Pre-School Testing…

The form for admission into pre-K and kindergarten includes 35 rankings for abilities such as listening skills, cooperation, and curiosity. Additional questions ask about things that frustrate the child and about personality traits, including self-control and sense of humor. (Although a preschooler, by definition, won’t have had a previous teacher to fill out the form, it can be completed by a babysitter, camp leader, or daycare provider.)

The evaluation—which has been in use about ten years—is, according to AISGW’s Lynn Maloney, noticeably different when compared with the form used by independent schools in other parts of the country. An example is the “academic skills” section of the evaluation form used by San Francisco schools. It asks teachers about such skills as the ability to grip a pencil, draw with detail, and speak clearly. In their academic-skills section, by contrast, Washington-area schools want to know if a child is attentive, contributes to group discussions, and follows directions.

It’s all part of the “character movement,” says Meghan Brenneman, a researcher with the Enrollment Management Association, which develops admissions materials for private schools nationally. While preschools still care about a child’s skills—say, whether she can recognize letters—they’re also interested in such measures as ability to lead.

Schools have always tried to ensure that a child is a “good fit” with their culture, to create a cohesive cohort among students—who may be in the same classes for years. The attention to character is just another measure toward that goal. And the soon-to-be-longer teacher evaluation isn’t the only tool being tweaked to try to assess character.


Self-Driving Cars Impact Real Estate Market?

Self-driving cars are supposed to bring us numerous benefits, such as fewer accidents, less traffic, and more personal time. But could they also lower real estate prices in places like Southern California and San Francisco, where city officials are grappling with skyrocketing housing costs?

Autonomous vehicles will allow developers to devote less space and resources to driveways and garages, according to a report by San Diego real estate analyst Gary London. Garages could then be converted into living spaces, a separate report from John Burns Real Estate Consulting said.

London estimates that the cost of housing construction could be cut by 20 to 25 percent if parking is no longer necessary and residents don’t require a space to park a personal car. Burns predicts that idle garages will undergo “complete overhauls” and be remodeled into “functioning living space,” creating a boon for the home repair and remodel industry.

There are also numerous incentives for cities to ease parking requirements for new construction projects in high-density and expensive areas such as San Diego and San Francisco. But I’m not convinced people will be willing to give up their garages or spots in California and other locations.

The High Cost of Parking

Parking spaces are an expensive proposition for builders, and they’re usually required by local regulations. A report last month by the San Diego Housing Commission estimated that the cost of a single parking spot in a new apartment building in the city costs $10,000 at ground level, $30,000 for above ground, and $70,000 for underground parking.

But city officials are starting to change their views on parking policies as it relates to building and developers are responding. For example, in San Francisco a builder teamed with Uber and the city to offer residents a $100-a-month credit to use on the ride-sharing company’s services and public transportation if they gave up a parking space.

Autonomous vehicles will also lead to less demand for on-street parking, London says. According to Burns, “wide streets, massive driveways, and two-/three-car garages [will be] a thing of the past.” This could mean more space for bicycles and pedestrians, which is appealing to cities and its residents.

But it could also just make way for bigger, even more expensive homes, especially in San Francisco. Turn that garage space into a third or fourth bedroom and charge an extra $1 million, or squeeze another high-rise condo into a lot previously reserved for parking. More real estate doesn’t mean cheaper real estate.

London also concedes that many people still consider cars a status symbol. He notes that “developers provide parking in buildings today not just because they have to (current zoning laws) but because they want to (it’s a marketing thing).”


15 Minutes from DC to Baltimore?

The idea of a train connecting DC to Baltimore in 15 minutes is a bit closer to becoming a reality.

After completing a federally-funded environmental study, the Maryland Department of Transportation and planners for a Superconducting Magnetic Levitation have three proposed routes for the journey between DC and Baltimore.

The main route that has been publicized would have a station in either the Mount Vernon Square/Chinatown area or near NoMA/Gallaudet Metro station, a stop at BWI Marshall Airport, and a final stop in either the Westport, Port Covington or Federal Hill/Inner Harbor neighborhoods. The tunnels for the routes could either run alongside the Baltimore-Washington Parkway or parallel a portion of Amtrak’s lines.

The project planners hope to have a route approved by mid-2019, paving the way for design and construction to begin later the same year. After completion, the line would eventually be extended northward to New York City.

(Urban Turf)

The Granite Craze

It hasn’t always been that way. In 1986, when legendary graphic designer Deborah Sussman used granite countertops in her kitchen, the New York Times called it a “down-to-earth” choice. The next year, it was singled out as a cutting-edge material in the Los Angeles Times, but still too expensive for most people. Throughout the ’80s, granite was still jockeying with marble for favor among California yuppies.

So how did granite go from niche countertop to mass fixation? American imports of granite have increased about tenfold in the past 20 years. It’s not only changing consumer tastes that caused the shift — big global market forces have a hand in the granite takeover as well.


Luring Amazon

Top Maryland officials are preparing to offer Inc. a massive, historic tax incentive package if the retailer moves its second headquarters to the state.

“It will be the biggest incentive offer in the state’s history by a mile,” said Douglass Mayer, spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, who declined to reveal details of the incentive package, citing competition from other states.

As the final days tick away for the deadline to send a proposal to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to locate its second headquarters away from Seattle, the hype is growing for hundreds of cities and states, Maryland included.

Already, the state has invested more than $50 million in tax incentives for two Amazon distribution centers in Baltimore and Cecil County. Another package totaling at least $16.2 million is awaiting a deal under negotiation in Baltimore County at the former Sparrows Point steel mill site.


Critical Processes in Public Spaces

In a place like New York City, residential and public space are both so scarce that residents “rent” social time at bars, cafes, and cultural institutions. Shopping, which became a quintessential American pastime of postwar culture, remains a dominant way of using the city. But as purchases come to depend less on in-person transactions, brands are pivoting towards driving sales through aspirational experiences where the store becomes a more flexible backdrop for performing identity.

New strategies for branded space necessarily harness real estate, consumer spending, and cultural production to the mechanics of social media platforms. It’s worth thinking critically about these processes in order to better approach how both brands and people are renegotiating a public sphere—one that is reproduced by audiences more and more fluidly distributed between offline and online “spaces.”

(The Atlantic)

The Anthem Opens

The Wharf DC, the much anticipated $2 billion development along D.C.’s Southwest waterfront, begins its grand opening celebrations tomorrow. Alongside more than a dozen restaurants and considerable retail space, the development will be a music hub with three new venues opening.

Union Stage, from the team at Jammin’ Java, and Pearl Street Warehouse offer more intimate settings, but it’s The Anthem, the venue from I.M.P.—the company behind the 9:30 Club—that is anchoring the entire development. The room hosts its grand opening tomorrow with a sold-out Foo Fighters performance.

“We’ve been looking for the next step up from the 9:30 Club probably for fifteen years,” says Donna Westmoreland, I.M.P.’s chief operating officer. “We looked at every space and every existing building that could be re-purposed in the D.C. area.”

Westmoreland and Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., became aware of the waterfront project in 2010, and also caught wind of a need for an arts/cultural anchor tenant. Hurwitz contacted PN Hoffman, the principal developer, and the partnership began. The company had already been toying with the idea of focusing on local restauranteurs and retailers to occupy the space, so the idea resonated of having an independent, local promoter establish a performance space.

The result of this seven-year collaboration is a $60 million, 57,000 square-foot space that can hold between 2,500 and 6,000 people depending upon its configuration. This flexibility was a key component to the plans because I.M.P. has had to rent spaces ranging from Strathmore to the Patriot Center, and The Anthem had to be able to cover the gamut.

Terrible Traffic Tonight

There are three major events taking place within a few blocks of each other in Southeast D.C. on Thursday that could cause a lot of headaches on the commute home.

“All signs point to Thursday evening being a really bad commute in the District of Columbia,” said WTOP’s Dave Dildine.

The first is the grand opening of The Wharf.

“We’ve been gearing up for a bad traffic day with the grand opening for months,” Dildine said. “But now with Game 5 coinciding, we’re likely to go from bad to worse.”

The grand opening alone is expected to bring in nearly 20,000 visitors and some people who live in the area are already concerned there won’t be enough buses to accommodate everyone.

“Basically you should be able to count on the bus arriving every 10-15 minutes tops,” said Councilman Charles Allen, D-Ward 6. “And right now, you’re waiting about 30 minutes.”

One of the centerpieces of The Wharf is a new concert venue, The Anthem, which will be playing host to a sold-out concert for the Foo Fighters on Thursday. Doors open for the concert at 6:30 p.m.


To Uber or Metro? Depends on Where You are Headed To…

With Metrorail ridership declining due to maintenance issues and unreliable service, it stands to reason that a lot more people are relying on alternative forms of transportation like ride-hailing services. But how much time does an Uber or Lyft really save you on your journey?

A new post from District, Measured seeks to answer that question with a graphic representation comparing the costs and times of various trips — both long and short trips that require no transfer between Metro lines and trips within DC that require a transfer — and an interactive tool comparing the travel times of both Metro and Uber.

Based on the 114 trips studied, trips within the District that would require transferring between Metro lines are generally faster via Uber X than Metro, although those trips tend to be $5 to $15 more costly than a train fare.

For example, a commuter would save 15 minutes on a trip from Union Station to Benning Road if they used Uber X rather than Metro. There are some instances where this doesn’t hold true, though, as it is 10 minutes faster to take Metro to get from Columbia Heights to Eastern Market than to take Uber, assuming that trains are running on time and there are no service issues. For trips outside of the District that don’t require a transfer, an on-time Metro can be a better value, as the trip from Metro Center to Bethesda is 14 minutes shorter by Metro than by Uber.

(Urban Turf)

Nitrogen Coffee Arrives in DC

Tyler Philips is on a mission to stop you from drinking iced or cold brew coffee.

“Ice coffee has two big things wrong with it: It’s stale and quite watery,” he says. “Nitrogen coffee, on the other hand, drastically extends the shelf life of the brew—about two months—and maintains a consistent flavor each pour.”

Philips is the owner and operator of Alchemist Coffee Co., a nitro coffee brewer and distributor, which recently took up residence inside Tastemakers, a food incubator space in Brookland (2800 10th St. NE).

Next month, Philips will open his production facility to the public with a retail coffee shop serving high-quality nitro coffee from several rare roasters, as well as local favorite Ceremony Coffee Roasters from Annapolis.