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Ballston BID ‘Very Excited’ About Ballston Common Mall Redevelopment

by ARLnow.com — February 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm 6,211 78 Comments

Wilson Blvd in front of Ballston Common Mall (photo by Katie Pyzyk)A long-awaited renovation project is inching closer to reality for Ballston Common Mall.

Mall owner Forest City Enterprises has been in the planning stages for major renovations to the 26-year-old, 580,000 square foot facility since at least 2010. Today (Wednesday) the Washington Business Journal reported that that the company revealed preliminary plans and renderings for the renovations at an industry conference in National Harbor.

“The rebranded Ballston Center at 4238 Wilson Blvd. would include more than 300 apartment units, three levels of office space and a significantly reconfigured retail space,” WBJ reported.

Tina Leone, CEO of the recently-formed Ballston Business Improvement District, said her organization is looking forward to the positive changes the redevelopment could bring to the area.

“It is very exciting and we are so pleased to be working with Forest City to further improve our wonderful neighborhood,” Leone said. “The design calls for an exterior renovation that will complement the recent developments that have occurred here, such as Shooshan Company’s Founders Square and JBG’s gorgeous 800 N. Glebe building. This change, along with the BID’s plans to beautify Wilson Boulevard, will make for a much improved, more inviting streetscape to our main street of Ballston.”

Forest City has not yet submitted its plans to Arlington County for approval.

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser

  • outoftowner

    Chances of me really saying you live at ‘Ballston Center at 4238 Wilson Blvd’ and not ‘Ballston Mall?’ slim.

    • McGibe

      If the rendering is any indication, I think the name is simply going to be “Ballston Center.” The author was merely providing 4238 Wilson as the address, not as part of the ridiculous naming convention.

      • Vinh An Nguyen

        The usual tired convention would be something along the lines of “Ballston Centre at Balls Crossing” or some such nonsense.

        • Kolohe

          Heh-heh. ‘Balls’

  • biscuit

    Will the new tagline be, “Ain’t nothing common about us”?

  • BID?

    So what does the Ballston BID actually do for businesses?

    • Nothing

      Just applies a revenue tax to pay for a group of intellectuals to put forth silly ideas.

      • Dungston

        I’m good at that – are they hiring?

  • Newsy Mom

    Hallelujah! Thought I would die before I ever saw that place renovated! Hurry up! :)

  • Mall-y Ringwald

    OK, good for them for trying. Anything would be an improvement, other than a supermax prison or a nuclear-waste dump.

    But to be a nitpicker: Adding residences and office space ain’t gonna magically fix the problems.

    What the BID needs to do is recruit high-end retailers to all come at once. Neiman-Marcus might come if its execs were assured that, say, St. John (womenswear) were also coming. Or Chicos even. Or Hugo Boss. Bring in some serious high-end retailers–who should be encouraged by the local household average income of around $200K–and push out the low-end crap.

    As long as there’s a Payless, this mall is going to be treated like the ghetto mall it currently is.

    • Elspet

      The Payless is closed. . . along with the Rainbow.

      • Arlington, SSR

        The Payless is indeed closed but it looks like it’s for renovation only, from the wording on the signs. I may be wrong.

    • Ballston Resident

      I’ve lived in Ballston for 7 years and 23 years total in Arlington. I go to the Ballston Mall everyday to work out at the Sports and Health Club.

      I don’t think high end stores want to located in Ballston Mall. Think the reasons are many. Probably some of these include shop lifting, demographics in the area south of the mall, creepy people in the mall, lots of homeless people trying to warm up when it’s cold outside and asking for handouts, and high rent with little perceptible incentive by the management firm to keep long-term stores (so many have closed).

      Probably the biggest problem is that the mall is that is not attracting higher income earning residents who live in the nearby areas. But they sure are attracting the type of people who scare away people. Most people would rather go shopping in Clarendon than deal with what is going on in this mall. Stores are really lousy and high end stores just are not interested. Fear we will lose the anchor store Macy’s who must be operating at a loss for their retail store on the west side of the mall and their furniture store on the east side. If they pull out, which I would not blame them for, the mall is dead.

      The mall should be torn down and replaced with offices. Perhaps then they could attract the high end tech firms everyone wants to move into this area.

      The demographics to the south of the mall are a huge problem and BID needs to look carefully at this and not gloss over it. I honestly feel that is why the mall is failing.

      • BBMS

        The mall has its uses for me, although not many. But Macy’s, even though it’s a bit of a ghetto Macy’s, is still one of those useful features of the mall for me at least. Losing the only department store in north Arlington would be a strike against this plan, which I think is overall good.

        • MCS

          We wouldn’t loose the Macy’s because they actually own that portion of the building. I learned this while having a conversation with one of their managers about how run down and ghetto the mall is and if they would ever move. He said they won’t ever move because they own their space…. On that note the Macy’s desperately needs a spruce up and needs the higher end clothes. That would attract better clientele. Like me!

      • speonjosh

        The “demographics” are a huge problem? Hmmmm. What are you trying to say there, Ballston Resident?

        • Ballston Resident

          Like I said before, the demographics to the south of the mall are a huge problem and BID needs to look carefully at this and not gloss over it. I honestly feel that is why the mall is failing.

          • cj

            Again, what are you really trying to say? The “demographics” south of the mall include my neighborhood (Ashton Heights), plus the Hyde Park condominium, plus new townhouses and apartments near Hyde Park, plus the Carlin for seniors, plus mixed-income housing in the several parts of Buckingham, plus redeveloped apartments near Mosaic Park. It’s a strong diverse population base that would support better stores at the Mall. Or maybe you only want to see some of us on your way to the gym?

          • John Fontain

            cj said: “Again, what are you really trying to say? The “demographics” south of the mall include my neighborhood (Ashton Heights)”

            Eh, Ashton Heights is really east of the mall moreso than south.

          • AH

            The Mall is technically within the defined borders of Ashton Heights Civic Association.

          • Ziv

            cj, I can’t speak for anyone before me, but I think most people assume Ballston Commons Mall is kind of low rent due to the income differential between the people in Ashton Heights/Ballston/Larchmont/Waycroft who tend to shop in Pentagon City or Tysons, and the people who live in Arlington Oaks/Buckingham who shop in Ballston Commons Mall.
            The only thing I have to add to that is that the income differential between the area to the north and east of BCM and the area to the south and west may be large now, but it is less than it was 10 years ago and it is probably going to be less 10 years from now. Inexpensive garden style rental buildings are getting torn down and new rentals are going in. They might not be luxury apartments but they are a lot more expensive than what they are replacing.

        • Ballston Lurker

          I’m pretty sure he is saying what you are thinking, only you’re too scared to say it.

          • tom smart

            The Mall has a problem with attracting people who really can’t afford to shop there. And unfortunately, they will go to the food court or elsewhere in the mall to use it as a place to sit and pass the time. And they make others uncomfortable. Consequently, the “others” stopped going there for that reason and the types of shoppes that they originally had deteriorated over time. I have been living here since 1980 and I saw Ballston Commons built with a great deal of delight. But it didn’t take long for it to start going down hill in terms of the quality of stores that can be found there. The primary reason that we go there is for the theaters, hair cuts, and occasionally we eat there as we don’t find the shopping of particular interest when you can go to Pentagon City near by. In fact, we’d never go to Ballston if Pentagon City hadn’t gotten rid of the theaters. I really don’t know what they can do to re-energize Ballston because I don’t really think they can change the people who come there as they live close by, i.e. buckingham.

      • Leslie in Ballston

        Ballston Macys has crap clothes. If they are operating at a loss, that’s the reason why. I live near Ballston and definitely would shop at Ballston Mall if the stores were higher end. Yes, there are homeless people but they won’t be following you into retail stores. I’ve actually seen foot traffic increase over the last year. I think things are looking up!

      • Macys

        As an example of the challenges that Macys faces, back when it was still Hechts, I went into a dressing room and someone had used it as a bathroom. There was wetness running down the wall and soaking the carpet. Gotta love Ballston Mall!

      • LosPobresitos

        I’m one of those south BCM demographics. :(

        Carlin Springs Apartments

    • BALLSTER

      Notably, Payless is currently “closed for repairs.” Maybe a good sign of things to come?

  • AtownTCK89

    About time, now let’s get some business’ in there. Living there would then be like living with your own personal mall in your backyard. The true American Dream!

    But knowing Ballston, this is most likely going to fail, how many times have we tried to “revitalize” this place?!

    • drax

      Once. And it worked pretty well for a while.

  • MamaWonk

    It’s about time! I have lived or worked near Ballston since 1995 and the mall has consistently sucked. It is bizarre, because it has a great location and tons of disposable income in the area! Such a waste. This can’t happen soon enough.

    • John

      It was great from 1987 to about 1993. Then all the upscale stores started to leave one by one. It was hard to compete with Pentagon City and Tysons. But with all the new housing close by this makeover should succeed.

  • Hugh

    I like the rendering in the WBJ article. Looks kind of Michigan Avenue-esque

    • John Fontain

      I suspect the end result will look a lot like the transformed portion of Crystal Drive (near 23rd) in Crystal City. In my opinion, that’s a good thing.

  • JamesE

    Praise jebus

  • My guess until the county

    throws in some form of tax abatement this “project” is likely going now where. Seems to me they threw in a bunch of buzz words to imply something is changing.

  • novasteve

    What’s going to happen to the restaurants that are there currently?

    • Elspet

      What restaurants? Rock Bottom is the only one worth keeping.

      • novasteve

        For obvious reasons, Baileys is in my interests to remain open.

  • Caps Player

    I’m guessing a few caps players will lock up the penthouse apartments.
    So when is this thing going to get off and running? My guess is 10 years from now or later.

    • Sheriff Gonna Getcha

      well considering they already have renderings and expect to have space from Macys coming in the next few weeks, your ten year projection might be a touch off.

      this concept is precisely the type of thing Arlington County eats. up. Density directly next to a metro station with offices, retail and restaurants as well. All they need to do is add Vibrant to the press release and this should get moving.

      If I were the county board, I would push this to get going fast. That mall is a disaster and so are the tenants, even the “mall bars.” See prior articles on Union Jacks and Baileys fights.

      As long as the county-macys-forest city ownership issues can be resolved, smart architects can make this much better. County should even throw in some TIF for it. This place cant generate nearly the tax revenue that it should for the size and location.

      • JohnB

        So because it doesn’t generate enough tax revenue, the county should provide a tax abatement in the form of a TIF? That doesn’t make any sense.

        • http://westnorth.com Payton

          Sure it does; that’s the point of TIF. Toss in an abatement up front, let the gravy flow in for decades afterwards.

  • Naked Man

    You don’t know how happy that makes me feel. Wait a minute, you might be able to figure that out.

  • bemused bystander

    Adding 300 apartments isn’t just a renovation — it’s added development. Wonder how tall the new residential tower will be? And where those 300+ households are going to park?

    • Sheriffs Gonna Getcha

      underground

      • bemused bystander

        Under what ground? You gonna excavate under the mall?

    • GoodOmens

      Pretty huge garage attached to the mall. Remember the area used to be called Parkington before the mall came in….

      • Global

        Parkington was a shopping mall with a huge indoor garage attached.

  • R. Griffon

    Way overdue, of course.

    What that place really needs is a way to differentiate itself from Tysons and Pentagon City. It won’t compete by being just another NOVA mall, even with high-end stores due to it’s smaller size. It’s gotta be something different. Maybe bring in stores that cater to the green/eco-friendly crowd. Just something. Or a really cool idea I heard once is to make it an activity center. They’ve already got the ice rink, so run with the theme and add a giant climbing wall, indoor aquatics (maybe instead of that monstrosity ARLCo wants to build?), a few different kinds of indoor courts … whatever. Add in some nice sporting goods suppliers (more REI, less Dick’s) and keep the restaurants and theaters, and I think it cold be pretty cool. It might even draw *gasp* the local community.

    • drax

      That would be cool. We have a huge number of kids in Arlington today. They need something to do in the winter. Parents would spend alot of money on that.

      • nom de guerre

        And the Bratwursthaus!

    • ARLRi

      R. Griffon I totally agree with you!

      With the current and future access to Tysons and Pentagon City it would be more of an advantage to have some indoor activity facilities (indoor tennis, volleyball, pool, rock climbing, etc). If that was there I would definitely be a regular (especially during cold or inclement weather). By combining high end stores and the indoor facility access would be great!. One can only wish and hope though because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

    • bemused bystander

      Bring back Putt-Putt!

    • Rosemary

      I agree with this theme. Remember to add Patagonia and more elevators and we could have a Eco -activity center here.

  • MissKittenCat

    When the new mall is done will Remy’s Arlington rap still be relevant?
    Finally they got the message after that homeless guy tried to blow up the mall

  • Swag

    If they really wanted to help the community, they’d convert it to an Amazon distribution center.

    • Jeff

      Best comment

  • Zimmerman

    And a trolley. There MUST be a trolley!

    • YTK

      And free SUV rides sponsored by FROYO!!!

  • Janey

    The good news is Forest City has a pretty good track record of getting urban developments built quickly in complex political environments – like the East Baltimore development underway now. They are probably the right team to tackle this – they are builders with an effective lobbying/political arm, who buy off all the right people (figuratively speaking of course) to get a job done.

  • YTK

    Ballston develoopment sounds like a great idea. Considering the crime rate and the crazies in and around that area, hope they consider ramping up the police presence, like maybe a Satellite police precinct there.

  • Doyle

    Yeah, I bet the BID is excited – just knocking the thing down would be a business improvement.

  • Joan

    Perhaps “Mall” was removed from the name because it won’t have many stores? A “significantly reconfigured retail space” could mean that there’s only retail on the first floor or maybe two floors. A food court, a couple of restaurants, the theaters , and maybe a just few stores? No department stores? What anchor stores would want to move there, when they are already in Pentagon City or Tysons?

  • exBallstoner

    RIP Parkington. I’ll never forget you, Fellas Fashion.

  • YTK

    Parkington was a fun place. Arcadian Gardens was awesome. The polish bakery too.

    • Ballston Resident

      Parkington was great. They had garage sales that were fun, there was a Pennys and a Danneman Fabrics. And there was (sob!) Hechts. Bring back the good old days.

  • Dale Cherry

    The urban center mall is dying a quick death these days. Malls only live in the ‘burbs and even they are in trouble. The “town center” approach has been gaining ground for decades. I think this is a full acknowledge of that trend. Besides, Ballston Mall has needed a rethink for years now. I’m glad it’s finally coming. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I wish I could find a picture of Parkington! Arlington has so many memories and an ever-forming history but time moves on and that tired mall needs to keep up.

    • nom de guerre

      Here is a link to a picture of Parkington.

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/kinorama/4823676015/

      • tom smart

        thanks for the photos. boy does that bring back memories. did you ever go to the polish bakery there? or to the hair school to get a hair cut?

    • concur

      Malls are dead. It’s not a Arlingtonton thing. It’s a megatrend.

      Problem: all malls are dead.. but they never get demolished (urban or suburban).

      What will happen to this one?

      BTW to all: In 3 years, Pentagon City Mall will look like Ballston Mall.

  • DL

    Take a look at Mosaic District – anchor is Target. There’s a mix of high end and middle priced boutiques (we need boutiques!), excellent movie theater, 4 sisters, MOM, etc. plus apartments. It’s a good mix and a really nice place to walk around. They could take some lessons and make the indoor mall experience more pleasing. With the metro, ample parking and lots of wealthy young folks in the area it could be an excellent live-work-play situation.

  • Ivy

    I will be so happy to get rid of that eye-sore “Mall.” That place is down right creepy. But, I hope they throw more in then just apartments and office buildings. I would love to see new retail and eating places. Actually, what I really would love is to turn that whole thing into a Wegmans. Oh well! I doubt I will see that in my lifetime.

    • Wegmans fan

      Best comment ever.. you said WEGMANS!

      • m2fc

        Manassas Mall was on a similar decline and they added a Super Walmart (insert snark below). I think a Wegmans in the mall would do quite well as an “anchor” and possibly bring addtional foot traffic and stores. Everybody needs food.

        • Rosemary

          Consider a year round farmers market/ Eastern Market concept

  • Say What!?!

    They better get on this quickly, because if the county lays off police officers, imagine going to the current Ballston “Mall.” If you made it through there without being assaulted or robbed, it would be a good day.

  • BALLSTER

    Just stick a J. Crew and the Apple Store in there. DONE!

  • vasq

    Can they tear down the blue Marymount building on Fairfax while they’re at it?

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