us… the high average salary, so that means people have a savings and can take risks.”
Unsaid in that list is the fact that rent is generally lower outside the District, a key consideration for start-ups looking to conserve cash. The rent for a desk at UberOffices starts at $300 per month, compared to $700+ per month in many D.C. coworking spaces. Private offices range from $1,000 to $3,600 per month, and are large enough to host 2 to 8 employees respectively.
Among the companies that have set up shop at UberOffices are Votifi, which moved from Bethesda, and Lemur IMS, which moved from D.C. Votifi seeks to provide a “platform for modern political exchange,” while Lemur IMS promises to save the retail industry money and increases its profits via a “revolutionary inventory management system.”
Even though one might think of the District as more of a tech hub — it’s home to Living Social, perhaps the most high-profile local tech firm — Rahbar says Northern Virginia offers distinct advantages that large companies already are well aware of, but which the start-up community is beginning to recognize.
“Our taxes are lower, our crime is lower, our government is more stable,” he said. “They’re completely different environments. I’m sure D.C. has a couple of its own advantages, but I would bet on this area before I would bet on D.C.”
All that might explain why Northern Virginia has four times as many Fortune 500 headquarters as the District, he said.
Rahbar says he thinks the entire D.C. region is going to continue to continue to experience economic growth, even if the federal budget is cut. Among the factors contributing to that growth is the increasing amount of money flowing into politics.
“The size of government might be shrinking, but the size of politics is also increasing at the same time — campaigns and committees and all sorts of things,” he said. “So now we have more media firms, more PR firms, more lobbyists, more lawyers. Everything is just growing, even if government contracting ends up slowing down.”