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Commission to Pick Redesign for Ellipse Area

After the 9/11 attacks, security concerns required President’s Park South to change from an inviting space to merely an area secured by concrete barriers. 

Now, the Secret Service and the National Capital Planning Commission are hoping to beautify the space, which includes Sherman Park, the First Division Monument and the Ellipse, with a redesign that turns the area’s security into part of its charm.

Last year, the Secret Service and the National Park Service asked design firms to draw up plans for President’s Park South that would include new security measures and long-postponed design goals set in 2000.

Bill Dowd, director of physical planning for the commission, said there were four improvements that the NCPC asked those firms to include in their designs.

He said the design must handle security and traffic needs, respect the space’s historical aspects and enhance the visitor’s  experience. It should “do all these things for us and do them in a creative way,” Dowd added.

Five firms submitted designs, all of which were put on display Tuesday in the White House Visitor Center. 

Visitors can offer comments on their favorite designs through today. The commission has already received more than 130 comments from visitors and many more online.

The NCPC will announce the winner of the competition today, but that design may not end up as the final product. 

The Secret Service and the National Park Service plan to include aspects from each design that best fit the vision for President’s Park South, but Dowd said the commission hopes there will be future opportunities to develop contracts with the winning designer.

Including everything from exotic gardens to glowing lamps to new bike paths, the five designs can be viewed online at the planning commission’s website. The goal of the redesign is to make the space an appropriate prelude to a visit to the  White House, Dowd said.

“We hope to create an important space instead of the terrible space that’s there today,” he said.

Parkmobile Seeks to Simplify Paying for Parking

No change for the parking meter? There’s an app for that. 

At more than 17,000 parking spaces on Capitol Hill and throughout the District, drivers can pay the meter through their cellphone with a new service called Parkmobile. 

After registering for free online, users can download a mobile application to pay the meter. Once parked, drivers use zone and space information on a sticker to register their vehicle with the application. The service will send a text 15 minutes before a session expires. The transactions appear in real time on handheld devices used by parking enforcement officers and lot officials. 

Although parking with the service costs the same amount as feeding a meter with coins, users will also be charged a 30 to 35 cent fee per transaction in order to make the service free to the city. 

Each user’s personal account is updated to view charges online, and users can also print reports or export data for expense reimbursements. Users can also register online for a digital parking permit to park at Parkmobile meters. 

Parkmobile already provided pay-by-phone parking near Foggy Bottom, Georgetown University Hospital and Nationals Park.

A competitor involved in a pilot program, Verrus Mobile Technologies, stopped providing service in the District last month, when the city officially chose Parkmobile as its pay-by-phone parking meter system. 

“It provides another, convenient payment option for drivers,” District Department of Transportation interim Director Terry Bellamy said in a statement. “Instead of paying with cash or a credit card, all it takes is a couple clicks with the mobile app or a short phone call and you’re on your way.”

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