60°Partly Cloudy

by Ethan Rothstein — October 1, 2014 at 3:30 pm 1,298 0

Welburn Square in Ballston(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) The last Ballston “mega market” of the year will be Oktoberfest-themed, with a beer and wine garden, live music and a new public art installation.

The market will run from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Welburn Square on N. Stuart Street, across from the Ballston Metro station. All visitors 21-and-over can enjoy a taste of beer and wine, with additional pours for $5. Anyone who purchases more than $10 of merchandise from some of the market’s vendors can have a second free tasting.

The beer will be provided by Northern Virginia breweries Heritage and Old Ox, as well as cider maker Angry Orchard.

While the beer and wine garden is happening, local band Jumpin’ Jupiter will perform their brand of, as they put it on their Facebook page, “Crash, boom, bangy kerplopabilly krap.”

The beer and wine will be accompanied by Ballston’s usual array of farmers selling vegetables, fruits, herbs and other goods, as well market vendors selling their goods. Tomorrow afternoon, the Ballston Business Improvement District will also unveil a new public art installation, called “Clouds.”

The Clouds are 50 light-and-sound interactive lanters placed all over the square. The lanterns take in and emit light and sound, and “will be programmed and then connected to form a cloud-like, networked structure,” according to a Ballston BID spokeswoman. The cloudlets were designed by artists Aki Ishida and Ivica Bukvic from the Virginia Tech Research Center in Ballston. Members of the public will participate in a workshop all day tomorrow to help build the clouds, which be displayed at 5:00 p.m.

While tomorrow is the last “mega market” in Ballston, the weekly farmers markets will continue to be held on Thursday evenings until the end of the month.

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser

by Ethan Rothstein — August 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm 1,419 0

Tina Leone and Casita owner Christina Campos at the Ballston BID's annual meeting 06/23/14Christiana Campos, the new restaurateur who won the Ballston Business Improvement District’s Restaurant Challenge this year, plans to open her new restaurant this winter.

Originally branded as “Casita,” Campos’ project at 1110 N. Glebe Road, next to The Melting Pot, will now be called “SER,” an acronym for “Simple, Easy, Real,” and a play on words with the Spanish verb “to be.”

As part of the Restaurant Challenge prize package, SER received a year of free rent from the building’s owner, Brookfield Properties, and a $245,000 interest-free loan. Campos told ARLnow.com that the restaurant needs “a bit more,” than the loan, so she has launched a Kickstarter campaign for another $15,000.

“The money we raise here [will] be used for the design and renovation of the place,” the Kickstarter says, “for an open kitchen where you can watch the cooking magic happen before your very own eyes, patio furniture… tables, chairs, lighting, a new dishwasher… an indoor herb garden, frames for our walls (with photos of friends, family and neighbors), linens, plates, glassware.”

As of this morning (Wednesday), SER has raised $2,925 of its goal. The fundraising round will close on Oct. 20. Among the perks that donors can receive:

  • For pledging $2,500, a donor will receive a five-course tasting dinner party for eight people and an invitation to SER’s soft opening.
  • For $800, the donor and a guest will get to shadow SER’s chef for a day, plus a five-course tasting meal for two and an invitation to SER’s soft opening.
  • For $500, the donor and a guest will be given a blind tasting menu; they will be given dishes by SER’s chef while blindfold, and receive an invitation to SER’s soft opening

The restaurant will specialize in “authentic, comfort Spanish food that goes beyond tapas,” Campos said in her email, adding that it is planned to be a casual, neighborhood spot, but the food will be “a gastronomical journey and cultural adventure throughout every region of Spain.”

File photo

by Morgan Fecto — August 11, 2014 at 11:00 am 1,216 0

Among farmers’ market attendees, corporate commuters, and bar-goers in Ballston last Thursday night (Aug. 7), something else stood out. Two new interactive art displays debuted on Ballston’s sidewalks in the forms of beach chairs and Craigslist poetry.

The brightly painted chairs on the corners of Fairfax Drive and N. Taylor Street, Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd, and in Welburn Square encouraged passersby to sit back and consider rising sea levels. Outside of A-Town Bar and Grill, the jumble of words pulled from Craigslist and projected onto a screen piqued the interests of pedestrians.

These two art installations were part of a series of “Public Displays of Innovation” sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District. “Beachfront Potential” and “Missed Connections” were the first of eight projects in the series intended to “bring the character and personality of Ballston to its streets,” according to Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone.

“We wanted to see how to incorporate technology and different forms of media for people to experience on the streets,” Leone said.

With Beachfront Potential, artist Patrick McDonough wanted to pose Ballston residents with the a new, hypothetical shoreline, and suggested that climate change could bring the beach to Ballston. Those who sat down at each of the beach chairs’ three locations were educated and engaged by mobile activities accessed by scanning unique barcodes with smartphones.

“With this project, it’s really the juxtaposition of leisure and this mixing of serious and non-serious imagery and content that’s really an effective way to deal with these things,” McDonough said.

Scanning the barcode at the Fairfax Drive location outside Zoe’s Kitchen and The Nature Conservancy brought up an informative video on climate change. McDonough created the 7-minute video using footage he took along Maryland’s eastern shore and from interviews with Nature Conservancy scientists. A “Skippin’ Stones” melting ice caps game and a list of suggested “beach reads” showed up from the Glebe Road and Wellburn Square locations’ barcodes, respectively.

“If you sit in your house and think about global warming, then you might become so morose that you never leave your house,” McDonough said.

McDonough teaches art at Corcoran College of Art + Design and American University. He said he got the idea for Beachfront Potential when he was looking at a map of rising sea levels.

“It was a happy correlation that this [predicted shoreline] went straight through the Ballston corridor,” McDonough said.

Artist Peter Lee projected a slideshow of black and white imagery and word fragments pulled from Craigslist’s Missed Connections section onto a small screen outside of A-Town.

“I worked in the area and it’s IT heavy and government heavy,” Lee said. “One of the most human things you can have is romance, and living in the D.C. area that’s normally synonymous with power and stuff [made it] interesting to find a human element here.”

Lee used a prepared slideshow Thursday because of a bad wi-fi connection outside the bar, but he said he can funnel bits of text from Craigslist as they’re posted with the algorithm he and co-creator Blake Turner wrote.

“We definitely tailored the data and the aesthetic toward Ballston,” Lee said. “We wrote the algorithm so it can chop up the data more, [because] previously we were just pulling subject lines from Craigslist. Now we’re pulling the content, and it’s like stream of consciousness poetry.”

Some of the pre-prepared bits of text said, “was wearing sunglasses” and “interested noww hit me/regularly/up.”

Lee and Turner are both George Mason University graduates and members of the Floating Lab Collective art group in D.C. Although their installation only showed Thursday, Friday (Aug. 8) and Saturday (Aug. 9), McDonough’s installation will remain on Ballston’s streets through September, Leone said.

Leone said the BID plans to debut its other six projects in the next three months. “Quantum Tours Americana” and  “Site: WA + FC (Ballston)” will show in September, “Cloud,” “Urban Oasis,” and “Forest of Knowledge” in October, and “Axon Xylophone Bridge” in November, Leone said. 

“We really try to look for things that are unique or haven’t been seen before,” Leone said. “It’s been a long time in the works, but they’re really amazing, extremely high quality projects that people can experience together.”

by Ethan Rothstein — June 24, 2014 at 11:45 am 13,675 0

(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) The future plans for the Ballston Common Mall include demolishing the Macy’s Furniture Store and parts of the current mall to build a 29-story residential tower and an open-air town center along Wilson Blvd, officials announced Monday night.

The 393-unit apartment building, at the corner of Wilson and N. Randolph Street, is projected to be completed by 2017, Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone revealed at the BID’s annual meeting last night. Leone said the redevelopment — including a revamp of the retail mix at the mall — will be crucial for the branding of Ballston, which is often closely associated with the increasingly run-down mall.

“The mall hasn’t quite been able to serve our public,” Leone said, noting the mall’s future is the main question she gets asked about the future of Ballston development. “The mall is going to ‘de-mall’ itself. The roof is coming off.”

The mall is owned and operated by Forest City, which purchased the Macy’s Furniture Store last September. Forest City spokesman Gary McManus told ARLnow.com at the time that the mall had planned retail space with more street access in Macy’s place, and those plans now include the residential tower.

The building is expected to have four floors of underground parking and two floors of retail space below the studio, one- and two-bedroom rental apartments. The apartment building and attached parking will have a separate entrance from the restaurants and remaining mall.

Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the main Macy’s store — which will fold in the furniture store on its ground floor — the Sport&Health Club and the Regal Cinemas will all remain in the closed-air section of the mall, which is being rebranded as “Ballston Center.”

Along Wilson Blvd, parts of the mall — which originally opened as the Parkington Shopping Center in 1951 before it was rebuilt and reopened as Ballston Common Mall in 1986 — will be torn down and replaced with an open-air, town center-like plaza. Demolition is expected to begin by late 2015.

“[Forest City] thought about what was going to have the highest impact,” Leone told ARLnow.com, saying the Ballston BID has been “on a very high level” helping to form plans for the mall’s redevelopment. “To make it a town center, this is life-altering for the people who live and work here.”

McManus said that the pedestrian bridge from the mall to the current National Science Foundation headquarters across the street is tentatively slated to be torn down — private conversations between Forest City and Arlington County Board members led the mall owner to remove it from the plans — but an agreement needs to be reached with the NSF building’s property owner before that can happen.

McManus also said that the retail mix in the mall will change, to become more restaurant and entertainment-oriented. It will be aimed at serving the immediate area, not as a mall that brings in most of its shoppers from other areas, despite the fact that it will have “some destination retail, too.”

“We don’t want to compete with Tysons or Pentagon City,” McManus said. “We’ve started this project before, but this time it’s got all the momentum behind it.”

In addition to the four-level, 580,000 square foot mall’s redevelopment, Leone announced plans for changes to public spaces expected this fall, like public art projects, Ballston-branded signs lining the streets and the new Fairfax Drive landscaping ARLnow.com reported on earlier this month.

Among the proposed projects is a redesigned Metro plaza, which Leone said she hopes will include an “interactive light installation” under the Metro canopy. The light installation is being designed in Amsterdam — it will track pedestrians’ movements underneath and project light based on that movement. The Metro plaza is also planned to include an small amphitheater and redesigned bus parking to remove some buses from N. Stuart Street. (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — June 3, 2014 at 10:00 am 2,963 0

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) More than a dozen trees that lined the median of Fairfax Drive  in Ballston were chopped down this weekend to make room for a new landscaping project.

Seventeen trees, some of which were around a foot in diameter, were removed by the Ballston Business Improvement District last weekend and this weekend. According to Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone, landscapers will be removing the stumps before they put in new trees and other plants.

Leone said 27 bald cypress trees will be planted in the median, accompanied by shrubbery and both annual and perennial flowers. Most of the work is projected to take between four and eight weeks, Leone said, but the perennials won’t be planted until the fall.

“We have started the implementation of our really dramatic landscaping for Fairfax Drive,” Leone said. “We see it becoming our grand boulevard for Ballston.”

The 17 trees removed “were near the end of their lives,” Leone said. “We had both our arborist and Arlington County’s take a look at them before the decision was made to remove them.”

The landscaping is the beginning of a re-envisioning of the way Ballston looks, and next year the improvements will begin in earnest to the “hardscape,” Leone said. The planned changes will be revealed on June 23 at the Ballston BID’s annual meeting, when attendees will be given a “3-D video tour” of the future of Ballston. Leone said the project should take about five years to complete.

“Ballston is going to look very different in the next five years,” she said. “This is just the first step.”

ARLnow.com received numerous tips and inquiries about the tree removal.

“A real shame,” one tipster said about the tree removal, before hearing about the replanting plans. “[It will result in] less green in the cityscape, less shade, less CO2 consumed, less oxygen produced, more of an urban heat island effect.”

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.

by Ethan Rothstein — June 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm 2,194 0

Restaurant Challenge finalists Victor Albisu, left, and Christiana Campos (photo courtesy Ballston BID)The Ballston Business Improvement District’s Restaurant Challenge is over before its long-promoted “Top Chef”-style cookoff could begin.

Del Campo and Taco Bamba chef Victor Albisu has withdrawn his concept, a Mexican restaurant called Bombazo, leaving Christiana Campos and her Spanish restaurant, Casita, as the winner.

Campos will now get to open up shop in the former Red Parrot space at 1110 N. Glebe Road, next to The Melting Pot with a year of free rent, an 11-year lease and a $245,000, interest-free loan from the building’s owner, Brookfield Properties.

Campos and Albisu were selected as the two finalists to compete in a final cookoff this Wednesday evening in the restaurant space that will now become Casita. They were selected from a pool of eight semi-finalists who competed in a judging panel during Taste of Arlington last month, and the two finalists’ selection generated some controversy because of confusion over the selection process.

The restaurant concept that won the most votes from Taste of Arlington attendees, Kristen Robinson’s Laurel, was not named a finalist. Despite Albisu dropping out this morning, Ballston BID CEO said Campos was declared the winner instead of Robinson being invited to the challenge.

“We decided that Casita and Christiana and her team thought they were going up against Victor, and to change that midway and say, ‘Oh we’re not going to award it to you’ and give a chance to someone else, we didn’t think it was the right thing to do,” Leone told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “They have a great plan, team and concept for that location. All the elements were there for a successful venture. We thought that was the best thing to do to award it to her.”

Albisu declined comment on dropping out of the Restaurant Challenge through his publicist. Restaurant Challenge judge and Top Chef alumnus Mike Isabella announced last week that he’d be opening a Mexican cantina, called Pepita, in Ballston, at 4000 Wilson Blvd, last week. Leone alluded to the fact that Isabella’s new venture, expected to open early next year, might have chased Albisu off.

“There were restaurant wars going on, it wasn’t quite the challenge we were putting on,” Leone said. “Things don’t always work out exactly the way you want, but we think this turned out pretty great. It’s a win for Ballston. We’re getting a Mexican restaurant and a Spanish restaurant.”

Campos described Casita on the Restaurant Challenge website as “inspired from the timeless taverns that over generations have been offering very unique, yet typical, classic comfort foods from Spain featuring top-quality and seasonal ingredients. These taverns are known for their hearty dishes and “menus del dia” (a three course meal at a reasonable cost), as well as “pintxos” (essentially snacks on a skewer).”

The Restaurant Challenge was a kind of sequel to last year’s Launchpad Challenge for startup technology companies. While Launchpad was seen as a success, Leone said there’s no certainty that another challenge is in the offing for Ballston. She also pointed out that Restaurant Challenge was the brainchild of Brookfield Properties looking to entice restaurants to its space, not an idea the BID hatched on its own.

There’s no word on when Casita plans to open. Campos will be officially announced as the winner at the BID’s annual meeting on June 23, when she will prepare an array of food as a preview for the restaurant.

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. Photo courtesy Ballston BID.

by Ethan Rothstein — April 18, 2014 at 9:30 am 1,685 0

Taste of Arlington 2012Taste of Arlington, the annual street festival in Ballston, returns on May 18.

The event, hosted by the Ballston Business Improvement District, will close down Wilson Blvd and part of N. Stuart Street to accommodate about 50 restaurant booths, two live music stages, a beer and wine garden, three golf putting holes and a rock climbing wall.

Among the restaurants being featured are Willow, the yet-to-open Kapnos, World of Beer, Big Buns, Pete’s Apizza, Circa and Red Rocks, among others. The restaurants will compete in competitions for best appetizer, best entrée and best dessert. The beer and wine garden will also feature national and local breweries like Port City in Alexandria, Devil’s Backbone, Flying Dog and Starr Hill, plus wine and sparkling wine from Barefoot.

The event will go from noon to 5:00 p.m., rain or shine. Tasting tickets can be bought online 10 for $30 before May 1, and 10 for $35 after that. Tickets for unlimited beer, wine and champagne, plus seats to watch the tasting up close can be had for $100, and $110 after May 1,  in the VIP champagne tent. Starting April 23, Harris Teeter locations in Arlington will also be selling ticket packets at a discount.

Before the event, at 10:00 a.m., there will also be a 5k organized by Girls on the Run, open to runners of all ages.

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. File photo

by ARLnow.com — February 6, 2014 at 9:20 am 1,028 0

"Parked at Penrose" by Ddimick

Lavern Chatman Running for Congress — Lavern Chatman, former president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, has announced that she’s running for the 8th District seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). “We need leaders who understand the struggles and joys of raising and educating children and the benefits of providing them opportunities for economic empowerment,” Chatman, a Democrat, said in a statement. [Blue Virginia]

TandemNSI Launches — TandemNSI, Arlington’s initiative to bring national security technology companies together with government agencies and universities, officially launched Tuesday night. The $525,000 public-private partnership is being launched at a time when Arlington is still smarting from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation. [Bisnow, DoD Buzz]

McKinley Elementary Expansion – A plan to add 225 seats to McKinley Elementary School by the fall of 2016 is moving forward. Arlington Public Schools hopes to complete the design of the addition by the end of 2014 and begin construction by mid-2015. [Sun Gazette]

Restaurant Challenge Begins — The Ballston Business Improvement District is now accepting applications for its Restaurant Challenge. The BID is seeking the area’s “next signature restaurant.” The winner of the challenge will receive an interest-free loan and an 11-year lease on the former Red Parrot Asian Bistro space at 1110 N. Glebe Blvd. “This new program is designed to activate commercial space and showcase the community of Ballston as a magnet for discovery and innovation,” the BID said.  [Ballston BID, Washington Business Journal]

Marymount Creates Redskins Gear for Women — Fashion design students at Marymount University in Arlington have created new fashion-forward Washington Redskins apparel for women. The student project was initiated in response to what a professor saw as a lack of stylish options for female Redskins fans. [Marymount University]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

by Ethan Rothstein — December 5, 2013 at 11:00 am 903 0

Some of today’s big names in local business gathered in Ballston Wednesday night to decide who will be the big names of tomorrow.

Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, former United States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) were among the judges for the Ballston Business Improvement District Launchpad Challenge Finale. One company was supposed to go home with $15,000 in cash, office space and furniture and free legal advice.

After hearing four presentations, the judges couldn’t narrow it down to just one, so they chose two companies — BuilDatAnalytics and Carsquare — to each go home with the grand prize.

“Both companies made a lot of sense to us,” Leonsis said after the ceremony. “We liked the teams and entrepreneurs. In horseracing, sometimes you bet the jockey and not the horse.”

BuilDatAnalytics is a business intelligence company aimed at solving inefficiencies in construction projects. Founder Tiffany Hosey Brown worked two years in construction for her family’s construction company before deciding the day-to-day operations needed radical improvement. Her company guarantees a 1 percent savings on all construction projects for its clients; considering her pilot clients’ projects cost more than $1 billion combined, she said she’s already saving them $10 million.

“It was kind of surreal, but it was exciting,” Brown said of when Leonsis called her name. She donned a hard hat during part of her presentation, and strode about the stage with confidence. When asked if there was a point during her speech if she knew she was going to win, she answered, “when [Leonsis] asked me ‘what are you going to do with the money?’”

Carsquare is billed by its founder and CEO, Khurrum Shakir, as the Kayak for cars; an aggregator of different online car shopping sites, brought together in one place. Shakir, who worked under Leonsis at AOL as a business development manager for AOL Cars, is hoping to raise $2 million in funding to fuel marketing to bring more eyeballs to his site.

“Next for us is taking it to the next level,” Shakir said afterward. “We need to finalize the app we have and integrate our new website.”

The two finalists not selected, Changecause and M2 Labs, will join BuilDatAnalytics and Carsquare next month in actual pitch meetings with Leonsis, where they will have a chance to convince one of the D.C. area’s richest people to invest in their company.

Attorney Mark Gruhin, the fourth judge on the panel and a venture investor in his own right, said each company had a strong idea, but it will take more than a 10-minute presentation in a movie theater to convince investors.

“They’re scaling right now. They have to prove their management skills,” Gruhin said. “They need to get ready for the curveballs, because they’re coming.”

There were 14 semifinalists in the field before it was narrowed to four. Before the field was narrowed down, members of the community chose Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand — a company aimed at fostering entrepreneurship in children in grades 2-4 — for the Customer Appreciation Award. The company was founded by 7-year-old Kylee Majkowski and her mother, Amanda Antico-Majkowski, who were presented with the award on stage.

Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone announced 2014′s LaunchPad Challenge at the event, a different competition than 2013′s startup competition. Starting in January, the BID will accept applications for a new signature restaurant in Ballston. The prize will be a year of free restaurant space and the competition will be helmed by chef Mike Isabella, owner of several D.C.-area restaurants, including an upcoming eatery in Ballston.

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser

by Ethan Rothstein — November 13, 2013 at 10:00 am 625 0

Ballston Common Mall (photo by Katie Pyzyk)On Saturday, Nov. 30, shoppers in Ballston will be able to browse offerings of local home- and online-based businesses in person at a pop-up shop.

Sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District, the shop will be in the Ballston BID Launchpad space, next to the mall entrance at 4238 Wilson Blvd, in the old Chevy’s Restaurant space.

The shop is being set up for the second annual Arlington Small Business Day, to be held between the major Christmas shopping days, Black Friday (Nov. 29) and Cyber Monday (Dec. 2).

The pop-up shop will be Arlington residents’ chance to meet the owners of some of their favorite local home businesses, or learn about some new ones. Among the businesses listed on ASBD’s website are Happy Doh Lucky, Bee Hive Design and Sweets for my Sweet.

There are participating small businesses all over Arlington, in Clarendon, Ballston Rosslyn/Courthouse, Columbia Pike, Crystal City, Shirlington, Cherrydale, Westover, Pentagon City, Lee Harrison and Lee Heights.

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser

by Ethan Rothstein — November 4, 2013 at 11:00 am 509 0

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

TransitScreen display of U Street MetroNot all tech startups are born in a garage, or in coffee shops, with idealistic expectations of disrupting an entire industry or changing the way people interact with each other.

One of Arlington’s more promising startups got its start under the wing of Mobility Lab, an Arlington County-funded transit research organization. TransitScreen began as a fellowship in the Mobility Lab with now-president Matt Caywood and a few colleagues trying to figure out a way to “make transit easier.”

They developed a monitor system that displays up-to-the-minute transit information for the area in which it is displayed. The display shows Metro and buses, but also information about Capital BikeShare stations, streetcars and other transportation options.

The fellowship lasted four months, during which much of TransitScreen was developed, but there was nowhere to go within the Mobility Lab after that.

“We did some interesting and great stuff there, but there wasn’t continuity,” Caywood said. “There was a weird interregnum after that was over because we needed to go commercial. The screens needed support.”

Caywood began to grow TransitScreen along with co-founder Ryan Croft. Initially, TransitScreen was started only in Arlington, then expanded to all of Washington, D.C. This month, TransitScreen installed its first screen in San Francisco — where Croft is currently located — and is in discussions for screens in New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Canada.

TransitScreen President Matt CaywoodIn June, TransitScreen was accepted into the Ballston Business Improvement District Launchpad competition, where it is an alternate in the semifinal stage. Caywood spoke to ARLnow.com from the Launchpad’s office in the old Chevy’s restaurant in Ballston, while Croft was on a conference call from his new home base in San Francisco.

Like most tech startups, TransitScreen was formed to solve a problem, Caywood says.

“We had to figure out how to bring all these services together,” he said. “Our goal is to bring all the relevant information to the user in 10 seconds.”

Caywood, Croft and their contracted designers and engineers designed a platform that could adapt to any metropolitan area with a multitude of transit options, but Caywood said the D.C. area was the perfect place to start the experiment.

“Places like Arlington and D.C. are ideal,” he said. “It’s a city that’s committed to transit-oriented development and a population that is open to trying new things. It helps if the decision-makers are familiar with transit. In D.C. and Arlington, everyone who makes the decisions also uses the transit system.”

The screens are designed right now to be an amenity for residential and commercial developments, although TransitScreen does have a partnership with the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.

TransitScreen“You turn the screen on and it attracts a lot of attention,” Caywood said. When the screen at the Launchpad office is turned on, passers-by on the street frequently stop and look. “We want to create enough of a presence where people will rely on it for their transit needs.”

Caywood said in the D.C. area, a large percentage of travelers only ever consider Metrorail as an option, and one of his company’s challenges — and opportunities — is to convince travelers to use other options.

“Seventy percent of people use multimodal transportation, whether it’s Metro and bicycle, car and bus,” Caywood said. “But buses are very mysterious. People see them and don’t know where they go or where they come from. People need to be informed, and I think that’s where we’re going.”

by Ethan Rothstein — September 30, 2013 at 11:30 am 812 0

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Changecause CEO Zach Liscio, left, and COO Edward RidgelyWhen Zack Liscio, the CEO and co-founder of Changecause, moved from his job at Google in July to work in Arlington full-time and help his startup get off the ground, his friends and coworkers in Silicon Valley were confused.

“Everyone assumes that San Francisco is a more fertile group for startups,” he said. “I don’t think that’s true. It’s such a dense marketplace that it’s really hard to stand out. Plus, in the D.C. area, the talent and access to capital and mentors blows that out of the water.”

Liscio, as well as co-founder and COO Edward Ridgely, knew something about Washington, D.C.-based startups before they launched Changecause; they met at perhaps D.C.’s most successful tech startup, LivingSocial. When Ridgely and Liscio met at LivingSocial, they shared with each other their passion for helping nonprofits and donating to charities.

Incorporated last November, Changecause was a side job for Liscio, Ridgely, Chief Technology Officer Michael Seid and Chief Strategy Officer Patrick Costello. They initially set out to build an app designed to be a mobile wallet, where users could pay for goods on their smartphones. After seeing the small fees from each transaction and realizing how much money, on a grand scale, that could add up to, Liscio and Ridgely adjusted course.

Changecause screenshot“There was such an emphasis on local commerce at LivingSocial,” Ridgely said. “So I started thinking what was the way I could give back.”

Eventually, they landed on the idea that would become Changecause. Users can donate small amounts — typically between $1 and $5 — to a charity of their choice, and brands looking to increase awareness of both themselves and their philanthropy will match the donation.

“Donating to charity can be as effective as advertising for a brand,” Liscio said. “The reasons why brands like Toms are so big is because of cause branding and social responsibility.”

To add to the appeal to brands, Changecause will pair brands with donors whose demographics match a particular brand’s target market; if a 27-year-old donates to charity and lists running as its interest, a brand like Nike would match that donation.

The Changecause team became “active on all the local tech listserves,” Ridgely said, seeking advice, mentors, potential partners; anything really. They applied to the Ballston Business Improvement District Launchpad program, which provides startups with occasional office space, mentorship programs and networking opportunities.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — July 2, 2013 at 11:15 am 1,919 0

The Ballston Business Improvement District held its second annual meeting last Wednesday to discuss Ballston and its future, which looks more uncertain than a year ago when the BID was created.

Held just weeks after news broke that the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service headquarters would be moving out of Ballston for offices in Alexandria and elsewhere, Ballston BID Executive Director Tina Leone said the talks focused on the positives of Ballston’s business future and recent past.

The meeting “recapped the many accomplishments made over the past year,” Leone said. “We did our research. We talked to a lot of people, including residents, tenants and brokers. What resulted was a fabulous trend that highlights connectivity, creativity and endless possibilities. This reflects the type of people that work here.”

Leone said the NSF and FWS moves didn’t come up because they had been discussed at length in the media beforehand. Leone said speculation that the moves would devastate Ballston were exaggerated, and the BID had known something like it was coming for some time.

“Overall it’s not a surprise that we’re losing government tenants. Everyone knows that this has been coming, that things were going to downsize,” Leone said. “[The NSF] was here many, many years ago and they were part of the attraction for many other organizations to come. However, we now have many other organizations here that are related to research, science, discovery and imagination. There’s no doubt we want them to stay but we’re going to recover from this and move on.”

“We’re still where minds meet,” she continued, “and a lot can happen in four years.”

Wayne Kubicki, a fiscal watchdog who previously served on the Arlington County Civic Federation Revenues and Expenditures Committee, is more skeptical in general of the future of the commercial real estate market in Arlington; the county is now facing one of the highest office vacancy rates in its history, and now must figure out how to replace massive government organizations that are moving out.

“The question is, if this is going to continue — and there’s every reason to believe it will — who are the private sector tenants who are going to fill all the space?” Kubicki said in an interview Monday. “I would think, and [Arlington County] board members have expressed concern, that the office market has got some choppy waters ahead.”

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — June 12, 2013 at 8:30 am 1,381 0

Office building in Rosslyn as seen from the Marine Corps War Memorial

Pro-Change Group Forms in Bluemont — Fed up with neighbors who shot down a potential redevelopment of the Safeway site in Bluemont, a group of residents has formed a new organization called “Bluemont Forward.” The organization says it wants to see Wilson Boulevard become a more vibrant and walkable main street, with “an improved grocery store and other amenities for neighborhood residents.” The group might be too late to save the Safeway development, however; Greater Greater Washington reports that developer Silverwood may have “quietly backed out of the project.” [Bluemont Forward, Greater Greater Washington]

Layoffs at PBS NewsHour — PBS NewsHour, which is produced in Shirlington, has laid off a number of staff members in a reorganization. The production will also save money by streamlining and digitizing its technical processes. [TV Newser]

Ballston LaunchPad Finalists Revealed — Kylee Majkowski, the 8-year-old CEO of Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand, is among the 10 semi-finalists in the Ballston LaunchPad Challenge. The entrepreneurial competition will pair the semi-finalists and their startup businesses with mentors. In November, three finalists will be chosen and will have a chance to pitch their business idea to venture capitalist and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. Competition organizer Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. [Patch]

Wedding Planning Recommendations at the Library — With wedding season in full-swing, Arlington Public Library has published a list of books and movies that may be of interest to those planning a wedding. [Arlington Public Library]

Northam, Herring Prevail in Dem Primary -- Turnout was very light for Tuesday’s statewide Democratic primary. Ralph Northam, a state Senator, is the new Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, having defeated Arlington resident Aneesh Chopra. State Sen. Mark Herring captured the nomination for attorney general. [WJLA]

by Katie Pyzyk — April 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm 1,313 0

Rendering of John Wall "virtual statue" (courtesy Ballston BID)The Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) will be showing off some “virtual statues” of local sports figures at Taste of Arlington to highlight the upcoming launch of its new mobile device app.

Users will be able to walk up to one of the posted markers, scan a code with their phone, and see a brief video of a sports star. The first three markers will be unveiled on Sunday, May 19, at Taste of Arlington. Each features one of three local sports stars: Washington Capitals team captain Alex Ovechkin, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall or D.C. United midfielder Chris Pontius.

Visitors do not have to bring a mobile device in order to try out the virtual statue markers. Volunteers will be on hand with iPads to demonstrate how the technology works, and to show users how to get a photo of themselves with the virtual statues (see rendering above).

“This is relatively new,” said Ballston BID Chief Executive Officer Tina Leone. “We don’t know of any other examples where this technology has been used before like this.”

The technology will be a small portion of a larger Ballston BID app. More markers with codes eventually will be installed throughout Ballston. Once users download the mobile app, they will be able to scan the markers and learn about the importance of that particular site, or even see a list of events that will take place there. For instance, a marker near Welburn Square could list upcoming dates of the Ballston Farmers Market.

“We want people to enjoy this and try the technology so they get used to seeing this around Ballston,” said Leone. “We’re employing this in stages over time, probably a one to two year period, because there are so many aspects we want to include and we want to do it right. Eventually there will be mobile WiFi hotspots throughout Ballston and there will be a map showing those. This will be a really robust mobile application.”

Although the full application is still in the planning stages, another idea is to have markers posted in the windows of restaurants and businesses.

“This is where everything is going. Everyone uses their mobile device, it’s the first thing that people do,” Leone said. “If you’re walking by a retailer and don’t know them, what do you do? Whip out your mobile device and research it. We want people to know what’s going on here.”

Leone said the virtual statues and the new app bring together some of the best parts of Ballston.

“We have these amazing minds behind the scenes that create this technology. We’re trying to bring this technology and personality to the streets,” she said. “We want to showcase the great minds in Ballston. This is a great marriage of bringing efforts together and bringing our brand to the public.”

Besides the virtual markers, visitors to Taste of Arlington will see a number of other changes. There will be more child-friendly activities at the Washington Capitals and Wizards KidZone, an expanded beer and wine tent and picnic tables. Booths will be repositioned, and some eliminated, to allow for more walking room. Visitors will pay the same price for tasting tickets as they did last year ($30), but will get more tasting tickets (10) for the money.

“We encourage people to come out because we’ve made some great improvements this year,” said Leone. “We’re really excited about it.”

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser

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