Press Club

Stay. Lost Dog Cafe is going to stay.

With help from the Arlington County Board, Lost Dog Cafe’s parking situation is now nearing a resolution which has prompted the restaurant to renew its lease on Columbia Pike.

Last June, ARLnow reported that confusing and high parking fees in a county-financed Columbia Pike garage, owned by Ballston-based developer AvalonBay, was potentially costing Lost Dog Cafe and fellow tenant Joule Wellness Pharmacy thousands of dollars a year in customer revenue.

Because of this, both businesses were planning on not renewing their leases on the ground floor of the Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building.

But, in January, the County Board revised an unusual 2006 agreement that essentially allows AvalonBay to stop paying back the county for contributing nearly $3 million to the construction of the privately-owned garage.

This has led the developer to agree to lower parking fees inside of the parking garage at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.

Starting as soon as the end of this month, the developer is changing the fee structure at the parking garage to allow customers to park for free for one hour, AvalonBay spokesperson Kurt Conway confirmed. It’s $2 per hour after that.

Additionally, more employee parking spots will be available to the businesses.

This change has resulted in Lost Dog Cafe signing a six-year lease extension to stay on the Pike. Added to the two years left on its current lease, the neighborhood eatery is planning on staying at its current location until at least 2030.

“We believe that the change in the parking situation will allow us to run our business more successfully,” Lost Dog franchise owner James Barnes tells ARLnow.

Joule Wellness Pharmacy director of marketing Alex Tekie also says that this change will significantly help their business. However, he notes that the pharmacy has actually not yet been informed by AvalonBay of this change.

Most of the parking woes began back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit and, incidentally, higher fees, tickets, and threats of towing began after years of lax enforcement, according to tenants.

At a time when many businesses were struggling and shifting towards more take-out, charging for even just a few minutes of parking made it even more difficult for the local businesses.

“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” Barnes said last June. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”

Joule Wellness Pharmacy ownership also told ARLnow at the time they were shelling out nearly $800 for employee parking. This prompted both businesses to threaten to leave the development and Columbia Pike.

This was all coming to a head as the Pike, in general, continues to grapple with redevelopment and questions of how to keep small, local businesses on Arlington’s “main street.”

But, at least in this instance, a change to a 16-year-old agreement appears to have solved at least a couple of tenant renewal issues, for now.

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Mount Olivet United Methodist Church parking lot (via Google Maps)

The leadership of Mount Olivet United Methodist Church near Ballston is looking to do something about its parking lot.

The 120-spot surface parking lot fronts N. Glebe Road and is separated from the church, located at 1500 N. Glebe Road, by 16th Street N.

When Mount Olivet bought the parcel in the 1950s, it considered building a youth center and pool on the site, but ultimately paved it over.

Now, 70 years later, church leaders are mulling whether to redevelop the lot, as well as the open space and associate pastor’s parsonage adjacent to it, with a multi-purpose building and underground parking.

Possible uses include a youth recreation center, an arts and cultural space, an expansion of the daycare and preschool, medical offices or senior assisted living, housing or other church uses, according to a presentation on the church’s website.

Mount Olivet United Methodist Church and cemetery, outlined in black, and the parking lot, green space and associate pastor’s parsonage, outlined in red (via Mount Olivet United Methodist Church)

The redevelopment idea resurfaced in 2017, when church leadership was drafting a strategic plan guiding future growth, according to the church.

Two years later, a task force began meeting with a local architect to consider uses for the property. Concepts from the task force were presented to parishioners on Sunday during a town hall.

“During the Town Hall, multiple references were made to the fact that the material being presented and the ideas being discussed were in fact only possibilities at this point,” Chuck Mitchell, the chair of the task force, tells ARLnow. “There are no plans to build at this time… If and when the Mount Olivet congregation decides to continue the exploration, there will be multiple and comprehensive meetings with Arlington County, civic organizations and other interested parties to engage in the conversation.”

That town hall was intended to update the congregation on the work the task force over the last two years, he said.

“As a long-term member of Arlington and the local community, should Mount Olivet choose to move forward with a project, we will be scheduling meetings with the local civic organizations,” he said.

To avoid raising money from the congregation, church leaders say they would enter a ground lease with a developer.

Over the course of the lease, Mount Olivet would receive revenue from whatever building the developer constructs. Eventually, the revenue would be used to buy back a portion of the building for the church to use.

After the lease expires, Mount Olivet would own the entire building, as well as the land.

While the church has not settled on a plan to propose and discuss with the local community yet, some neighbors have taken to Nextdoor and other channels to express concerns about things like traffic and safety should a new development replace the parking lot.

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An EasyPark device (photo via OTI)

Prolific parkers in Arlington will soon have to ditch their EasyPark devices.

The company that owns the battery-operated parking payment device — a precursor to app-based parking payment services — is ceasing operations in the U.S. and service will end in Arlington on Monday, Feb. 28, according to the County Treasurer’s Office.

“We sincerely regret to tell you that EasyPark has ceased operations in North America and terminated its contract with Arlington County,” the treasurer’s office said in an announcement yesterday (Monday). “This message is to let you know what this change may mean for you, if you continue to use your EasyPark device in the coming weeks.”

Locals can refill their devices in-person at the Treasurer’s Office until Feb. 28, after which time they can still use the device to pay for parking until the balance reaches $0. Refills will not be possible after the last day of this month.

Folks can also bring working devices to the Treasurer’s Office and receive a refund of the remaining balance until Feb. 28. Broken devices cannot be replaced and broken devices with money on them cannot be refunded.

The Treasurer’s Office warned that continuing to use the device after Feb. 28 may complicate contesting a parking ticket. Drivers can no longer rely on a technical support team to verify a proper device for use as proof in a ticket appeal.

Going forward, on-street parking payment options include the ParkMobile app, which launched here in 2014, and traditional parking meters.

Arlington County began offering the battery-operated devices in 2015 as an alternative to paying at a parking meter or with a phone. EasyPark succeeded the iPark devices, which Arlington stopped selling after the manufacturer declared bankruptcy in 2013.

It appears bankruptcy almost came for the company that owns EasyPark USA: On Track Innovations (OTI). The company lost significant revenue during the pandemic and filed for bankruptcy, but those proceedings ended when Nayax — an Israeli platform that provides digital, cashless purchasing options to retailers — acquired OTI for $4.5 million.

The announcement encourages people with questions to call the Treasurer’s Office Customer Service team at (703) 228-3702 or email [email protected].

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The City of Falls Church is no longer forcing La Tingeria to shut down its new restaurant by January, a city spokesperson tells ARLnow.

Last month, the popular Arlington food truck La Tingeria set up shop at 626 S. Washington Street in Falls Church. But only a few weeks later, the city sent a notice to owner David Peña saying it was pulling the restaurant’s certificate of occupancy due to neighbor complaints about customers parking on neighborhood streets.

The shop was going to have to close by Jan. 2, 2022, barring an appeal.

But now, it appears the city is backtracking and will not be revoking La Tingeria’s certificate of occupancy, at least not yet.

“The City of Falls Church and the business owner are working together to create solutions to the parking issue. The owner has already made improvements by marking the onsite parking,” Falls Church Director of Communications Susan Finarelli says. “The City is working with the neighbors and looking at the right-of-way to help with traffic and parking on the dead-end residential street. As this positive momentum continues, we anticipate not revoking the Certificate of Occupancy in January.”

This comes after ARLnow reported on the story and customers reached out to the city to express their support for the restaurant.

By revoking La Tingera’s certificate of occupancy, the City of Falls Church may have been in violation of the restaurant’s constitutional rights, according to the Ballston-based Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit that helps businesses fight against what it views as government overreach.

“Under the state and federal constitution, people have a right to run their businesses without being subject to unreasonable and arbitrary laws,” senior attorney Erica Smith Ewing told ARLnow. “I think there’s a very strong argument that forcing restaurant owners to be responsible for enforcing the city’s parking laws is completely unreasonable.”

This could have been handled by the city issuing parking tickets, notes Ewing, not the disproportionate response of threatening to shut down a business.

“Especially with the economy as it is, it’s shocking that the city is punishing a restaurant for being too successful,” said Ewing. Locally, the Institute for Justice previously took up legal cases in Arlington after county crackdowns on food trucks and a mural next to a dog park.

In the notice sent to Peña, the city cited that the restaurant’s violation of Sections 48-58 and 48-1004 of the City Code.

When ARLnow reached out to Falls Church about La Tingeria’s violations earlier this week, a city spokesperson was only able to provide one line from section 48-939 that reads “No portion of any required off-street parking or loading space shall occupy or use any public street, right-of-way, alley or property, except by expressed permission of the city council.”

Ewing wasn’t surprised by this lack of clarity.

“This isn’t the first time city officials have said that someone is violating a law and haven’t been able to show them how they’re violating it or why,” she said. “[Peña] shouldn’t have to dig through outdated codes to figure out what he did wrong. The city should be helping him understand and fix the problem.”

It appears that the city is now doing just that with La Tingeria.

Peña tells ARLnow that he’s very happy with this development, but remains fearful there could be more issues going forward.

Despite a challenging first few weeks, he still believes that the Falls Church will be a great home for La Tingeria’s popular queso birria tacos and chicken tinga.

“I absolutely [want] to stay here and see how much we can grow,” Peña says. “This is just the beginning.”

Photo (2) via Google Maps

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The past month was supposed to be validation for David Peña and his taco eatery La Tingeria, a popular Arlington food truck.

La Tingeria recently opened at 626 S. Washington Street in Falls Church, ditching the usually-busy food truck — at least temporarily — for a brick and mortar restaurant.

It was going to be a challenge, but Peña was looking forward to having a shop to call his own after nearly a decade of serving tacos out of a truck in various Arlington locales.

However, after only being open for three weekends, Peña last week received a notice from the City of Falls Church and a visit from city officials, telling him that his certificate of occupancy was set to be revoked in 30 days due to complaints from neighbors about parking.

“My office continue to receive daily complaints from neighbors and now [the] City Council regarding City Council regarding your customers parking on neighborhood streets,” said a notice which Peña posted on Instagram. “This is a violation of your certificate of occupancy, and Sections 48-58 and 48-1004 of the City Code.”

As a result, the taco shop is being forced to close by Jan. 2, 2022, barring an appeal.

“I’m not doing anything illegal, but I’m being punished like I am,” Peña tells ARLnow. “How did it get that far so quick when we haven’t even had our grand opening yet?”

Early last month, Peña told ARLnow that he tried to open his restaurant in Arlington, but rent was too expensive. Hence, the move to Falls Church.

He thought La Tingeria, known for queso birria tacos and chicken tinga, had found a perfect home, but now he’s not so sure. Peña admits that when he leased the space on Washington Blvd, he knew the parking lot was small and that there was potential it could fill up quickly.

“We are a popular place, so it was in the back of my mind,” he says.

But he didn’t imagine the situation would rise to this level so quickly.

In recent days, Peña has tried to alleviate the problem by posting more signs on his shop and information on his Instagram telling customers where they can and can not park. The forbidden areas include W. Westmoreland Road and Summerfield Road across the street.

Thursday post on La Tingeria’s Instagram about where to park (Photo via screenshot/Instagram)

Since there are no official signs in the neighborhoods about no parking, Peña said there’s only so much he can say or do.

“I’m asking [customers] to be courteous to our new neighbors… but unless there are signs up saying that you can’t park here, people are going to park there,” Peña says. “There’s nothing I can do about that.”

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Restaurants in Crystal City (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated on 12/7/21 at 2:30 p.m.) With a bevy of development looming, a band of residents, restaurateurs, landowners and business leaders are trying to preserve the “soul” of Crystal City: “Restaurant Row.”

For many years, a collection of small, independently owned restaurants have operated along 23rd Street S., between S. Eads and S. Fern streets, including the locally famous LGBT nightlife spot Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant.

But the people who frequent and run these business wonder where the long-term viability of this corridor fits into the flurry of development nearby: Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City, JBG Smith’s extensive development pipeline in Crystal City, and Arlington County’s Crystal House Apartments affordable housing project, among others.

As all these projects take shape, the group has reprised a rallying cry from two years ago, reiterating that Restaurant Row needs some attention — but not the kind that stamps out its unique character.

“With all this stuff happening, what about 23rd Street, the sole soul for Crystal City for decades?” said Rob Mandle, the National Landing Business Improvement District Deputy Executive Director, in a recent Crystal City Citizen Review Council meeting. “What are we going to do over the course of the next five years while the rest of National Landing transforms?”

Those are still open questions for members of the CCCRC, who earlier this month met with restaurant owners and landowners to discuss ideas for investing in Restaurant Row, which was identified in the Crystal City Sector Plan as a “major community asset with local businesses that should be preserved or protected.”

This line has puzzled county planner Matt Mattauszek for two years.

“What does that mean, ‘preserve and protect?’ What are the exact mechanics of that?” Mattauszek said. “I don’t think anyone on our side wants to lose any opportunities in terms of that protection element while maintaining it as a destination.”

Ultimately, he said the community needs to develop a clear set of priorities before the county can help.

Members of the CCCRC and local landowners have long- and short-term ideas for preserving and updating Restaurant Row.

Aurora Highlands resident Michael Dowell says he wants conditions that facilitate updates to the aging buildings that preserve their feel. Otherwise, worsening infrastructure will force out tenants and make the buildings ripe for redevelopment.

“The thing we want to preserve is that community feel of 23rd Street restaurants,” he said. “They’re human scale, they have a lot of local ownership, and there is a huge variety there.”

Some said the area needs more street parking, a long-time concern for residents that has resurfaced as the county embarks on its Crystal House development project. As part of the project, a parking lot between 22nd and 23rd Street S. will be turned into townhomes known as “Crystal House 5.”

An aerial view of existing Crystal House Apartments and renderings (via Arlington County)

Speeding is also a problem, said Darren Buck, an Aurora Highlands resident and Transportation Commission member. He suggested a comprehensive rezoning effort from S. Ives Street to Route 1 that would bring in a traffic signal and better lighting and create a streetscape that establishes Restaurant Row as a destination.

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Free2Move car in D.C. (courtesy photo)

One minute after midnight this morning, car-sharing company Free2Move ended its services in Arlington over issues with parking in the county.

It marks a short-lived run in Arlington for the European company, which launched its services in July 2019 after expanding into D.C. in October 2018.

Free2Move, which offers free residential and metered parking to members, says its attempts to renew this parking arrangement were unsuccessful. As a result, users can no longer start or end their trip in Arlington, although they can drive through the county.

“Over the past few months we have been working with the City of Arlington to renew our permits to operate in Arlington,” the company told members in an email, mistaking the county for a city. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to renew the permit and we were notified today by the City of Arlington to cease our operations in the area.”

The service said it’s not pleased with the result of the negotiations.

“We understand for many of you this will come as difficult news and it’s not one Free2Move is happy about,” the email said. “We have enjoyed being part of the community and supporting our members with their transportation needs.”

The county department that’s responsible for car-sharing programs has a different account.

“Carsharing provider Free2Move notified the County on Sept. 17 that the company would be unable to commit to obtaining the required insurance to operate within Arlington County this year,” a Department of Environmental Services spokesman said. “Although Transportation staff worked with Free2Move representatives during the last several months to help them meet the requirements for their permit, the company instead decided to no longer provide services in Arlington.”

A number of users reached out to ARLnow to share the word of the service ending. Darsh Suresh, a three-year resident of the Rosslyn area, said he’s saddened by the news, as he relied on these cars for short trips he can’t make by transit.

“I usually take Metro or the Bus to commute or get around, but having Free2Move has made it easier for trips to other areas, such as driving to visit family in Loudoun County,” he said. “It’s one of the primary reasons I haven’t gotten my own car. I’m very disappointed at this surprise announcement, and hope that the county government and Free2Move can come to an agreement to keep service operational in Arlington.”

The news got some traction on Twitter from transit advocates, including Aaron Landry, who oversaw the brief operations of German car-share company Car2Go in Arlington.

The full email from Free2Move is below.

To our community,

As you are aware, as part of our Car Sharing service Free2Move offers all members both residential parking and metered parking at no cost to you. Over the past few months we have been working with the City of Arlington to renew our permits to operate in Arlington. Unfortunately, we have not been able to renew the permit and we were notified today by the City of Arlington to cease our operations in the area.

What does this mean for our members? Starting at 12:01am on September 30th you will no longer see vehicles listed on our app in Arlington for rent. Trips can continue to be started in DC and drive through Arlington but you will no longer be able to end your trip in Arlington.

Additionally it will be the members responsibility to adhere to all parking regulations and costs in Arlington. We understand for many of you this will come as difficult news and it’s not one Free2Move is happy about. We have enjoyed being part of the community and supporting our members with their transportation needs.

If you have any questions please reach out to our customer support team.

Thank you,

Free2Move

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Parking along N. Ivy Street near Clarendon (courtesy of Abigail Brooks)

Abigail Brooks and her husband moved into their new home on N. Ivy Street, which was built in 2020, in April of this year.

Since then, she says they’ve been stuck in a Residential Permit Parking program quagmire. While they live on a street that is in an RPP zone, they have not been able to get their address approved for a permits, meaning the couple could get ticketed for parking on their own street.

“Our house was built along with two others and it is only ours that is not showing correctly for parking,” she said. “I have tried different forms, emails, calling, etc. and still cannot get this resolved.”

Brooks said she has also found some people with the same issues through the gym to which she and her husband belong.

“A couple of us did new construction at the same time so we’ve shared lessons learned, timelines, etc.,” she said.

In a months-long email back-and-forth with the parking team, provided to ARLnow, county staff repeatedly said the Brooks’ address is not eligible for the program. Even an attempt to get a county real estate appraiser to confirm her home’s assessment information and thus parking permit eligibility was unsuccessful.

But Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet found that Brooks is correct: her home should be eligible.

“The resident is likely facing this issue because of a technical problem we’re experiencing that is preventing us from adding newly created addresses to our database,” he said. “This problem only affects newly created addresses… not existing addresses.”

The problem — affecting four households that the county knows of — was first identified in June 2021, but staff had a workaround in the database. That workaround stopped functioning in mid-July, Balliet said.

“We anticipate having the problem fixed by next week,” he said.

Until this issue is resolved, Balliet said residents can fill out a paper permit application and pay the permit fees in-person at county government headquarters. Staff will manually add the resident’s parking permit order to the system.

Brooks said it is unfortunate that she couldn’t get the same answer from the county.

“If they had responded and explained the issue, I would have understood and stopped bothering them for it to be fixed,” she said.

She praised other county functions for finding ways around the issue.

“Utilities, trash, recycling, etc. found workarounds for the issue we had with our address and personally ensured we got what we needed,” she said. “The real estate assessment team also were trying to be so helpful during the parking situation and we really appreciated how much they followed up with us to see if there is anything they could do to help resolve.”

Earlier this year, the county approved a number of changes to the Residential Permit Parking program. After considering paid, two-hour parking in RPP zones, the idea — which elicited public outcry — was nixed, but the program was expanded to make some multi-family properties, like apartment buildings, eligible.

Although the changes are in place, county staffers are still focused on renewing resident and landlord permits and passes for the 2021-2022 program year. They are still not processing petitions to establish new permit parking zones; the creation of new RPP zones has been frozen since the summer of 2017.

“We are finalizing updated petition procedures that incorporate changes the County Board adopted in February,” Balliet said. “We look forward to releasing those to the public in the coming weeks.”

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Morning Notes

APS Getting EV Buses — “Arlington Public Schools (APS), working collaboratively with the County’s Department of Environmental Services (DES), will receive a $795,000 grant from the state, to be spent on three fully electric buses (EV buses) that will replace three with diesel engines. The EV vehicles, each with a capacity of some 65 passengers, will be equitably assigned to routes throughout Arlington. Currently there are no EV buses in the APS fleet of 200. The vehicles slated for replacement each travel some 8,000 miles a year.” [Arlington County, Gov. Ralph Northam]

No PARK(ing) Day This Year — “PARK(ing) Day is an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform drab parking spaces into small parks… Due to continuing COVID-19 issues, Arlington County will not participate in 2021 PARK(ing) Day. We hope to welcome participants back in 2022.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

USS Arlington to Help in Haiti — “The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD 24) departed Naval Station Norfolk to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to Haiti in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) led mission, Aug. 17.” [Navy]

Arrests in Ashton Heights Armed Robbery — ” The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is announcing the arrest of three suspects in an armed robbery that occurred during the early morning hours on Wednesday, August 18… At approximately 1:08 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a robbery that had just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male victims and a witness were sitting at a bus stop in the 700 block of N. Randolph Street when the three suspects approached.” [ACPD]

Arlington Org Deals with Afghanistan Fallout — “The young women of Ascend were used to spending their days doing yoga, preparing for mountain climbing excursions and teaching women at mosques in Kabul how to read… After the Taliban swept through Afghanistan this week, retaking control after two decades as the Afghan government collapsed, most of Ascend’s participants have been sheltering at home in fear of reprisal. Some have destroyed documents that would associate them with the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit group, and are pleading for assistance from its leadership to help them find refuge in other countries.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Bishop Talks About Trans Youth — “The topic of transgenderism is discussed routinely in the news, on television shows and in schools. This prevailing ideology — that a person can change his or her gender — is impacting Catholic families, too, said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington… Burbidge knows many will be criticized and ostracized for their belief that men and women cannot change their sex, but he asks the faithful to speak out anyway. ‘We cannot be silenced. The mandate to speak on this issue clearly and lovingly is greater than ever,’ he said.” [Catholic News Service]

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Marymount University’s Main House on its North Arlington campus has a sprawling front lawn once again.

On Sunday, the university wrapped up two weeks of construction that turned the concrete parking lot at 2807 N. Glebe Road into a green space. Now, Marymount leaders envision the school community using the space for recreation and picnics.

“As students, staff, faculty and their families enter Marymount, they’ll now be greeted with a beautiful lawn devoted to bringing our community together,” said Marymount University President Irma Becerra.

Marymount originally had a grass lawn in front of the Main House, but that was paved over in May 2000 to accommodate the growing number of students who need a place to park. Now that the university has two parking garages, Marymount said it no longer needs the lot.

Those employed by the university have embraced the change already, according to Barry Harte, the school’s treasurer and vice president for finance and operations.

“Bringing back the beloved recreation area has sparked overwhelmingly positive feedback from our staff and faculty. This change is important not only to our students and their families, but also to the greater Arlington community of which Marymount is proud to be a part of,” said Harte.

In a press release, the university said the lawn will help the surrounding community by absorbing storm water runoff and improving water quality.

The front parking lot previously hosted a seasonal weekly farmers market. Organizers announced earlier this summer that the market was permanently closed, encouraging local residents to go the new Cherrydale Farmers Market instead.

Marymount plans to hold a picnic on the lawn to celebrate the start of the academic year this coming Monday, Aug. 23.

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Two decades ago, Marymount University paved paradise and put up a parking lot on its main campus in residential North Arlington.

This week, the school embarked on a construction project to turn the lot in front of the historic Main House at 2807 N. Glebe Road into a campus green space.

“This restores that area to how it looked prior to May of 2000, when the lot was created to supply additional parking for the University,” spokesman Nicholas Munson said.

Construction began Monday and is expected to be completed around Sunday, Aug. 15, depending on the weather, he said.

Marymount added the surface parking lot to accommodate a growing school community at the Main Campus. Today, Marymount’s Blue and White garages now provide “ample parking” for the community, he said.

“Once it’s completed, Marymount will provide more recreational space for students while creating a positive impact on our physical campus environment,” he said.

The project is being paid for with capital funding.

Other upcoming campus projects include transforming “The Lodge,” a historic structure on the Main Campus, into a welcome center for students, families and visitors. Marymount also plans to reorient the front entrance so that fewer cars can access the campus core, making it more pedestrian-friendly, and to create a “student hub” in Rowley Hall “to promote a new community space for Marymount Saints to gather.”

The university also has a campus along N. Glebe Road in Ballston.

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