Struggling Skyline Sold — Vornado has taken its properties in Skyline off of its balance sheet after the 2.6 million-square-foot, half-vacant complex sold at a foreclosure auction last week. The cancelled Columbia Pike streetcar project would have run to Skyline, with Fairfax County set to pay 20 percent of the project’s cost. [Washington Business Journal]
More on ‘Pop-Up’ Hotel — The inauguration will be the big test for WhyHotel, the “pop-up” hotel in the new Bartlett apartment building in Pentagon City. Developer Vornado sees this as an experiment that could yield temporary revenue while a building is leased up. Arlington County planning commissioner Erik Gutshall says the county could benefit from additional tax revenue and a more lively streetscape. [Washington Post]
Arlington = NYE Destination? — Travelers coming to the D.C. area for New Year’s Eve should consider staying in Arlington due to its proximity to the District and lower hotel rates, says an article on “last minute deals for New Year’s Eve hotels.” [Travel + Leisure]
Transracial Adoption in Arlington — Arlington is “a fantastic community in which to raise a transracially blended family,” says the father of (now grown) adopted children from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India. [Arlington Magazine]
Clarendon Post Office Murals — A local man has written a 44-page book on the artist who painted seven New Deal-era murals in the Clarendon post office. [Washington Post]
Reporting Issues to the County — Arlington County is reminding residents that they can report out-of-sync traffic signals, crosswalks with broken buttons and other non-emergency service requests via an online form. [Twitter]
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
The next time you get direct marketing mail don’t be so quick to throw it out without at least taking a look. Consider that Lee Garvey and the employees at Click2Mail may have been the people working hard to get the materials into your mailbox.
Garvey worked for years at the U.S. Postal Service, starting as a mail carrier in Arlington and moving into other roles, before founding Click2Mail in 2004. His time as a mail carrier exposed him to a lot of local customers who encountered the same problem: They easily could send out a few letters at a time but had difficulty handling large groups of mail.
So Garvey launched a service to make it easier.
“If you’re just mailing five or 10 letters, it’s easy. But when you get into the higher numbers you have to have a system and a postage meter and all that stuff. So I set out to create an online system,” Garvey says. “I’ve experienced the problems we solve for our customers and the way I got started was identifying a problem and finding a way to solve it.”
The small business digitally creates many types of marketing mail, such as when a business sends out hundreds of postcards to advertise a promotion. Click2Mail also can personalize communications so that a car dealer, for example, can send a letter that personally addresses a customer and mentions the type of car the customer recently purchased. Another service is to offer quick turnarounds for “just in time” communications, which tend to be more time sensitive. Garvey says that if a customer submits a digital file by 8 p.m. on a weekday, Click2Mail often can send out personalized notifications as quickly as the next day for a fraction of what such a service used to cost.
“The sender of the postal mail doesn’t have to do anything. They send to us their assets and documents and mailing lists and we take care of the rest,” Garvey says.
Garvey launched Click2Mail while still working at the Postal Service. USPS officially ran it for three years but then decided not to oversee the service anymore. Around that time, Garvey ended up leaving the Postal Service and branched off Click2Mail as a separate entity. The business still partners with USPS, among others, and can be accessed both through its own website and through the Postal Service’s.
Click2Mail has an office in Clarendon and 15 employees who work throughout the United States. Garvey is a huge believer in allowing staff to work remotely at least a couple days a week — even the local employees — and relying on video conferencing for staff collaboration. He says the concept is “one of the benefits of having a largely digital business.”
The Click2Mail team has experienced ups and downs with the fluctuating economy and people’s changing desires to send physical mail, but it currently is in the process of expansion. The business is looking to hire new employees and is revamping its website. Click2Mail has also gained positive exposure thanks recent recognition from Entrepreneur as number 203 on the magazine’s list of the 360 best and most well-rounded small businesses in America.
“We’re very happy with the place where we are and we’re growing,” Garvey says.
Another positive industry trend, Garvey notes, is one that surprises many people: Traditional mail marketing and advertising is back on the rise.
“Businesses that years ago decided that they were going to go all digital and start sending everything by email… they discovered that the level of attention that’s paid to that type of thing is shrinking,” Garvey says. “People are throwing money at the digital world and discovering it’s not as effective as it used to be and the effectiveness of direct mail is increasing.”
Part of that shift may be due to an “everything old is new again” attitude and a “snail mail” revival thanks to millennials. Garvey explains that each year the Postal Service does a household survey and within the last year “they discovered that millennials are very enthusiastic about physical mail.”
But Garvey knows that going about direct mailing completely in an old school fashion isn’t sustainable in the long term. That’s why Click2Mail has continuously updated and modernized its services. It taps into the trend of companies integrating outsourced microservices.
“We have been following closely and adapting our services to that type of model,” Garvey says. “It’s an old thing in a lot of people’s minds, the idea of postal mail. But we’re doing it in a very modern, very technologically savvy way that gives people the opportunity to create mail in a ‘just in time’ fashion that you never could have imagined just a few years ago.”
Those are just some of the issues with mail delivery and the post office in Douglas Park, residents say.
The neighborhood email listserv has been abuzz for months with reports of postal problems, and it’s not the first time the south Arlington community has experienced such issues.
Last year WJLA reported on mysterious mail problems in Douglas Park, including cases of mail that was inexplicably delivered several months too late, without so much as an explanation or apology.
On Wednesday night, four U.S. Postal Service officials addressed a meeting of the Douglas Park Civic Association to hear residents’ concerns. After some two years of off-and-on postal problems and two previous meetings with USPS officials, residents are frustrated to the point where they’re no longer reporting issues through official channels — only griping on the listserv.
“We’re just trying to desperately understand what we can do to get reliable mail service in this neighborhood,” said civic association president Adam Henderson. “The chatter I see on the listserv, quite honestly, a lot of people are so frustrated with the situation that they don’t want to call because they don’t think anything is going to be done.”
Postal officials apologized for the problems and promised action. They said the matter had made its way all the way to the top — to the U.S. Postmaster General.
“Douglas Park is definitely on the radar screen,” said Sharon Owens, Postal Service District Manager for Northern Virginia and the D.C. area. “Please let your community know that we are committed to improving it.”
A number of factors could be contributing to the erosion of mail reliability in the neighborhood.
Officials said the Postal Service is being hit by a wave of retirements — often leaving less experienced mail carriers who are still getting up to speed on their routes. Owens said USPS is trying out a pilot program to better train new mail carriers.
Another, more localized factor, has to do with topography. Douglas Park is hilly, with few businesses or large apartment buildings. That means that a mail carrier needs to walk for much of their route, which can be exhausting and makes the route less desirable. Because mail carriers with seniority are allowed to pick their routes, that has left a succession of less experienced mail carriers in Douglas Park, residents were told.
Walter Daniels, the local Postmaster, said he was surprised to hear of the problems, since the Postal Service had not been getting complaints about mail delivery in Douglas Park and thus assumed that the previous issues had been resolved.
“We’re in the business of customer service. I really am shocked,” he said. “It sounds like we’re having some mis-deliveries again. We will have to got back to the drawing board” in terms of employee training and “will start monitoring things more closely again.”
The officials also promised to improve customer service at the Arlington South post office, at 1210 S. Glebe Road, which has been the subject of a constant barrage of listserv and online complaints.
Residents, meanwhile, were encouraged to contact USPS when there are complaints about mail service. The Postal Service doesn’t have the resources to monitor neighborhood listservs, as at least one resident suggested they should do.
“We don’t monitor social media on a local level,” said Northern Virginia District Marketing Manager Anthony Prisco. “If residents don’t tell us, we at the local level don’t really have any way of knowing that something is wrong until we come to one of these meetings.”
Also brought up at the meeting: delivery of the Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper.
Residents asked why only part of the neighborhood received the paper for free, a question that postal officials said should be directed to the newspaper. Some speculated that the distribution area was determined by home values or other economic factors.
One elderly resident, who’s outside the distribution area and thus pays to subscribe to the paper, said she’s “frustrated as all get out” because her paper usually arrives late. Postal officials were unable to explain why she often receives her paper on Thursday instead of Tuesday.
Old Post Office Property Vote Tonight — This evening the County Board is scheduled to vote on the property at 1720 S. Eads Street in Crystal City, which used to be a post office. The proposal before the board is to re-zone the property and build a nearly 211,000 square foot residential building. County staff members recommend the Board approves the measures.
Food Stamp Use Doubles in Arlington — The number of people receiving food stamps in Arlington doubled over the past decade. That’s lower than the number of people in Fairfax County (triple) and the city of Alexandria (quadruple). The spike isn’t just due to the recession, it’s because more people are now eligible for food assistance. With expanded eligibility it’s estimated that half of the food stamp recipients now live above the federal poverty level. [The Arlington Connection]
Items with Arlington Logo on Sale — If you’re looking for holiday gifts, now is a good time to give the gift of Arlington — at a discount. The official Arlington County Shop, which is located in the Plaza Branch Library (2100 Clarendon Blvd), is holding an end of the year sale. Items such as shirts, hats, pens, water bottles, golf balls and USB thumb drives all feature the Arlington logo and are marked down, some as much as 50%. [Arlington Public Library]
Your days of waiting in long lines to pick up and send packages at the post office could be over. Ballston Common Mall is one of the first commercial locations in the country to debut a new program from the United States Postal Service called gopost.
The service is designed to make sending and receiving packages easier, because they’re delivered just like regular mail. There’s no need to bring a slip to the post office and wait in line to receive the item. Postal carriers pick up and drop off items at the boxes just like a regular mail box. There’s no additional fee to use the service.
Users set up an account online and choose which location they’d like a package sent to. They’ll receive an email or text message that their package has arrived. At the gopost site, customers check in on a computer and receive their items from the designated post office box. If a signature is required, the customer simply signs the computer screen with a finger.
Users who want to send a package will print postage from their home computers, attach it to the package and drop the package off at a gopost site. The onsite computer informs the postal service that a package needs to be picked up.
USPS spokeswoman Laura Dvorak believes the program will be popular because it’s convenient.
“Why do you want to wait for your package, when your package can wait for you?” Dvorak said. “This way, you don’t waste your time.”
Several post offices throughout Northern Virginia, including the Arlington South Post Office (1210 S. Glebe Road), have installed gopost boxes. Ballston mall is the first non-post office site to feature the service. Dvorak says the location was chosen due to its proximity to many businesses and hotels in the area, as well as the mall being open to the public most hours of the day. It has 80 lockers of three different sizes.
“It’s a matter of convenience,” Dvorak said. “Customers would have access nearly around the clock.”
Customers will need to make one trip to a post office while setting up their registration. A USPS employee will validate the person’s identity and give more information about what items are allowed to be shipped. When the user logs in from a personal computer, the postal services knows who’s requesting shipping services.
“We know the account, we know who that person is,” Dvorak said. “It’s a very important security feature for gopost.”
The service kicked off at Ballston mall last week. It will be expanding throughout Northern Virginia this year. Future gopost locations include grocery stores, pharmacies, transportation hubs and other shopping centers.
Located at the corner of 18th Street and S. Eads Street, the $50 million high-rise apartment building will have more than 200 residences, and will be built under the new Crystal City Zoning District. The building’s closest neighbors will be several older high-rise apartment complexes and a pair of high-rise hotels.
“The livable luxury community will offer residents a boutique hotel experience with a wide variety of amenities,” Kettler said in a press release. “The lobby ‘great room’ will be the central gathering space bridging Crystal City’s bustling 18th Street with the building’s tranquil outdoor courtyard. The Wi-Fi enabled common areas will include a state-of-art fitness center, media lounge and conference room. The rooftop terrace will be a place to both relax and entertain, offering residents a pool with sun deck, kitchen with bar and BBQ grills, and an entertainment lounge centered around a fireplace.”
“Our plans for the redevelopment of the former post office will catalyze the transformation of Crystal City’s western gateway,” said Stephan Rodiger, Vice President of Multifamily for Kettler, in a statement. “We envision the new development providing an anchor to the revitalizing western gateway, bringing a younger urban professional demographic to an area that is poised to be a truly livable and dynamic neighborhood.”
Assuming its plans are ultimately approved by Arlington County, Kettler hopes to break ground on the new building by the end of 2013.
Pentagon City’s new post office opened on S. Fern Street today.
The post office, complete with woodgrain accents and plenty of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, replaces an old, dingy post office at 1720 S. Eads Street. With today’s opening, the Eads Street post office is now closed to customers.
The new post office, at 1301 S. Fern Street, is located in the ground floor of the the Millennium at Metropolitan Park apartment building, across from Costco.