Greater Greater Washington


Breakfast links: Where real estate's hot or not

Photo by whiteknuckled on Flickr.
Poplar Point for FBI?: Mayor Gray will suggest moving the FBI to Poplar Point. (Post) ... Geoff Hatchard explains why that's a bad idea in an addendum to his post yesterday.

Building in Ballston: As renovations are about to start on Ballston Mall, Arlington is working on a plan to transform south Ballston from "predominantly auto-oriented" to "vibrant mixed-use." (ARLnow)

Howard makes dough from real estate: Howard University bought up a lot of land which sat empty as parking lots for many years; now, they're reaping a financial windfall from the land which will become Howard Town Center. (City Paper)

Upper I-270 not so hot: Sprawling office parks in Gaithersburg and Germantown are struggling to fill space; Rockville is "where people want to be." (Gazette, Ben Ross)

Transportation plan reactions: Ken Cuccinelli opposes the Virginia transportation "compromise" not because it's a bad deal but because won't ever raise any taxes; Terry McAuliffe supports it and calls it "mainstream." (Examiner) ... Bob Thomson notes that it's unclear if Northern Virginia commuters would benefit from the plan. (Post)

Cyclist's life worth $140?: A driver rear-ended a cyclist on the shoulder of Route 3 in Prince George's County, killing her. The driver pled guilty to negligent driving; her sentence: a $140 fine. (Bowie Blade)

Good things come from bag fees: We know the bag fees have reduced bag use, but what is the revenue going to? Elevation profiles 4 organizations that got grants from DC's program or have benefited from Montgomery County's.

Graham under fire: Phil Mendelson wants the council to reprimand Jim Graham for his alleged lottery contract ethics lapses; Graham is suing the ethics board, saying he hasn't gotten a fair hearing. Marion Barry is siding with Graham. (DCist, Post)

3 neat apps: Walkanomics tries to better estimate a street's walkability, but needs more and better open data. ... SpotAgent uses Baltimore's open data to estimate your chance of getting a ticket if you park illegally ... StreetMix lets you draw your own cross-section of a street, like the ones in transportation plans. (Atlantic Cities)

And...: Fairfax residents want to keep 2 express buses to the Pentagon. (WTOP) ... Sequestration could close the panda exhibit at the zoo. (DCist) ... LivingSocial might have been in even more trouble than previously reported, but they say no. (WBJ)

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 


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In other bag news:

by charlie on Feb 22, 2013 9:28 am • linkreport

Hey I live south of the Ballston mall!

Anyway, the redevelopment of the mall is big news but its not new and the rest of ballston has been coming online quite nicely despite the mall rather than because of it.My evidence is the new buildings and restaurants that have opened on glebe and the new buildings between Quincy and Randolph.

Now if I could only convince Macy's to move out and let Target move in to that space.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

Also, VA democrats should immediately start running ads claiming that Ken Cuccinelli would rather traffic get worse and worse rather than do anything to try and fix it.

/In addition to all of his other craziness.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 9:33 am • linkreport

In other news: Study funded by plastics industry supports position profitable to plastics industry.

by TM on Feb 22, 2013 9:35 am • linkreport

Marion Barry is siding with Graham. LOL. Of course. This link is too long. You need to chop the end up.

Ken Cuccinelli opposes ... Terry McAuliffe supports

Please, please can we get better gov candidates? Where are the competent candidates? This whole election is gonna be a mudslinging shitstorm.

by Jasper on Feb 22, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport


Or people should learn how to clean out the bag that they carry meat in.

by RJ on Feb 22, 2013 9:43 am • linkreport

Or, y'know, just pay the darn nickel and get one plastic bag for the meats.

by Simon on Feb 22, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

BTW the zoning changes suggested for Quincy street in Arlington is a no brainer.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

I think what Howard did was pretty forward thinking during a low point for the city. I'm glad if they can make some money out of it and get some new dorms, housing is tight enough in the city already.

by Alan B. on Feb 22, 2013 9:56 am • linkreport

The smaller thin bags that you can use to cover meat or vegetables are FREE, people. This needs to be communicated better.

by MLD on Feb 22, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

Doesn't Macy's own their building?

by selxic on Feb 22, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

@Jasper; it is called Bolling, and given how weak the D and R tickets are he has a chance.

The e coli is from salads and veggies, not meat. Sorry.

by charlie on Feb 22, 2013 10:02 am • linkreport


So the e coli just mysteriously appears on the bags by itself?And here I thought miasma theory was no longer accepted science!

The e coli is from cross-contamination between meats/veggies and leaky meat containers being put directly into cloth bags.

by MLD on Feb 22, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

I can't believe how many democrats are folding on this plan. I will be the first to admit I was wrong. This will likely pass. The repercussions will be devastating once they realize that what they have done is killed the Dulles Rail project.

The C&I requirement of the bill will force Loudoun out of the project, and either stall the project a few years, or kill it all together.

But bravo lawmakers, lets settle for a crappy plan that ultimately is a tax cut to hummers and a penalty which costs more to be a Hybrid driver

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 22, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

Why isn't the Walter Reed property being considered for the FBI headquarters? It is big enough for this use.

by Ben on Feb 22, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

Good for Howard for making money from their smart real estate investments over the years. But couldn't they call it something better than "Howard Town Center"? Howard isn't a town, it is in a city, which has a downtown. "Town Center" is a name associated with suburban developments that are looking to create some sort of town-like core.

by Mike on Feb 22, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

I don't know, that's purely pipe dreaming from me.

I was noticing on the story on N. Quincy a lot of people misunderstanding how zoning works. People weren't far removed from saying that Arlington was basically going to condemn the Harris Teeter and the Mercedes dealership rather than just allowing for tall buildings there if the landowners think they could get more value out of that.

by drumz on Feb 22, 2013 10:25 am • linkreport

The story of the cyclist-killing driver getting off with a $140 fine makes me sick to my stomach. I'm not sure lengthy incarceration is a better option but a long license suspension and resistitution seems appropriate.

What I didn't see mentioned in the story is if the cell phone records were subpoenaed to see if she was talking or texting at the time of the accident.

by dcmike on Feb 22, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

For anyone interested, I do have egg on my face, the C&I provision in the bill was removed last night after negotiating with Loudoun to include language which allows any local taxes imposed for the 30% of transportation funding.

I still disagree with the amount they are charging for Hybrid Fees, which arbitrarily pit it in the same weight class as a hummer for road damage.

by Tysons Engineer on Feb 22, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

The fact that there have been multiple bike/ped accidents on that stretch of 3/301 makes me less concerned about greater punishment for an individual driver and more concerned about safer infrastructure for non-motorized commuters. If the WB&A bridge had already been built, Cooper would most likely still be alive, as it will (if/when it is ever built) be a great way to get from the general area of Crunchies to most of Bowie.

by Jon on Feb 22, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

@charlie, did you happen to read that study you linked to? It's incredibly amateurish, not published in any journal, not peer reviewed, and fails to make any positive link between those going to the ER and reusable bag usage, among other flaws.

Oh, and it was sponsored by the trade group that represents plastic bag manufacturers.

by dcmike on Feb 22, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

Not surprised the council is dragging its heels wrt to Graham. It was much easier to censor Barry...for his rather small indiscretion.

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

Since when the amount of a fine equal to the value of the victim's life? Your statement demonstrates a total lack of understanding of criminal vs. civil law. In fact, in a criminal case, strictly speaking, the victim has no formal role. It is the state (or the people) bringing charges against a person for violating laws that the people have established to govern themselves.

Civil court is where the victims and their families are to be, as close as possible, made whole. So if you want to use any court to determine a person's worth, look to the ultimate civil judgement or settlement in this case, which I assure you will be a lot more than $140.

However, be cautious when using the word "worth" when talking about compensation for victims. You open up a whole can of worms. For example, if the cyclist was the CEO of a major corporation rather than a dishwasher, is his or her life "worth" more? In the civil courts, absolutely since earning potential is a major factor in judgements. Is a person with 3 kids "worth" more than one with no kids? Again, in most court cases yes.

by dcdriver on Feb 22, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

@dcmike: And it's entirely based on county-level rates over five years for 11 counties. They find some strong relationship between the timing of the ban and the whatever poisoning case counts they're using, but they don't provide any evidence that it's all related to the bag ban.

by Gray on Feb 22, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

I think the claim that "office parks in Gaithersburg and Germantown are struggling to fill space" is misleading. In Germantown in particular, it's a very black/white situation with some office spaces (such as Matan's office buildings west of I-270 and the huge empty custom lab space next door) struggling, while others successful.

Qiagen, which is mentioned in the cited article, has just expanded it's large complex in Germantown (it's North American HQ) and plans to expand even more in the near future. In addition, the Milestone Office Park has been very successful, with 2 new 5-6 story office buildings added during the past 5 years, including one fully leased to Boeing-owned DRT. This is in addition to JDSU and the HQ of ACS/Weatherbug (yes, that Weatherbug) already on the property in their own buildings.

by King Terrapin on Feb 22, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer

Care to elaborate further? I don't understand the C&I provision. I am not happy to see you with egg on your face. This bill is garbage, and to see you now saying it is going to pass is really disappointing. The $100 hybrid fee is absolutely unconscionable.

by Kyle-W on Feb 22, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport


"Why isn't the Walter Reed property being considered for the FBI headquarters? It is big enough for this use."

Walter Reed is far more valuable to DC for use as a mixed-use residential/commercial/retail district because of the prospective tax receipts they won't get if the FBI is there. The reason the DC gov is endorsing Poplar Point is because it's remote, not in a highly desirable area, already on fed. govt. property (i.e. no net loss of tax receipts), and would probably never be redeveloped privately.

by King Terrapin on Feb 22, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport


"The story of the cyclist-killing driver getting off with a $140 fine makes me sick to my stomach. I'm not sure lengthy incarceration is a better option but a long license suspension and resistitution seems appropriate.

What I didn't see mentioned in the story is if the cell phone records were subpoenaed to see if she was talking or texting at the time of the accident."

From the article:

"The driver of the car...remained on the scene. Investigative reports by Maryland State Police showed that (the driver) was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs and there was no evidence she was speeding.

At the time of the accident there were no negligent homicide laws that (the driver) could have been charged with so the most serious charges filed against her were negligent driving."

It's a tragedy that young woman was killed. But an investigation was performed and under the law the fine was the only punishment available.

by ceefer66 on Feb 22, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

News on this.

The hybrid fee remains in the bill. The smart growth community was basically sold down the river so that they could get a negotiation on ....

Medicaid expansion


by Tysons Engineer on Feb 22, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

Is Target an improvement over Macy's?

by Chris on Feb 22, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

It was much easier to censor Barry...for his rather small indiscretion.

Taking kickbacks is "rather small"? No wonder people can't take the Ward 8 electorate seriously.

by Vinh An Nguyen on Feb 22, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Re Ballston Common - are the renovations occurring within the existing structure, or is some or all of the structure being demolished? I couldn't tell from the article.

by Frank IBC on Feb 22, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

Frank IBC, I would guess that no building demolition is going on with the Ballston Mall, as the Capitals have a very nice and rather new practice facility on the top level of the mall/garage structure. It's immensey popular place to skate for local youth and adult hockey teams and figure skaters, plus open skate sessions. It's full from 6 am to 11 pm most days.

by Birdie on Feb 22, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

@Frank IBC: the renderings appear to show that the Macy's Furniture space will be demo'd and replaced with an apartment high-rise. The article also mentions adding a few floors of office and reconfiguring retail; I imagine that it converts interior retail to office.

by Payton on Feb 22, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by HogWash on Feb 22, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport


Medicaid expansion is a huge issue - it would get health insurance to lots of uninsured virginians. It would also bring $$ into virginia. Its opposed by the tea partiers. Its definitely worth fighting for, and Im glad the Va Dems are doing so.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport


what do hybrids have to do with smart growth (which is not identical to all sustainability concerns)?? Someone with a hybrid is still driving, is still parking, is still making our roads less bike/ped friendly when we create road space for them, is still living a life style that is oriented towards low densities.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Feb 22, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

what do hybrids have to do with smart growth

Not much. But, the one thing it has to do with is making walking more pleasant and healthier due to less exhaust fumes. I'm not a picky walker and don't mind walking places that are not particularly ped-friendly but excessive fumes will cause even the hardiest walker to thing twice about walking along a major artery.

Also, biking behind a car in slow moving rush hour traffic, sucking up their fumes is no fun either. Unfortunately, the tailpipe lines up pretty much with where one bikes.

by Falls Church on Feb 22, 2013 4:26 pm • linkreport


But an investigation was performed

I don't think you answered his question though. He's wondering if they investigated cell phone use, and the article doesn't say one way or the other. He's asking how thorough that investigation was. This would not be the first case in US history where the investigators missed something.

by David C on Feb 22, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

It's a tragedy that young woman was killed. But an investigation was performed and under the law the fine was the only punishment available.

Love this. Used to be that a husband could rape his own wife with impunity, but that was nothing to get upset about. After all, the law was the law.

Injustice because of shitty laws (or the absence of sane laws) should be cause for more outrage, not less.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

"Injustice because of shitty laws (or the absence of sane laws) should be cause for more outrage, not less."

That and $2 will get you through 3 or 4 Metro stops off-peak.

Don't like the laws? Lobby for change. Outrage is futile otherwise.

As is shooting the messenger.

by ceefer66 on Feb 22, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

Don't like the laws? Lobby for change. Outrage is futile otherwise.

Actually, outrage over outrageous things is often a driver of change. So, yep, we're lobbying for change. But it's a bit odd to hear that we can't get outraged because a thing is *legal*. What's that got to do with anything?

Heck, you hear folks at GGW getting worked up about things like enforcing speed limits as though it were the greatest injustice of the last quarter millennium.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2013 6:21 pm • linkreport

Cyclists are not "rear-ended" by cars.

They are "run over."

by Arrgh Street on Feb 22, 2013 9:00 pm • linkreport

Good grief man, give it a rest!

Your outrage - motivated more by driver hate than anything productive - will accomplish about as much as getting mad at the person who points it out - nothing.

I'll say it again. Direct your anger at those who can change the cause of your ire. Yelling at me makes as much sense as - frankly, nothing. As it is, you're acting like a dog in an night-time barking contest.

by ceefer66 on Feb 23, 2013 1:09 am • linkreport

Well, talking about it on the blog helps other people learn what to do or help them realize that a certain habit needs to be changed.

A personal example is that I didn't know that it was better for me to merge into the bike lane before turning right.

Writing to your elected officials is great but talking here isn't without value either.

by Drumz on Feb 23, 2013 2:06 am • linkreport

@ Drumz:A personal example is that I didn't know that it was better for me to merge into the bike lane before turning right.

Actually, it is not. But DC/DDOT still needs to figure that out. It will take a decade and some deaths before they figure that out.

by Jasper on Feb 23, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

Jasper, so then you think a driver should turn from the lane to the left of the bike lane? Shouldn't drivers be in the rightmost lane when turning right?

by David C on Feb 23, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

@ David C: I do not know how exactly to solve this in the US.

In Europe, the right of way rules are a bit different and solve the problem. Traffic that goes straight always has the right of way (that's why a turning car has to yield to a pedestrian). So, as a driver, you are taught to check for and yield to bikers and pedestrians on your right before you turn. Problem solved.

This becomes a reflex. I still do it, despite that by now 90+% of my driving experience is in the US.

American road rules define the right of way a bit less, leaving it more in the air who would have the right of way.

Personally, I think it's dangerous to let drivers in bike lanes. It makes bike lanes less safe. A bike lane is intended to protect bikers. Drivers generally do not respect bike lanes anyway, and letting them in there does not make things better. Drivers now swerve in there, often without looking, or blinking. That will lead to accidents, especially on downhill roads.

Furthermore, in congested areas, I regularly end up being blocked by several cars that are blocking the bike lane to turn right into a congested road, while I want to go straight onto an uncontested block. But I can't go anywhere.

So as a solution, I'd like to keep the bike lanes bike-only. Cars would have to check and see if they can cross a bike lane, similarly as they have to check for pedestrians crossing. We don't let cars use the side-walk either...

by Jasper on Feb 24, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Jasper, we've had bike lanes in this country for almost 30 years. Is there any evidence that having drivers merge into bike lanes causes crashes, injuries or death? I'm not aware of any.

by David C on Feb 24, 2013 9:00 pm • linkreport

David C: Well, we have crashes in bike lanes, so it's not like one can say "this has been working with no problems ever." The question is whether it's better than another way of doing it. I am all for having drivers merge in, but other jurisdictions like Oregon have made a different choice.

I haven't seen any research yet that one is better than the other, though it might certainly exist as I don't read all the bike research.

by David Alpert on Feb 24, 2013 9:25 pm • linkreport

But that isn't Jasper's point. Jasper's point is that doing it the way you're encouraged to is the problem. But in every bike lane death I'm familiar with, either the driver or cyclist hasn't done it the right way. So the problem is failure to merge, not the merging itself.

by David C on Feb 24, 2013 10:10 pm • linkreport

@ David C:Is there any evidence that having drivers merge into bike lanes causes crashes, injuries or death?

I don't have numerical proof. I do belief bike boxes are designed to prevent problems between bikes and cars at intersections. I do know that in Europe, where they generally have very safe biking, bike lanes on regular roads specifically get physically separated at intersections. I assume this is to prevent accidents.

Random example:

View Larger Map

by Jasper on Feb 25, 2013 9:19 am • linkreport

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