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Ballston Mall Prepares for Possible Mass Closures By Year’s End

(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) The approval process for Ballston Common Mall’s massive renovation plans is still months away, but many stores are likely to close after the end of the year.

Forest City, which owns the mall, has coordinated leases for many of their shops on the mall’s interior to expire by the end of this year. This would pave the way for the mall’s renovation in 2016 once it’s approved, according to spokesman Gary McManus.

“We are currently in the process of positioning the mall for this demolition period by steadily vacating store units by the end of this year that will be impacted by early phases of demolition/redevelopment activity,” McManus told ARLnow.com in an email.

“To that end,” he continued, “we decided more than a year ago to institute lease terms for many of these store tenants that would not stretch into 2016 in order to give us the flexibility to start on the site work sooner than later, once the approvals process has been completed.”

McManus couldn’t specify which stores would be closing because of ongoing negotiations, but he said every business with an outside entrance will remain open throughout the entire renovation. That means Macy’s, Regal Cinemas, Rock Bottom Brewery, Noodles & Co., Panera Bread, Sport&Health Club and the CVS Pharmacy will be able to stay open, but everything else could be on the chopping block.

Forest City submitted three different site plan amendments with Arlington County last summer: one to renovate the mall’s interior, another to construct a 393 unit, 29-story residential tower with ground floor retail at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and N. Randolph Street, and a third to renovate the office building above the mall.

All of those applications are under staff review and no dates have been set for meetings of the Site Plan Review Committee, the Arlington Planning Commission or the County Board. While many site plan amendments take within 12 months to work through the process, the grand scope of Forest City’s plans dictate a longer review period, county planning staff said.

“The timeline has been due to the nature and complexity of the proposal,” Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Gina Wimpey said in an email. ” We want to ensure that, given that there are three separate applications for the redevelopment of the block that are interrelated, an appropriate review process is determined.”

McManus said he can’t speculate on a development timetable until Forest City has its plans approved, but he said it will go before the Board “hopefully by late 2015.”

Before that happens, Forest City will be selling national retailers on the future of Ballston Common Mall — which will be rebranded, but, McManus said, may not carry the previously circulated “Ballston Center” moniker — at industry conventions, in particular the ICSC conference in Las Vegas.

“Many retailers not currently located in the mall have expressed excitement and interest in learning more about our plans at this event,” McManus said. “So overall, the redevelopment plans for Ballston Common are on track and proceeding smoothly. This is a complex process and we are very excited about the anticipated results. Believe me when I say that no one is more eager to complete the redevelopment process at Ballston Common than Forest City Washington.”

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