There’s an App for That…

There are lots of different ways to handle odd jobs around the house. You can meet the tasks head-on, enlist friends and family or just procrastinate. But this being 2017, there’s also now an app-based option.

Takl, which was founded in Nashville last year, is expanding into the Baltimore area. It also expanded into D.C. The app allows users to book folks to come to their house and get the housework done.

“Takl is now coast to coast with our on-demand platform that provides immediate help for customers with small chores and jobs with our easy-to-use app,” CEO Willis Johnson said in a statement.

(Technically Baltimore)

New All Day Dining Spot at Navy Yard

Navy Yard will get a new all-day dining spot when Slipstream opens Saturday. It’s the second location of the high-end coffee shop by day and buzzy bar by night. The first Slipstream from married co-founders Miranda Mirabella and Ryan Fleming opened in Logan Circle in October 2014.

Fleming says he was most excited about the opportunity to be a part of a community that’s taking shape. “A lot of other places, you’re there trying to be the new player, trying to integrate yourselves,” he says. “Here, there are a lot of new buildings. Everyone’s just moving in.”

Slipstream sits at the base of the Contact ORE 82 apartment building (82 I St. SE). The build-out has allowed the duo to streamline service, something Fleming believes is an improvement over the Logan Circle location, where there’s sometimes confusion over how to order and where to sit. “We want it to be easy, where as a customer, you can’t make a mistake,” Fleming says.


Marriott to Change the Face of Bethesda

In 2022, Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, will move its corporate headquarters to downtown Bethesda, bringing with it over 3,000 employees, 22 stories of office space, an additional hotel with more than 200 rooms, and 800 onsite parking spaces. What it’s also bringing: renewed excitement over a wave of development designed to transform the Maryland neighborhood.

“Marriott will be a huge boost for downtown Bethesda,” Dyer told UrbanTurf. “The county was desperate to keep Marriott, and we need them, as no major corporation has moved to Montgomery County in two decades.”

Granted, Marriott is just moving its headquarters from one part of Bethesda (10400 Fernwood Road) to another (7750 Wisconsin Avenue). But it’s a five-mile move that could have big ramifications for the area.

“Marriott’s employees are going to inject a tremendous amount of cash into the shops and restaurants downtown,” Dyer says.

(Urban Turf)

Taking to the Highways, Byways and Airways

Expect heavier traffic on the region’s highways this weekend as more Washington-area residents plan to kick off the summer season with a road trip.

About a million area residents will venture at least 50 miles from home this Memorial Day weekend, the highest number in 12 years, according to forecasts. Nine in 10 travelers will get to their destination by car, bringing heavier traffic to the region’s road network starting Thursday afternoon.

Nationwide, more than 39 million Americans are expected to travel away from home over the long weekend.

The expected spike in travel mirrors positive growth in the U.S. travel industry this year, said Tom Calcagni, regional director of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. It also comes as more people are driving overall, lured in part by lower gas prices.

“Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day,” Calcagni said.

Cars remain the preferred mode of travel. Nationwide, AAA estimates that nearly 35 million people will get to their destinations by car, an increase of about 2.4 percent over last year. The remaining travelers will fly or take other modes of transportation, including train and bus.

In the Washington area, the majority — 891,500 — of those traveling say they plan to drive. More than 78,200 are expected to fly, and 29,100 will go by bus, train or boat, AAA said.

With so many people expected to drive to their destinations, transportation officials and experts say planning is key, including adding plenty of time and patience to your trip.

“This is the beginning of crab season, but don’t be crabby. Don’t get hot, be cool,” said Jim Ports, deputy secretary of operations at the Maryland Department of Transportation.

“Enjoy your family time in the vehicle. Turn up the music. Relax,” he said. “It’s not important how fast you get there. The most important thing is that you get there safely.”

Air travel also is expected to be the highest in years for the holiday, both locally and across the United States, a sign that recent high-profile airline-related incidents captured on video are not discouraging Americans from flying. Locally, travelers should anticipate longer lines at the region’s three airports

Reagan National, Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall — where air travel is expected to be more than 6 percent higher this holiday weekend than last year.

Based on historical traffic data, holiday travelers are likely to see the heaviest congestion between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday and Monday. Data shows that traffic for the holiday period will also be heavy Thursday afternoon.


The Race is On

Most prospective homebuyers or people interested in real estate are familiar with Zestimate, Zillow’s tool that approximates home values. However, the tool has been getting some negative attention in the wake of a class-action lawsuit in Illinois that decries the tool’s inaccuracies as undermining home sales.

Today, Zillow announced the Zillow Prize, a contest that will award $1 million to whomever can improve the tool’s precision.

Zestimate’s accuracy has already improved since its unveiling 11 years ago, from monthly updates garnering an estimate with a 14 percent error rate to instantaneous updates that put half of all Zestimates within 5 percent of the home’s eventual sales price.

Analysis factors include data such as comparable sales, price per square foot, tax assessments and last sales price. This data is then plugged into a larger algorithm that constantly assesses the weight of these factors in each census tract in order to recommend an estimated home value.

“Zillow is by far the most widely-used real estate site by a mile, and so Zestimates are prominent and not everybody will always agree with them,” Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff commented during a CBS interview earlier this morning. “Ultimately, the Zestimate is a great starting point, really good information, but every home is worth what a buyer will pay for it and somebody applies human judgment on top of that.”

Now, Zillow is aiming to leverage that “human judgment” by essentially crowdsourcing a solution to improve the computational accuracy of the Zestimate home valuation algorithm.

A public qualifying round, requesting models that will lessen the tool’s residual error, will close next January and narrow the contestants down to 100 teams. The final round will require teams to create algorithms that actually predict home sales prices. The winner will be selected January 15, 2019.

As for the lawsuit? Rascoff dismissed it as “frivolous” and “without merit”.

(Urban Turf)

Just in Time for the Holiday Weekend

Upgrades and additions to the Mount Vernon Trail near Theodore Roosevelt Island have been unveiled just ahead of the long holiday weekend. The parking lot at Theodore Roosevelt Island just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which closed March 1, reopened Wednesday.

To improve safety, the trail has been realigned and elevated where it crosses the parking lot.

“We have the trail that goes across a raised speed table. We’ve narrowed the traffic lanes, the driving lanes, to slow down the cars,” said the National Park Service’s Aaron LaRocca, chief of staff for the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Bike racks are among the new features added near the entrance to the island.

“We have some new wayfinding signs. We have a new trail map. We have a water fountain that’s dog-friendly,” LaRocca said.

Cross the footbridge from the parking lot to the island, and you’ll see the statue of the nation’s 26th president looking particularly spiffy. A volunteer group of veterans came out last weekend and gave the statue its first cleaning in several years.


Choice Hotels May Start New Trend for Brand

Choice Hotels International Inc. may have the answer for vacant D.C.-area office buildings: turn them into Cambria Hotels. The company (NYSE: CHH) has been actively touring existing building sites in Greater Washington to determine whether they are good candidates for conversions, said Steve Stoycos, managing director for Choice Hotels. There’s also some conversion potential in warehouse or industrial-style retail buildings, he said.


Concept Approved for Iconic Georgetown Site

Last Thursday, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) approved the concept for the redevelopment of the West Heating Plant. While this is not the final hurdle for the project (far from it), it is a major hurdle to clear and the likelihood of the project going forward has increased significantly.

The concept approved by the CFA was actually the one most recently rejected by the Old Georgetown Board (OGB). While it is often considered to have the final word, the OGB is merely a sub-organ of the CFA and can only make recommendations to the senior body. Most of the time those recommendations are rubber stamped (hence the perception), but sometimes they’re not. That’s what happened here.

The approved concept is, in GM’s opinion, the best proposal put forward for the project so far. It’s not the perfect example of adaptive reuse, but given the physical and logistical challenges the building presents, this is, at least, a very good example.

As mentioned above, more hurdles await. For instance, this was only concept approval. Actual design approval must be obtained. Generally once concept approval has been granted, the design approval is much more readily granted.

(Georgetown Metropolitan)

Welcomed News for Residents of Sheriden-Kalorama

Drivers in Sheridan-Kalorama will begin seeing “resident-only” parking on their neighborhood streets as soon as this weekend — a rare step that responds to recent security-related parking pressures associated with the area’s new high-profile residents: the Obamas and Ivanka Trump.

Resident-only parking reserves one side of each residential street for vehicles registered in the same zone, while keeping the conventional two-hour grace period for all cars on the other side of the street. In Sheridan-Kalorama, any vehicle registered in Zone 2 (roughly corresponding to Ward 2) with a Residential Parking Permit sticker will be able to use the new resident-only parking. Even so, proponents are optimistic that it will cut down on the commuters and taxi drivers who frequently fill many local streets.


Everything from Tuna Tartare to Cheeseburgers

Lina’s is open at 8402 Georgia Ave., the former space of the Piratz Tavern that briefly served as a temporary location to the Quarry House Tavern. It is described it as a “new American diner rooted in French technique.”

On the menu are French items like frisee aux lardons for $10.95, alongside other diner options such as a TNT toast with tuna tartare for $12.95 or a double cheeseburger for $14.95. It has draft beer, wines, and cocktails including daiquiris and Bloody Marys.

It’s open for dinner during its soft opening this weekend, and Parkhurst said he expects to start lunch service and happy hour around the beginning of June.

(Bethesda Beat)