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Renovations Coming to Ballston Common Mall

by ARLnow.com — October 21, 2010 at 10:53 am 5,508 85 Comments

The owner of Ballston Common Mall is “in the planning stages” of major renovations to the 24-year-old facility. The existence of the renovation plan was revealed at a real estate conference in Rosslyn this morning.

The plan may also involve the building of office space above or in place of the current Macy’s department store.

No timeline was given for the renovations. Ohio-based Forest City Enterprises owns the 580,000 square foot mall, which attracts 1,000,000 visitors per year.

Flickr pool photo by Tim Kelley.

  • JamesE

    I live two blocks away and the only renovation I would like to see is complete destruction

    • JamesE

      *the chick-fil-a and arbys can remain.

      • R.Griffon

        And Panera. I love me some Panera.

  • fingerscrossed

    oooh, one gigantic 24/7 chick-fil-a…

  • Let’s Be Free

    Another office building constructed on top, yep. And as densities further increase in this section, what street improvements are the developers going to fund? The answer, of course, is none, and you can thank the County Board, Chris Zimmerman and the urban planning techies it hires for that. You know, because all the additional traffic will be absorbed by the Metro, those trains that will be filled to capacity before arriving at Ballston, once the Silver Line links up at East Falls Church. And all the bike and walking commuters as well.

    We are passing the tipping point and the politicians are acting like we are still living in early 1980′s when Metrorail was poised to accomodate enormous growth.

    • tuesdayschild

      Excellent points. Do any of the people on the Board have REAL jobs that require them to actually ride the metro to and from work everyday? The orange line through arlington is a mess. Overcrowded. Frequently delayed; Herky jeryk ride on manual control of the drivers.
      The ACB needs to stop wasting time and money on distractions like bike lanes, dog parks, shared bikes, green olympics, art-center, opting out of immigration enformceemnt, etc, and get the things that MUST work right working again. I realize the ACB does not control all of metro, but they have a say and they need to focus on that.

      • Sunny617

        Bike lanes are not a “distraction” in a ped/bike-friendly town like ours. Ironically, you say this in the same paragraph you complain about Metro corwding. For every biker you see in those lanes, that’s likely one fewer person squishing onto Metro with you.

        • Diane Blair

          Did you say this was pedestian/bike friendly town? Every time I cross the street walking, I am afraid of being knocked down by a car.

          • Parkington

            Cross at a signal and wait for the light, it’s not so hard. Most children have that figured out.

  • MikeyinCrystalC

    I was wondering if Macy’s was ever going to leave that mall.

  • Susan

    Ooh, it will be great to have a decent mall there finally! I like the food options/restaurants, the Macys, and the movie theater but most of the rest of the stores are pretty bad. Would love to be able to walk-to-shop versus driving to Tysons or Pentagon City.

  • Matt

    I’d love for the renovation to include some new stores.

  • BrownFlipFlops

    I agree with Remy on Ballston – “…got ev-ry-thing, but nothing good…”
    Were it not for Kettler’s and Chick Fil-A, we’ll I’m pretty sure I’d never go there.

  • Elizabeth

    In place of Macy’s? That cannot be a good thing. Unless it’s just the furniture half that I never go into.

  • Tom M

    For all those who think they’re SO much better than the Ballston Common Mall, remember that the good people of Fairfax need somewhere fun to go out.

    • Tater_Salad

      Now that’s funny!

    • Arlingtonian

      Ha ha ha! Good one!

  • Everwood

    There really is no reason for Ballston Mall to be as shabby as it is. Ballston is a vibrant area with office workers and residents. You would think that local demographics, access to I-66 and Metro, and new business would attract quality stores and restaurants inside the mall. I hope this new plan is both progressive and agressive in attacting new national retailers. Most of the current retailers aren’t very impressive: http://www.ballston-common.com/go/dirListing.cfm?FL=all

    • Catehrine

      Not that I have any official information, but just coming from someone who has lived in Arlington for 25 with parents/family living there there 20 before that, there’s actually a really interesting history to Ballston. Sadly, that’s what it is… history. Basically the movie theater, ice rink, and 1st level restaurant development has saved that mall from being nothing (at least as far as local Ballston Mall-goers are concerned). Sadly, that doesn’t make it as much of a “mall” as a gathering place or social place. I think it’s a weird combination of things… a lot of stores “in every mall” stay thriving there (Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Claire’s just as examples) but I don’t think it has anything to do with the quality of the store but the convience to people locally to run in and get what they need in a pinch (quick gift, etc.) and they have successful corporate offices backing them up. Because the area is thriving, just like rent to live in the area, retail rent in Ballston (especially considering the improvements needed in their retail options) is SKY high. Your return on rent in a store there still isn’t likely even if there are a lot of people that live there and that have the money and time to shop. I’m not trying to be a no-it-all, and actually I think it’s kinda sad… If the mall owners were willing to take a temporary hit (though I can’t imagine they’d lose much seeing as “Fellaz Fashionz” can bring in THAT much money for them since no one’s ever heard of it), if they would lower rent costs to bring back quality stores they might lose in the beginning but they could trade off for lower rent with an increased sales percentage cut to mall management (most retail spots have sales cuts in top of rental fees it’s crazy) they might bring these stores back and really in the long run make some serious money. Plus, it’d be really convenient for those that live right in the area and with bad traffic we sometimes forget that Arlington is one of the smallest counties on the east coast, but really thinking about it within 15 miles of Ballston we have both Pentagon City and Tysons… for corporate store offices that aren’t located within the D.C. area, they may not see the profit value to have that many locations within each other.

      I loved Ballston as a kid and teen and I wish they’d build it up again. I just don’t see the retail stores ever being the main focus of it. :-/

      • Clarendude

        I was sad when they replaced the old escalators in Hechts.

        • SoCo Resident

          Clarendude, Those escalators in the old Macy’s/ Hechts building, the ones with the round, pipe-like railings, were there when it was a free standing building the the old Parkington Shopping Center. Hechts had an outdoor garden shop til almost 1980 there. In the 60s, George Lincoln Rockwell, head of the American Nazi Party was shot dead there while doing his laundry. The party Headquarters was in the Java Shack building in Courthouse and a big nazi flag hung from it daily.

          • Westover

            No, he was killed at the Dominion Hills Shopping Center across from what is now the skate park.

        • local

          Those old escalators were dangerous. Those ridges could grab your finger, and the opening was on top. I always feared losing a digit. Good riddance.

  • Observer

    In response to TuesdaysChild who asked if any members of the County Board have real jobs to which they need to commute, the answer is no.

    • local

      What are their jobs?

  • Lou

    I’d love to see plans/sketches. Without a complete razing, it’s hard to see how it can overcome the stigma people put on the brand “Ballston Mall” with just a facelift.

    • MrCar

      Bring back the name “Parkington” !

      • Skeptical

        I miss Parkington. There were actually stores there where you could buy things you needed — even a garden shop on the lower parking levels. Too much to hope for now that we’re all trendy and urban, I guess.

      • ereed

        Ohh, i second the Parkington motion! I loved that place.

  • QPGirl

    I agree that it’s a crappy mall (I basically go to CVS), but can anyone explain why tour buses stop there on a regular basis? Is it for Kettler?

    • BrownFlipFlops

      So they can disgorge a horde of screaming high school kids on a class trip to rampage in the food court?

    • anon

      Food Court.

      • QPGirl

        I have never set foot in the food court… it’s just full of all sorts of nasty health code violations.

        • Arlingtonian

          yeah, after I read the article about health code violations there, i was really and truly done.

  • NorthAdams

    a wallet thickness detector or credit score checker needs to be installed as part of the renovation.

    • Brandon C

      This is a wonderful idea. especially since low-credit-score holder’s money is somehow devalued in legal tender. A Salvadoran’s $20 is worth about $15 at Ballston. A poor black kid from South Arlington will see his tender value cut in half. And all those poor people who came up from Woodbridge – they’ll be lucky if their $20 gets them a latte. Welcome to the future of high-end snobbery and douchebaggery at Ballston Mall. Population: You.

      • NorthAdams

        glad you support me Brandon. My proposal was a way to upgrade the Mall, as people had been groping around for ideas.
        In reality the mall is sandwiched between two to four completely different neighborhoods and then also a huge daytime population.
        it is difficult to upgrade it because of this.

      • PikeHoo

        As a born and raised Woodbridge-ian (not even close to a word), I take offense to the notion that our town’s dumpiest of people would come all the way up to Arlington on 95 just to loiter around Ballston Mall. We have our own “Ballston Mall” and it’s called Potomac Mills.

        • NorthAdams

          I never said anything about Woodbridge. Plus you people CAN get here more quickly when the Lexus lanes are opened and the last three poor people in Arlington are evicted to make way for an exit ramp.

          • PikeHoo

            Get it together, man. My comment was in response to Brandon C.

            Good luck selling the connection between HOT lanes and evictions.

  • Katie

    The parking garage gives me hives.

  • BallstonDweller

    That place definitely needs a renovation. It seems stuck in the 1970s and is blissfully unaware of the fact that it is now in yuppieville. I’d hate to see Macy’s close, though. It is one of the few places I actually go into, and I would visit more if it carried better clothing or had a facelift. It would be nice to have real shopping options in the neighborhood. An Ann Taylor Loft, please?

  • NorthAdams

    the Parkington Shopping center was demolished in the early 80′s. All that remain are the Macy’s store and the old garage makes up about half of the new garage.
    The brand new Ballston Common Mall opened in Fall of 1985. it just feels like the 70′s but is in fact much newer.

  • MikeC

    I live nearby and enjoy the Ballston Mall because when I need to go to the metro or the BB&T, and it’s raining outside, I can walk through the Mall and not get wet.

    Wait, does it have another purpose? I didn’t know…

  • a’town

    Yea the ballston mall sucks big time. Way worse than p-city. Some of the stores in there remind me a bit of the random stores in the indoor mall in georgetown.

    I seriously have zero clue how those shops in ballston make any money. My guess is they are fronts for money laundering, human trafficking or drug rings.

    • PikeHoo

      I lived across the street from Ballston Mall for over a year and only went in there once…quite possibly the worst mall in one of the best locations of all time.

    • Newbs

      Clearly you have not set foot in City Place in Silver Spring. Talk about prime location with horrible returns. It makes Ballston looks like Tysons Galleria.

  • Jezebel

    Children, the Fashion Center a/k/a Pentagon City Mall, completed in 1989, crippled the Ballston Mall by cannibalizing a good chunk of resident $$. Reinvention as something new/different is a concept whose time has come.

  • BallstonDweller

    I have noticed of late that the mall seems to be more crowded…still few people in the stores though, outside of the food establishments.

  • KR

    I went there to buy a shirt the other day… good luck if you ever try the same. I was completely shocked at how horrible that mall is. There are only two or three women’s clothing stores and even the Macy’s is just awful! It smelled bad and the clothes were out of style.

    They should just keep the food court and turn the rest into offices.

    • KR

      Almost as bad as Landmark Mall!!

    • PikeHoo

      Landmark really sucks too. The owners of Ballston Mall could probably make more money running it as a full service parking garage and convert the stores into the county’s ugliest, but most spacious, apartments.

      • Pal

        Landmark Mall is just that… a landmark. I say “yea you go down Duke street, it’s just past Landmark” or “Landmark is on the left and you want the Best Buy on the right… At least that location was named properly. :-)

  • tuesdayschild

    Rockville had a terrible, failed mall. They tore it down and created more of a town center concept.

  • Reader

    ARLnow, great website ! Thanks for letting us know about this interesting news. Please keep us posted !

  • MC

    Hey this is potentially good news, though one wouldn’t sense that given the caustic comments. There are plenty of realistic ways Ballston Mall could improve — more clothing stores with a bit more urban flavor, more non-shopping entertainment options that appeal to a wide range of people, re-vitalized offerings for core essential items like appliances or hardware. What needs to go is the tat stores and off-brand outlets, bad food court offerings and depressing sports bars, and kiosk barkers. Hate to puncture anyone’s video game fantasy of what should be at Ballston Mall, but the most practical thing would be getting stuff one now needs to go to Fairfax County to buy.

  • Arlingtonian

    On my very first trip to the mall a few years back, someone was stabbed and left a blood trail all throughout the different levels of the mall. I noticed it after a security guard yelled at me and my friends for getting too close to the blood. So that was my introduction to the wonder that is Ballston Common Mall.

  • cmg

    People will never go to Ballston instead of driving out to Tyson’s–period. The location is just too small to make it any good. If I were the owner, I’d just gut it–keeping Ted’s Montana Grill, Union Jack’s and Rock Bottom–and turn it into office buildings to be able to make money off of it. Sorry to be pessimistic, but it seems like a doomed location. When people want to go to a real indoor shopping mall around here, Tyson’s wins hands down. Outdoor shopping areas are getting more popular around here, but that’s not feasible in the Ballston location.

    • Frenchy B

      Ted’s Montana Grill is not in the mall.

  • NSF Person

    The Ballston Mall needs two things to get me to go there. They need a good bookstore (I know that sounds so old fashioned) and a good electronics store, such as an Apple store.

    • Westover

      Apple has their Clarendon Store right down the street, so that is not likely to happen, but getting Borders to take over one end of the mall, attracting J. Crew and others that are out at Tysons could save the place too. Right now the Food Court is the only great part of the Mall outside the Ice Rink and Movie theaters.

      • david

        There was a bookstore in the mall and it had a prime location next to Macys / Starbucks / Panera and it still went out of business. Granted it wasn’t a B&N but I’m just not sure that the market is there right now for a nice bookstore.

        • Lou

          NSF is right across the street, and VPI is building their new science focused building a half block away. It’s hard to believe a good bookstore could not survive there.

  • Westover

    The History of Parkington/Ballston Common Mall is pretty neat. It was one of the first shopping malls in the nation built to appeal to the post-WWII suburban motorist. The Mall and location still have potential as it proved itself in its first decade as Parkington in the 1950′s and again with its 1980′s revival. The mall is almost 60 years old, not just 24. It has been 24 years since the completion of the last full renovation, turning the mall outside in, essentially the opposite as happened with Seven Corners rehab at about the same time.

  • Bluemont John

    Ballston mall appeals to a weird mix of people. You have the 20-something drunken hooting louts who crowd Rock Bottom Brewery. And then you have throngs of low-income teens who come from God knows where. I have no idea why they like it.

    I am at a loss as to how any of the stores survive. My family has lived nearby (recently just a few blocks away) and rarely ventures there. We used to go to the Memphis BBQ, but it went out of business a few years ago. And the bookstore is gone now too.

    About the only thing there for middle-/upper-income, educated people over 30 is the Starbucks–unless you like paying full retail for dowdy clothes at Macys. Even the movie theater is horrible–thanks to the rowdy audiences.

    The whole place has a very low-income-teenager feel to it. Not that they shouldn’t have a place to go–but that place has nothing for me. We’ll happily drive the 15 minutes to Potomac Yard or Bailey’s Crossroads or Mazza Gallerie. Or even one of the outlets like Potomac Mills or Leesburg.

    • Mr Car

      “happily drive” – isn’t that redundant :)

      • R.Griffon

        No, around these parts it’s called an “oxymoron.”

    • PikeHoo

      That’s a pretty fair assessment. I love public transportation, but I think the proximity of the metro might have something to do with the increased presence of sleazier people. Just look at what Springfield Mall used to be versus what is has become after the opening of the Franconia/Springfield metro stop – what a dump.

      • Frenchy B

        I don’t buy that theory – the Metro station at Ballston has been around for more than 30 years, but the mall didn’t seem to have these problems before the last several years. As for Springfield Mall, I think the problem there is much greater – many of the neighborhoods there have changed for the worse.

        • PikeHoo

          I think the Ballston metro is probably the dumpiest station in Arlington. There always seem to be a number of weirdos and homeless people loitering around there. When I used to live over there, I knew someone who was sexually assaulted there, so maybe I’m just jaded.

  • Bluemont John

    I agree that the low-income folks usually take transit to the mall, but I don’t think that the presence of transit automatically brings them–I mean, look at Mazza Gallerie and Clarendon. Shirlington just got a bus depot, but I haven’t seen a sudden influx of hood rats or NASCAR fans.

    I think it’s actually the stores that bring them to Ballston. E.g., why is there a Payless Shoe Store in one of the top five wealthiest zip codes in the DC area? And a Fellas Flavas Fashions? I mean, sure, there’s Highview Park nearby, but that’s not that many people.

  • Biff

    Kick out the old Macy’s and put in Target as the anchor. Then people will go there.

    • Biff

      Or maybe a Super Target on two levels.

  • Matt K

    I hope that Rock Bottom stays. I go there all the time. That’s the only reason why I rent an apartment in Ballston!

    • Buckingham Bandit

      That’s pretty sad, bro.

  • notgeorge

    I wish we had a better mall. I would suggest a hardware store and a teen center and get rid of the furniture gallery. I like the Target idea. I would also love a Taco Bell in the FC. The mall would be easier to get around if they had escalators or stairs from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor and from the 2nd floor to the 3rd floor at the atrium. Also, could they hire a less “bad Santa” looking Santa this year?

  • YTK

    It was MUCH better when it was Parkington.
    So was the neighborhood.

  • nosteps

    All those movie theaters and we still have to leave our neighborhood to see art films, independent films, etc. In spite of a writing campaign to plead for at least one dedicated theatre for such a venue they declined to do so. Instead they have 2 of the same movies often playing AT THE SAME TIME! The movie theater and the mall could support a torpedo factory model in a partitioned part of the mall if it made a good effort. I agree with everyone who expressed despair at the frustration of prime real estate that has been terribly neglected. The doors to the mall -especially at N Randolph and N Wilson are an embarrassment.
    The chronic disappointment that Forest City will ever step up and invest in Ballston Common Mall is difficult to overcome. I wish they would sell to someone with a vision that is worthy of Ballston and Arlington.

  • SoCo Resident

    Ok, don’t jump on me now, BUT how about one of the new Walmart Urban Stores? They are designed to fit into much smaller spaces than the traditional Walmart stores. It would attract crowds. One just opened down Rt. 1 in Alexandria next to ChuckECheese.

  • pretzel man

    I loved Auntie Anne Pretzel!!!!! they always baked fresh and very tasted.
    I loved people who work over there as well because they always give me an excellant service…….keep up the good work.

  • Davidlaretz1

    I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 11-years now. I go to the CVS, to the barber shop for my haircut (across from the CVS). I bought furniture at the Macy’s location and I go into the regular Macy’s department store as well. I like to bring friends that visit me to Chevy’s because the food is not too pricey and you get alot for your money. Of course, most Ballston residents goes to the food court, Noodles & Co, and Paneras as well.
    The Ice Skating rink on the top floor looked kind of fun. I’ve only ventured up there once. The movie theatre shows old, not too good shows. I think that it’s mostly the general retail stores that aren’t too good. I can’t picture it ever becoming a Pentagon City or a Tysons Corner.

  • MC 703

    OK this comment thread is older than dirt but I stumbled upon it and I read every comment with great interest and all I could think was multi-level-Wegman’s

  • Michael H.

    At two of the last three movies I saw at Regal Cinema in Ballston, the film broke! I thought that only happened in small-town one-screen movie houses. (I’m familiar with that scenario too.)

  • Mickey

    I kinda prefer the low-key vibe at B as opposed to the frenetic but unsmiling crowds at Claredon. They seem a terribly unhappy lot at Clarendon. Too poor or racist for real DC, so they settle for Clendon? Dunno, but they are an incredibly dour lot there.

    Nor do I have any idea what the zombies see in the Whole Foods. The Container Store must be a front for money laundering, cause there aint no way the are selling enough wire hampers to pay the rent.

    I do wish B still had its book store, only reason i go to C is for the BN bookstore. Miss the Bertucci’s too. Suppose that wasnt cool enuf for Clarenoids.

  • Asanti

    My wife and I are new residents in the Ballston Mall Common area and we would welcome a positive change to what we consider a dismal looking mall. Our primary use of the mall is the fitness center.

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