Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Aug
30

If You’re a Millennial – You Might Want to Buy Instead of Rent in D.C.

4_-_7_Logan_Circle

A recent Washington Post article cited a National Association of Realtors study that found that Washington, D.C. is one of the most affordable of 100 major metropolitan areas studied for Millennials to buy a home.  According to the Post, the association analyzed employment gains, population trends and housing conditions to compile its rankings.

In its findings, the report stated that:

“Since there was not a significant increase in home prices in the area in 2015, many Millennials can afford to buy a home. In 2014, among the 100 largest metro areas, Washington, DC was ranked 6th for highest median household income of Millennial movers.

“Thus, the median household income of the Millennials who moved recently was much higher [than the national median ($46,200).] As a result, the homeownership rate for the Millennials who moved recently was higher than the average of the 100 largest metro areas. More than one in-five Millennials who moved in 2014 owned a house (21%).”

Other cities that ranked in the top ten include (listed alphabetically) Austin, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, Minn; Ogden, Utah; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh, NC; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Seattle, Washington.  Renting in D.C. is prohibitively expensive, yet homeownership rates among Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) remain at historic lows.  This is somewhat perplexing considering the long timeframe that interest rates have been at historic lows as well.

Aug
30

How to Build The Custom Wine Cellar of Your Dreams

By Tracey Longo

Ever dream of building the type of wine cellar that will help you take your wine collection to the next level? That’s exactly where Craig and Diane MacAllister of Fairfax found themselves, when their quest for new wines for their growing collection was thwarted by their home’s limited storage.

Their solution? Build the type of high-end, custom redwood wine cellar that encourages and even rewards their frequent wine-buying trips to Europe and California. Wine Cellar1

Today, the MacAllisters use their high-end wine cellar almost every day. The room is 100 square feet of retrofitted luxury, with custom redwood and mahogany racking and shelving, rich granite and tile work, glass front cabinetry and doors, two tiers of
lighting and the kind of perfect 24-seven 55 degrees that fine wines require.

It’s a sumptuous wine cellar that not only protects the MacAllister’s growing wine collection, but gives them the perfect place to host impressive tastings and kick off wine dinners. “We love collecting wine and it’s so communal,” says Diane MacAllister. “We get to serve wines that our guests would probably never taste otherwise, and will probably never taste again. We also get to buy wines by the case when we find great vintages, like we just did on a trip to Napa and Sonoma.”

After a long search for the right builder, the MacAllisters chose Michael Nash Design and Homes, Fairfax, because of the firm’s extensive expertise building wine
cellars and storage. Customers get to see that experience and attention to detail first hand in the two complete wine cellars the company built in its 8,000 square foot Lee Highway showroom.

Wine cellars are complex and need careful attention to electrical, cooling, lighting and moisture control to protect wine collections—all facts that became apparent to the MacAllisters as they did their research and began to interview builders.

“Be careful,” Diane MacAllister warns. “We had a gentleman come out and all of his work was subcontracted to others who could only work in the evenings and on weekends. Another gentleman showed us a glossy flyer with pictures of wine cellars we knew he hadn’t built. Yet another firm had Better
Business Bureau complaints.

“We had certain expectations for quality and appearance and we wanted a company that had the on-staff people with experience in the multiple concerns necessary to take this on as a turnkey project,” Diane MacAllister says. “When we saw the wine cellars in the Michael Nash showroom, we knew we found the right firm.”

The award-winning design and build firm, which routinely wins national and regional COTYs (Contractor of The Year awards), is proud of the work it does for wine connoisseurs throughout Virginia, DC and the mid-Atlantic, says Michael Nash president and CEO Sonny Nazemian.

“I think what really sets us apart is we use our own skilled employees to design and build wine cellars and wine rooms, which gives us the ability and flexibility to really meet our customers’ every need,” Nazemian says.

The cellar holds up to 17,000 bottles of wine, using an amazing configuration of clear Hardy redwood cabinets and mahogany racking. “The MacAllister’s chose custom-built double wine racks, traditional racks, open diamond racks, six-column racks, magnum racks and curved corner racks, to meet the MacAllister’s design needs,” Nazemian says

The room beckons the MacAllisters daily. “We go down to enjoy a glass of wine or grab a bottle for dinner. Now we get to wow our friends and family and kick off wine dinners with champagne and fruit served in the wine cellar. And it gives us the opportunity to buy cases from private wineries that don’t sell in stores. We love pairing food with wine and hearing guests’ “ooohhhs” and “aaahhhs.” It’s pretty amazing.

“We were also very pleased with all of the assistance we got from Michael Nash,” Diane MacAllister says. “They thought of all of the things we didn’t think of. We couldn’t be happier. I don’t think we’ll ever sell our house, because we won’t be able to part with the wine cellar.”

Aug
30

Effingham Manor: A Suburban Oasis and Northern Virginia’s Newest Vineyard

As the saying goes, Chris Pearmund is a man in a hurry.  However, the work, particularly the world of wine, government processes and the wine industry, just can’t keep up. Chris is in the process of opening Northern Virginia’s newest vineyard, Effingham Manor, in Nokesville, VA.

Building out the new processing and tasting facility and restoring the historic manor IMG_0771house are the easy parts.  You see, Chris has had his hand involved in more than two dozen vineyard projects over the years, and intends to open one a year going forward.  No, the problem isn’t that he isn’t ready to open, the problem lies within the Prince William planning processes that have slowed overall approval of this vineyard to a snails pace due to the “adaptive reuse of the historic property”.  Chris hopes (fingers crossed) that eventual approval will translate into a mid-October debut.

Effingham Manor is a jewel of an historic place, encompassing about 16 acres (1.5 now in cultivation) with beautiful views and a handful of historic out buildings.  William Alexander constructed the Manor in 1767.  He was a great grandson of John Alexander, the namesake of Alexandria, Virginia. The site is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Manor house, located on a main north/south thoroughfare in Colonial times, was the resting post for many of the most famous founders of our Nation.  In fact, there is still liv
ing evidence on the site – a Western Cypress tree given to the family by Lewis & Clark after their return from their western expedition.

Chris’ involvement with the vineyard means that this magnificent site will now be open to the public and preserved in perpetuity for all to visit and enjoy.  On top of that, visitors will also be able to taste and take home some of the award winning wines (Effingham’s Rose was just awarded number one in the country for their Chambourcin-based blush) that Chris and the Effingham team produce.  A win-win situation if there ever was one.

During @livemore’s visit to the site, Chris provided us a tour of the facility and offered up some great insights on his involvement in the Virginia wine industry as well as a look toward the future.  As we said, Chris is anxious to push Virginia’s burgeoning wine industry forward, and FAST.  Our brief conversation with Chris follows.

QYou own and operate two other wineries, why Effingham and why now?  What makes this winery different?

AEffingham has fantastic history and potential and needs to be protected and should be made available to the
public as a resource. The winery venue in my mind is the perfect answer.  The previous owners came to me about doing exactly this.

 

QWith the growth of vineyards in Northern Virginia (particularly Loudoun County) do you believe there is still unmet demand, and why?

AVirginia has opened 200 wineries in the last decade. There will always exist room for an exceptional team of winery management and award winning wines paired with a warm, inviting, comfortable atmosphere in an historical or particular setting. The bar has been raised for others to meet, and a minimum floor has been set to help in future success.   Our national per capita consumption is less than half of Europe, lets raise a glass of wine and catch up to better foods and lifestyles we all can appreciate.

Wineries are increasing in popularity every year in the United States. Previously, wine makers rarely interacted with customers; much like you don’t expect to order a hamburger in a restaurant and chat with the cattle farmer. Only in the past decade, really, have consumers come to enjoy and expect spending time at vineyards and wineries, learning more about the wines they drink and how they’re made.

Comparing wine in the United States to Europe, we’re still fairly new at producing wine yet we are already the largest wine-producing nation in the world. Our per capita consumption, however, is only at about 50% of that of Spain or Italy. We have some catching up to do!

 

Q – You’ve been in the business for some time and are quite knowledgeable and are well respected by your peers.  What is your assessment of Virginia’s wine industry and what is your opinion of its future?

A – Virginia has come a long way, and it still a teenager in its evolution of winery development for quantity and consistency, but has developed respected regional character.  The agro-tourism side has done very well, but we need to bring our wines outside of Virginia to anchor our future.   The state has been fantastic in making a path; it’s the wineries turn to make an investment in regional and national distribution. 

Q Is this it for you?  Or do you anticipate growing your brand/operations further in the future?

A – I plan to keep going for at least another decade. Our goal is to continue opening wineries with a consistent management all with the similar operating systems, quality of customer service, top-notch wines but with distinct settings, scenery and story. The Virginia wine industry has a strong future when run like a business sector.

 

Q – And lastly, what’s your preferred wine?

A – My favorite wines are generally reds that have been in the bottle a few years, made by small producers.  I am always on the hunt for the next expressive wine that I’m not yet familiar with be it bubbles, red or white.  Mass produced food and wine has its place, but I enjoy the passion of expression and regional identity.

Aug
30

SafeTrack Update – How’s It Really Going?

As we approach the third month of METRO’s SafeTrack initiative, the
visions of gloom and doom – that the region would be thrown into complete and
utter gridlock – do not seem to be taking hold.  Kudos and credit go out to our local and regional transit and transportation demand managers, who have been attempting to take up the “slack” during the roving shut/slow downs that have occurred during Surges 1-4.  Credit should also be given to our region’s commuters and employers who have adapted some new commuting patterns and are proving to be pretty saavy users of our transportation network.

Now, there have been some significant bumps along the way, particularly on July 29th when an Orange line train derailed at the East Falls Church station, creating havoc on both the Orange and Silver line commutes for three days.  Even the most patient commuters on those two lines had a tough time navigating around the closed lines.

So, what has been the impact on commuting during these first four SafeTrack surges?  The regional transportation providers provided a glimpse of the situation on July 20th in a report to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.  Highlights of the Northern Virginia provider’s approaches and lessons learned are below.  Long and short of the situation – communication, communication, and more communication!

Regionally the local providers discuss and coordinate strategies on a weekly basis through the coordination of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.  This communication among providers is critical with the
“roving” nature of the Surges.

 

City of Alexandria – As previously mentioned, the main lessoned learned is to be in constant communication with the public.  In addition, the City also included:

  • Free service on the DASH’s AT3 and AT4 bus lines;
  • Added Capital Bikeshare capacity at Braddock Road METRO;
  • Added variable IMG_4123messaging signs to alert drivers; and
  • Increased staff and used a flat taxi fare of $15 from King Street in Old Town to the National Airport.

Arlington County – 

  • Added transit capacity to bus routes around affected closures;
  • Installed temporary Bikeshare station at East Falls Church METRO
  • (Capital Bikeshare trips increased by about 32%, Bikeshare annual memberships purchased in Arlington were up 45% from last year, Bike ridership was up 40 to 90% at counters across the County);
  • Arlington County Commuter Services icreased outreach to employers urging telework options and Libraries offered work stations;
  • Provided ambassadors at affected stations to help travelers and enhanced  wayfinding signage;
  • Ambassador teams assisted 450 in Surge 1 and 150 in the first week of Surge 2; and
  • Handed out about 10,000 brochures at Metro rail stations.

 

Fairfax County – 

  • Provided express shuttle between the I-66 Corridor and the core and supplemental Rt. 599 express service between the Dulles Corridor and the core;
  • Peak period bi-directional express shuttle service between Franconia-Springfield and Pentagon;
  • Supplemental I-95/395 express service between Saratoga Park & Ride and Pentagon; and
  • Promote park and ride lots and Metro/VRE stations with available parking capacity and promote other bus wwand VRE alternatives.

 

Loudoun County – 

  • Diverting service for the Potomac Falls bus line to Ballston-MU from West Falls Church during
  • these surges;
  • Increasing the number of buses in high use areas;
  • Providing bus schedules that highlight trips that match reduced train service arrivals; and
  • Promoting Van pools, Car pools, telework and other commuting alternatives.

 

Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation
Commission (PRTC) – 

  • Delayed departures (additional 15 minutes) on last trips for buses serving Metro stations (Tysons or Franconia/ Springfield) to accommodate longer rail commutes depending on which line was affected by the surge;
  • Promoted OmniMatch for carpool/vanpool services;
  • Suggested possible alternate OmniRide services, such as taking bus to Pentagon or Mark Center and transferring to other PRTC buses or other regional providers to bypass single tracking/segment closures; and
  • Promoted VRE during Blue/Yellow line surges.
  • All of the affected Virginia localities  sought reimburse-ment from Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) an extra $1 million for additional services provided during this phase of SafeTrack. The CTB approved this
  • request in June.

For up-to-date information on the SafeTrack initiative, go to www.http://wmata.com/rail/safetrack.cfm.

Jun
29

Dulles Matters!

Summer Travel at Dulles International

By Rob Yingling

Travelers beginning their journey this summer at Dulles International will enjoy new airlines, destinations and amenities at the airport. From the moment they arrive, passengers will notice the Metrorail construction is making visible progress dullesright across from the terminal parking lot, which offers a new daily parking option. Inside, LATAM and Air Canada have joined the airline offerings with new flights to Lima and Toronto. United Airlines, which recently celebrated 30 years as a hub airline at Dulles, added Lisbon and Barcelona to its summer routes. And Royal  Air Maroc begins  flights this fall to its  Casablanca hub with con-nections to many European and North African airports.

Along with all of this good news comes the airport’s top advice: Come early and stay “in the know.” Dulles has seen its surge of travelers, but without the significant waits that made recent headlines at other major airports. Still, summer is a popular season for air travel, so a quick check of the airport’s live wait time display at www.flydulles.com is worthwhile. The latest airport news and specials are also posted there. Beyond the security checkpoint, several new shopping and dining options will keep passengers delighted before their flight departs. Just a few of the offerings include Erwin Pearl, Tumi and Thomas Pink (for shopping) and Bracket Room, DC-3 Hot Dog Joint, and The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck (for dining). Be Relax spa is also open near Gate B64 for the ultimate in travel pampering. Bon voyage!