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New Apartments, ‘Town Center’ Planned for Revamped Ballston Mall

by Ethan Rothstein | June 24, 2014 at 11:45 am | 13,675 views | No Comments

(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…)

Ballston Trees Cut Down for Landscape Improvements

by Ethan Rothstein | June 3, 2014 at 10:00 am | 2,963 views | No Comments

(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.

Casita Declared Restaurant Challenge Winner as Albisu Withdraws

by Ethan Rothstein | June 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm | 2,194 views | No Comments

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.

Taste of Arlington is One Month Away

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 9:30 am | 1,685 views | No Comments

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

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 6, 2014 at 9:20 am | 1,028 views | No Comments

"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

Two Companies Win Ballston Startup Competition

by Ethan Rothstein | December 5, 2013 at 11:00 am | 903 views | No Comments

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

Pop-Up Shop to Feature Home and Online Businesses on Small Business Saturday

by Ethan Rothstein | November 13, 2013 at 10:00 am | 625 views | No Comments

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

Mobility Lab Alumni Launch Transit Info Service

by Ethan Rothstein | November 4, 2013 at 11:00 am | 509 views | No Comments

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.”

Ballston’s Changecause Connecting Brands and Charities

by Ethan Rothstein | September 30, 2013 at 11:30 am | 812 views | No Comments

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…)

Ballston BID Optimistic Despite Challenges

by Ethan Rothstein | July 2, 2013 at 11:15 am | 1,919 views | No Comments

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…)

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | June 12, 2013 at 8:30 am | 1,381 views | No Comments

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]

“Virtual Statues” to Highlight New Ballston BID App

by Katie Pyzyk | April 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm | 1,313 views | No Comments

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

Ballston BID ‘Very Excited’ About Ballston Common Mall Redevelopment

by ARLnow.com | February 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm | 6,211 views | 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

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 19, 2013 at 8:30 am | 1,067 views | 26 Comments

View of Rosslyn across the Potomac (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Wakefield Captures District Championship — On Friday, the Wakefield High School boy’s basketball team defeated Mount Vernon 69-60 to become the National District champions. Wakefield is now competing in the Northern Region regional tournament. Yorktown, which fell 42-82 to Wakefield in the National District tournament, is also competing as a lower seed in the Northern Region tournament. [Northern Virginia Sports]

Neighbors Want Security Guard at New Homeless Shelter — Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominium in Courthouse are pressing Arlington officials to place a 24-hour security guard at the county’s planned year-round homeless shelter at 2020 14th Street N. Residents say they’re worried about an increase in crime as a result of the shelter moving next to their building. A resident’s Freedom of Information Act request revealed that there have been just under 6 police responses to the existing shelter per year, on average, between 1994 and 2011, mostly for alcohol-related incidents. [Arlington Mercury]

Arlington Tourism Tax Bill Passes General Assembly — A bill that would restore Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge is destined for the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell. The state legislature approved the bill, which will restore the tax authority — which is used to fund tourism promotion — for three years. [Sun Gazette]

Conservative Tech Biz Booming in Arlington — Business is booming for a small Arlington-based conservative digital advocacy company. The co-founder of Red Edge, which is based above an antique shop in Lyon Park, says he expects the business to double or triple this year as Republicans look to make up ground lost to Democrats in the online sphere. [New York Times]

Registration Open for Ballston LaunchPad Challenge — Registration is now open for the Ballston LaunchPad Challenge. The contest challenges entrepreneurs to come up with the “next great idea,” for a chance to pitch their innovation to billionaire Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. [Ballston BID]

Flickr pool photo by WolfkannDisclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. 

Leonsis: Ballston Could Be a Haven for the ‘Creative Class’

by ARLnow.com | January 14, 2013 at 1:45 pm | 1,974 views | 27 Comments

Ted Leonsis, the billionaire owner of the Washington Capitals and Wizards, says Ballston could soon be known as a haven for entrepreneurs and the “creative class.”

Leonsis made the remarks at a launch event Thursday night for the new Ballston Business Improvement District, which has announced a new campaign to brand Ballston as “home to some of the world’s brightest minds and most innovative industries.” The campaign will capitalize on the fact that the community is home to the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Virginia Tech Research Center, and various science and technology-related companies.

Leonsis, whose Capitals practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston, said he’s encouraged to see the BID unifying Ballston’s public agencies, private companies and academia around the theme of innovation.

“The community is really coming together to try to stimulate everything about the creative class,” he said.

As part of the BID’s campaign, Leonsis, a former AOL executive, is helping to conduct and underwrite a business competition for entrepreneurs called the Ballston LaunchPad Challenge. He said the winning business idea may receive funding from the $450 million investment fund he set up with AOL co-founder Steve Case.

“We’re here to help and mentor and to help find the next great companies that will start their businesses here and will create employment for residents in Northern Virginia,” Leonsis said.

“Right now there’s this mythology that the only great companies that can get started happen out in Silicon Valley, and that’s not what we adhere to or we believe,” he continued. “We think that there’s a creative class, that there’s unbelievable gifts, talent and infrastructure in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. and Maryland — and we want to help stimulate that. We think that there are great young entrepreneurs walking among us.”

Leonsis said the contest, which is just one component of the BID’s overall branding and business improvement effort, will  pay dividends in terms of stimulating economic activity in the area.

“This is a small part of this overall branding and outreach program, but I think it can be a very important part, because jobs are still the number one issue facing our country,” he said. “There’s no more noble, higher calling for an individual to create a company, see your vision come to life, and to employ people. Families get supported, kids get to go to good schools in the community, you start to shop in the mall, you start to eat in the restaurants, and the money stays within the community.”

“This is very strategic not just for Ballston, but for our country,” Leonsis added. ”If we are to make an investment… we want a commitment that you’ll stay in this community that’s treating you and supporting you so well.”

Leonsis said that small business in particular can help ”get young people get back to work” and out of their parents’ homes.

“We should never lose sight of the importance of small business,” he said. “Big companies right now retain earnings and shed jobs. Small businesses are creating all of the new opportunities and all of the innovation that’s keeping us competitive against global competition.”

Leonsis started and ended by addressing a topic that was on the minds of many — one concerning the return of dozens of wealthy individuals to the Ballston area.

“Thank you, and let’s go Caps,” he said, concluding his remarks.

Disclosure: The Ballston Business Improvement District is an ARLnow.com advertiser.

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