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ArlingtonCareer Center's parking needs could impact surrounding streets

Career Center’s parking needs could impact surrounding streets

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Residents living in neighborhoods adjacent to the Arlington Career Center parcel may find themselves sharing on-street parking with students and teachers once the massive rebuild of the parcel is complete.

The county school system has proposed a 360-space parking garage as part of the $175 million project, but planners do not believe that will be enough space to accommodate the need.

Instead, those planners – set to bring updates to the project’s building-level planning committee on Aug. 31 – estimate that 64 to 83 spaces of on-street parking in the neighborhoods north of the Career Center parcel may be needed.

Staff say that shouldn’t be a burden for local residents; they estimate there are more than 500 unrestricted parking spaces within “a short walk” of the Career Center parcel, located just north of Columbia Pike along South Walter Reed Drive.

A parking survey conducted in November 2021 found that a majority of those available spaces were unoccupied during the daytime hours, being needed mostly at night when residents return from work.

Arlington School Board members in April voted 3-1 (with one member absent) to endorse the concept design and its projected $174.6 million budget for the rebuild. The plan aims to build a completely new Arlington Career Center, and possibly then move Montessori Public School of Arlington into the existing building. Arlington Community High School, located in a smaller building on the parcel, will relocate.

The current timeline anticipates beginning the project during the summer of 2023, having the Career Center building complete by December 2025 and then wrapping up ancillary efforts by 2027.

Voters are being asked to approve the majority of the funding through bond referendums, but that is likely to be a low hurdle for the school system to surmount. County voters have not turned down any local bond issues since 1979, and school bonds usually (though not always) lead the pack in the percentage of the electorate in support.

There is a semi-formal policy position in place from the County Board that debt service will not exceed 10 percent of the overall county budget each year; the Career Center plan and other proposed capital projects will bring the school system perilously close (but not over) that figure.

Keeping the county and school system under that 10-percent threshold may be one reason County Board members in recent years have opted not to lower real-estate tax rates despite ballooning assessments; higher tax bills for property owners equate to a larger government operating budget, which equates to more bonding capacity.

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