After interning for the past three months at ARLnow, we all had different experiences working in and learning about the area.
The three of us came in from different backgrounds: One of us is an Arlington native (Jackie Friedman), another is a New Yorker who moved last year to the D.C. area (Adrian Cruz) and the other (Omar DeBrew) commutes from Maryland.
As a result, we all had different experiences and opinions to share about our summer covering news in Arlington.
While I had lived in Arlington for most of the past year, there were still a lot of places and areas I had no idea existed. Because I lived in Lyon Park, I tended to stick around the Orange Line corridor, wandering into Pentagon City and Columbia Pike once in a blue moon. Throughout the summer, my work has sent me to all corners of the county, allowing me to explore and learn about neighborhoods I had never even known existed. Now, I can say with confidence that I know my way around the county and that names such as Cherrydale, Buckingham and Fairlington aren’t just stereotypical names for small English towns.
Arlingtonians as a people are an interesting bunch. The county is extremely diverse with people from all walks of life and one never knows what to expect. Just in my time working here, I have encountered people ranging from a lawyer who’s a finalist on “American Ninja Warrior” to a grumpy British man. Also, by reading our comments section, I’ve also learned they’re an opinionated and sarcastic bunch, with lots to say.
As a place to live in, Arlington is what I’d like to call Washington’s Disneyland. What I mean by that is that it’s cleaner, safer, quieter than anywhere I’ve ever lived in, almost as if it was designed by Walt Disney himself. Coming from New York City, I’m used to a dirty, gritty city with lots of crime and weird stuff going on. In contrast, the weirdest things that happen in Arlington are weekends in Clarendon. I currently live in Buckingham, an area that many call “Arlington’s ghetto.” I come from the South Bronx. Buckingham is no ghetto. What it does have is a thriving Latin American community with many amazing restaurants. The only drawback about living in Arlington is that it’s expensive! Finding a decent meal under $10 in Clarendon is close to impossible, and as my fellow interns will attest to, finding cheap parking is just as difficult. Nonetheless, this is definitely somewhere I could see myself living in the future.
While I have lived in Arlington my whole life, I wasn’t really aware of everything that goes on in the area. It’s amazing how someone can live in the same place their whole life, but have no clue about the people living around them. Your next door neighbor could be a craftsman like Jeff Spugnardi or the person working out next to you at the gym could have starred on “America Ninja Warrior” or even be 100 years old. Interning this summer at ARLnow allowed me to meet different people living in my community and learn about their interesting stories and lives. Everyone has an interesting story, especially in Arlington, so I encourage you to get to know the people around you. Maybe if you strike up a conversation with a stranger about how sad you are about Minh’s closing (I’m still mourning the loss), you could find out that the person you are talking to happens to be an Olympic gold medalist. But beware that person could go on and complain to you about the Clarendon stores that keep their doors open during the heat or how their child’s swimming instructor has man boobs.
Covering Arlington as a videographer is easy with all the history and new development taking place. Any issue big or small has some meaning to the community, such as a restaurant closing, a new 7-Eleven, or a fire station about to be demolished. The coverage helps Arlingtonians form opinions and decide for themselves. My only advice to those driving in Arlington is to take Metro when possible, and if you have to drive, find 24-hour parking areas near parks. Some spots are free; with others, you’ll have to pay. But that parking is cheaper than city areas.
Starting Friday, visitors to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will be able to use the mall’s new valet parking service.
“A valet service has been something we’ve wanted to implement for many years now,” said Todd Jerscheid, the mall’a director of marketing and business development. “As we prepare for the renovation completion later this summer, we couldn’t think of a better time to launch the program. We know this will be a huge hit for our shoppers, especially around the busy holiday season and as they begin to really experience all of our new features and services!”
The service will cost five dollars on top of the garage’s usual parking rate and it will be available from 10 a.m.-midnight from Friday to Saturday and from 11 a.m.-9 p.m on Sunday.
The Fashion Centre, which is starting to wrap up an expansion project, will hold a launch event on Friday. The first 50 customers to use the service will receive complimentary “swag bags” and two randomly selected shoppers will also win a $150 Simon gift card. Valet shoppers will also receive special promotions throughout the month of June.
Those who work and shop in Clarendon have a new parking option.
A new surface parking lot opened earlier this month in the empty lot along Wilson and Clarendon Blvd, between the Whole Foods and PNC Bank.
The lot is being operated by Crystal Parking, a local parking firm owned by Abraham Melles.
Melles said the new parking facility will allow the otherwise empty lot and eye sore generate revenue and help to alleviate parking issues in the neighborhood. He said the company will also consider offering a car wash service for customers.
The rate for parking is $2 for 0-30 minutes, $5 for 30-60 minutes or $6 for all day.
Melles has other local parking ventures he’s working on. In the “near future” he’s hoping to open a 400-500 space lot in the Shirlington area — no word yet on where, exactly. And in January Melles plans to launch Vaalio, an “on demand valet parking app” that will allow users to request a valet to show up, park and then bring back their car wherever they’re going.
Justin Funkhouser contributed to this report.
Arlington Man Arrested for Murder — A 51-year-old Arlington man has been arrested and charged in the strangulation death of a man in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The alleged crime happened Saturday afternoon. The suspect was arrested by U.S. Marshals and Arlington County Police in Arlington; we hear the arrest took place at a McDonald’s restaurant, but so far that has not been confirmed. [WHAG]
Couple Hopes to Find Owner of Lost Ring — A school custodian and his girlfriend are searching for the owner of a lost gold wedding ring. Dennis Avery found the ring in June following an event at Glebe Elementary School. The ring has engravings that offer clues as to who the owner may be, including a date and a pair of initials. [WJLA]
Self-Driving Cars Come to Arlington — State officials, Virginia Tech researchers and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) demonstrated self-driving cars for the media on the closed-off I-395 HOV lanes yesterday afternoon. A press conference for the event was held in Pentagon City. [WTOP, Fox 5]
Part of Park Is Being Used for Parking — A portion of the 22-acre Jennie Dean Park along Four Mile Run near Shirlington is being used as a temporary parking lot for ART buses and vehicles from Shirlington-based public TV station WETA.County officials have promised residents that the portion of the park used will go back to being a park, but admitted they didn’t have any other good options for ART bus parking at the moment. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Samer Farha
(Updated at 10:50 p.m.) Street parking in Arlington will now cost an extra quarter.
Rates for short-term, two hour parking are now $1.50 per hour, up from $1.25. Four hour, or long-term, parking rates are $1.25 per hour, instead of $1.
The increase does not apply to meters with reduced rates of 50-75 cents per hour. Areas with lower parking demand, such as near Virginia Hospital Center, were also not affected by the change, said county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
All digital, multi-space parking meters have been switched to the new rates, Baxter said. Parkmobile, a mobile app that allows users to pay for meters through their phones, has also been updated to reflect the new prices.
Older, mechanical parking meters for individual space will most likely reflect the changes by the end of the week, Baxter said.
“County staff is working diligently to convert the older mechanical meters (this requires a manual effort where staff physically reprograms each individual meter to the new rates),” she said in an email.
The 25 cents increase is predicted to bring in $1 million in revenue per year, but was prompted by higher demand for street parking, according to a county press release from May.
“Raising the rates to levels closer to the rates charged in nearby parking garages and closer to those of the rest of the region will help level the playing field ensuring that businesses that need short-term parking spaces on the street for their customers are more likely to have them available,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a May statement.
The County Board is also expected to discuss a proposal to extend the hours that paid parking is enforced by two hours. If approved, people will have to pay to park until 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a 25 cent-per-hour rise in metered parking rates. The rate increase is expected to be implemented in September and bring in nearly $1 million per year in extra revenue.
(The increase won’t apply to some reduced-rate meters, currently priced between $0.50-0.75 an hour.)
The Board unanimously approved the rate increase and also voted unanimously to delay action on a proposed extension of metered parking hours from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. A public hearing on parking hours is now planned for September.
In a press release (after the jump), the county said that the rate increase is being being made due to increased parking demand. The higher rate will help ensure “that businesses that need short-term parking spaces on the street for their customers are more likely to have them available,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes.
Pentagon City residents are worried about the potential for nightmare traffic and parking woes now that a large portion of the busy Costco parking lot off S. Fern Street has been blocked off for construction.
About half of the parking spaces in Costco’s surface parking lot have been fenced off over the past day or so. Kimco — which owns the Pentagon Centre big box mall and its parking lot — is beginning construction on a seven-story parking garage at the corner of 15th Street S. and Fern Street.
When the parking garage is complete, it’s expected to provide 394 spaces and include 5,919 square feet of ground floor retail as part of a larger development plan. About 260 parking spots were blocked off yesterday, according to George Ronetz, the general manager of Federal Parking, which manages the lot.
The lot will be blocked off until October, Ronetz said, after which time construction crews will repave and reopen it to accommodate the holiday shopping season. In May 2016, construction will resume on the new structure and that portion of the lot will close again.
Shoppers and area residents may worry about a “Costcopocalypse” — the lot is usually packed on evenings and weekends — but Ronetz said he will have staffers direct cars to the parking garage next to the Costco, which has about 520 spaces.
“There’s ample parking spaces, it’s just a matter of parking in a different area,” Ronetz told ARLnow.com today.
Of course, whether drivers who frequent Costco and its notorious parking lot listen to Ronetz and his staff remains to be seen.
“I was literally standing on the street today encouraging people to park in the garage on the roof, and people will flip me off and say ‘No, I will park where I want to park,'” he said. “I’ve been out there personally and have been hit by cars because I’m trying to show a little old lady a place to park and out of nowhere a car hits me in the leg and knocks me down.”
The parking garage has two entrances, off 12th Street and the Fern Street lot. Customers can either park on the roof or a level below it.
If the County Board votes in favor of the motion, meter rates will go from $1.25 to $1.50 an hour, while hours will be extended from 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. County transportation staff estimates the measures would generate an additional $1.6 million in combined revenue in FY 2016.
The changes would go into effect on Sept. 7, 2015.
“County fees are intended to recover the costs of the respective programs,” staff report reads. “The proposed increase in parking meter rates and the proposed extension of hours will cover more of the costs for providing, administering, and maintaining curb-side metered parking spaces than is presently the case, thereby reducing the subsidy currently being provided by General Fund revenues.”
The 181 metered spaces in the county that currently cost 50 or 75 cents an hour would not be affected by the change. Raising the rates, according to the staff report, would bring Arlington more in line with the rest of the region. The District charges $2 an hour in most locations, Alexandria charges $1.75 an hour in most spaces and Bethesda charges $2 for on-street parking, $1.25 for public lots.
If the County Board elects to extend the hours of meters and keep rates flat, it would still provide the county an extra $550,000 in revenue in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
County Treasurer Carla de la Pava announced today that the county is offering EasyPark devices to its residents, the “successor” to the iPark devices it stopped selling because the manufacturer declared bankruptcy in 2013.
The devices are currently available to be ordered online and can be used immediately, we’re told. Anyone, not just Arlington residents, can purchase the devices and use them to park in the county.
“The iPark was very popular, and EasyPark is even better,” de la Pava said in a press release. “It makes metered parking simple and easy. We are pleased to partner with the manufacturer, OTI America, to make EasyPark available to everyone who parks in Arlington.”
The EasyPark device costs $30, and comes with $10 of parking pre-loaded. The device works like the former iPark devices: customers enter which parking zone they are in, turn the pre-paid device on and leave their car. When they return, the driver turns off the device, paying only for the time he or she parked.
The devices can be refilled online at EasyPark’s website and at the treasurer’s office at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, window 215. Each time a device is refilled, EasyPark charges users a $2 fee.
The devices will be displayed on the driver’s side window, and sound a tone every 60 seconds to prevent drivers from paying for unused parking. In addition, meters can be set to “on” overnight, and will automatically turn on at 8:00 a.m. and off at 6:00 p.m.
For those still clinging to their iPark devices, those can still be used and refilled at the treasurer’s office.
Image via EasyPark
Iwo Jima Anniversary — Today marks the 70th anniversary of the famous photo of Marines raising the flag during on Iwo Jima during World War II. Veterans of the battle gathered at the Marine Corps War Memorial near Rosslyn, which depicts the flag raising, to mark its anniversary last week. [Stars and Stripes]
Impromptu Marriage at Fire Station — A Marine and his fiance got married at Arlington’s Fire Station 5 Saturday night. Firefighters got the call at 6:00 p.m. that the Marine, who was deploying the next day, was in desperate need of a hall after their venue was closed due to broken pipes. Firefighters were able to hastily mop the floor and set up chairs in one of the station’s bays before the bride and groom arrived for the short ceremony. [Facebook]
Man Falls on Tracks at Ballston Metro — Around 8:15 this morning, a man somehow fell onto the outbound tracks at the Ballston Metro station. Bystanders were able to hoist the man back onto the platform. According to scanner traffic, he suffered a head injury.
SUV Rollover Near Columbia Pike — An SUV crashed and rolled onto its side at Walter Reed Drive and 13 Street S., near Columbia Pike, on Friday night. The vehicle’s occupants were unhurt and were able to get out on their own, according to a fire department spokesman. Also Friday night, a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on N. Glebe Road near Pershing Drive. The victim was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. [Twitter]
Benjamin Banneker Park to Expand — At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved the purchase of a 8,375 square foot lot and home adjacent to Benjamin Banneker Park in East Fall Church. The $688,710 purchase will allow the park to expand, following the deconstruction of the house. [Arlington County]
James Hunter Park Cost Infographic — What caused the James Hunter dog park in Clarendon to cost so much? Washingtonian has created an interactive graphic that details some of the park’s features and their price tag. [Washingtonian]
Condo Parking Space Kerfuffle — At Saturday’s County Board meeting, the last item of the day, before the Board adjourned early due to the snowstorm, was a site plan amendment for the Virginia Square Condominiums building. The site plan amendment was proposed by the condo association to try to ameliorate a dispute over the size of two parking spaces. ARLnow.com live tweeted the absurdist theater that followed. [Storify]
Flickr pool photo by J. Peterson
The rollout of Arlington’s smartphone parking system is expected to be complete by the end of the weekend.
Metered parking has been gradually adopting the Parkmobile system — which allows users to download the Parkmobile app and use the app to connect to their credit card and pay the meter, including sending notifications when a session is about to expire — neighborhood by neighborhood. It launched in Crystal City and Shirlington in July, in Clarendon and Ballston last month and in Courthouse, Rosslyn and Columbia Pike in the last two weeks.
According to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter, the final phase of the system will be done by the end of the weekend, meaning all meters run by the county in Arlington will be eligible to be paid via smartphone. The kiosks and coin-operated machines are still functional, if motorists prefer to pay with other methods.
Baxter said the system had 34,000 transactions in September. Initially the rollout of the service was expected to stretch into 2015, but due to the widespread use of the system, the county accelerated the app’s deployment. Last month, Columbia Pike had been targeted for a winter expansion of Parkmobile.
Arlington has accelerated its Parkmobile rollout, installing the smartphone app service in Clarendon, Ballston and Virginia Square over the weekend.
The mobile app allows users to enter their parking “zone” number and pay from their phone with pre-saved credit card and vehicle information. It has been in use in D.C. since 2011, and it was first introduced in Crystal City and Shirlington in July, and Pentagon City soon after. Clarendon and Ballston were expected to have the service available “by winter,” county officials said at the time, but the timeline has been pushed up.
“Due to the success of the app, we’re accelerating our rollout schedule,” county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said. “We’re anticipating that the service will be available at all the remaining sectors — Courthouse, Rosslyn and Columbia Pike — by the end of the year.”
Baxter said that, to date, the app has already processed more than 18,200 transactions in Arlington.
The county has 5,329 metered spots, all of which are now expected to be Parkmobile-eligible by 2015. According to Parkmobile CEO Cherie Fuzzell, the app is responsible for 56 percent of D.C.’s parking revenue.
In 2013, when ARLnow.com first reported the county was planning on implementing smartphone payment for parking meters, then-Treasurer Francis O’Leary said there’s a chance revenue could increase from mobile payments, since they wouldn’t pose the convenience or time issues some have with the kiosks currently installed.
Hat tip to Bill Colton
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) The large surface parking lot between the Arlington County Justice Center and Courthouse Plaza appears destined to become open, green space at some point in the future.
Last night, county planners presented three concepts to the community as part of the Envision Courthouse Square outreach process. All of the concepts included using the space the surface parking lot occupies as a sort of town green, with pedestrian and bicycle paths crisscrossing the area in different patterns.
The workshop last night was the last in-person chance the community will have for significant input before staff from Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development drafts a Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, to be brought before the community in the fall and presented to the Arlington County Board this winter.
Moving forward, the county will plan on placing parking underground while “retaining minimal surface parking,” according to CPHD Principal Urban Designer and Planner Jason Beske. There are no plans for buildings on the north edge of the current parking lot to preserve the square, and 14th Street and 15th Street between Courthouse Road and N. Uhle Street will both remain open to vehicular traffic.
Three “big ideas” were brought before those in attendance, which included the Envision Courthouse Square Working Group and county staff. The first, Concept A, calls for 3.9 acres of open space, a pedestrian promenade connecting 15th and 14th Streets N. in front of the AMC Courthouse movie theater and converts 15th Street between N. Courthouse Road and Clarendon Blvd into a shared pedestrian, bike and vehicle corridor.
Concept B, pictured above in the center, calls for the pedestrian promenade to be diagonal from the current Strayer Building — viewed as a target for high-rise redevelopment — to the Verizon Plaza building adjacent to the building that contains the Gold’s Gym. This plan calls for 4.2 acres of open space and includes a pocket park between Courthouse Plaza and N. Veitch Street.
Concept C, pictured above on the right, calls for 3.15 acres of open space and a more east-west alignment of paths and streets in the design area.
The plans for building redevelopment vary significantly among the three plans. Concept A calls for the two buildings with 15th Street frontages to be redeveloped at heights of 153-180 feet for the Strayer building — at the intersection with Clarendon Blvd — and 300 feet for the Landmark Block, at the intersection of with Courthouse Road. It also calls for retail in front of the AMC theater and a new building up to 180 feet tall next to it.
Concept B flips the proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark blocks from Concept A, calls for the redevelopment of the AMC theater into a county or private building up to 180 feet tall and a three-to-five story “cultural building” at the Verizon Plaza site.
Concept C includes the most significant redevelopment: a “market shed” next to the AMC theater, the same proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark block and two, 10-12 story buildings along 14th Street N., with the option to preserve the current theater or include a separate cultural use. The Verizon Plaza would be the site for a new, 300-foot high-rise building.
“Think of these plans as a kit-of-parts,” CPHD staff wrote in its presentation last night. “All of the big ideas are open for your feedback. Feedback results will inform us of the community’s preferences as we take the next steps to combine ideas and test their feasibility. The goal is to create a single, preferred plan that carries our shared vision forward.”
CPHD officials said an online survey will be posted shortly for community members unable to attend last night to weigh in on the three concepts.
Images via Arlington CPHD
Arlington County, which rarely misses an opportunity for a ribbon cutting event, will be holding one this week to kick off the county’s first pay-by-cell parking system.
Arlington will be rolling out the smartphone parking app Parkmobile over the next year — with the service first available to pay for street parking in Shirlington and Crystal City starting later this month.
The service will be expanded to Pentagon City this fall, Ballston and Clarendon this winter, and the rest of the county in the spring.
(Parkmobile is also currently used for pay-by-cell parking in the District of Columbia.)
The county will be holding a ribbon cutting to mark Arlington’s Parkmobile launch on Thursday, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., in front of Charlie Chiang’s Restaurant in Crystal City (320 23rd Street S.).
Those expected to help wield the giant pair of scissors include County Board Chair Jay Fisette, Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach, Crystal City BID President and CEO Angela Fox, and Parkmobile CEO Cherie Fuzzell.
Those who park in Arlington will soon be able to skip the parking meters and pay directly with their smartphone, Arlington County will announce this afternoon.
Arlington will utilize Parkmobile, the same smartphone parking system currently in use by the District of Columbia, allowing smartphone users to use a single app to park in Arlington and the District. Parkmobile is available for iPhone, Android, Windows 7 and Blackberry devices. It utilizes a stored credit card number to pay for parking.
Arlington will offer Parkmobile at all 5,329 metered spaces in the county, though the system will be rolled out in phases. Drivers will be able to use Parkmobile in Shirlington and Crystal City by late July, officials say. It is scheduled to be expanded to Pentagon City in the fall, Ballston and Clarendon in the winter, and all remaining areas — including Courthouse, Rosslyn and Columbia Pike — by spring 2015.
“Whether you use public transportation, bike, walk, or drive in and around Arlington County, we are committed to providing the best commuter experience possible,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a statement. “This technology will make it easier for our residents and visitors to pay for parking.”
Separately, Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary told ARLnow.com Tuesday evening that his office recently signed a 5-year contract to bring the EasyPark parking payment system to Arlington. EasyPark is a battery-operated device that allows drivers to pay for parking without using a parking meter or a phone. It will replace the legacy iPark system; new iParks are no longer available because the company behind the technology went out of business.
Nathan Norton, Deputy of Operations for the Treasurer’s Office, says the county is hoping to have EasyPark systems available for purchase online or at the Treasurer’s Office by mid-July. The devices will cost $30 but will come with $10 worth of parking. EasyPark devices can be refilled online or at the Treasurer’s Office. Unlike the iPark, which hangs from a vehicle’s rear view mirror, the Easypark will hang from the driver’s side window, making enforcement easier, Norton said.
The county says it will continue to accept payment for parking at meters (both mechanical coin-operated meters and credit card-enabled multispace meters) and via existing iParks, even after the new systems are rolled out.