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County Board Unanimously Approves Ballston Mall Project

by Jennifer Currier November 18, 2015 at 11:15 am 0

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall at its meeting last night.

In its approval of the project — which is now referred to as Ballston Quarter — the Board also entered a Letter of Intent to pursue a public-private partnership with Forest City Enterprises, the company that currently owns and operates the mall and is spearheading the redevelopment effort.

“This is an important, exciting redevelopment in the heart of Ballston,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “The long-term benefits of a revitalized Ballston Quarter warrant a public-private partnership — a wise strategic investment for the public good.”

The partnership is primarily financial at this stage of the project. According to a press release, the county plans to contribute $10 million to the project, including parking and transportation improvements around the mall, and would issue a $45.4 million Community Development Authority bond to further finance the redevelopment.

At the meeting, Hynes said other details of the agreement are “not fully fleshed out.”

The entire project is expected to cost $317 million for interior, facade streetscape improvements to existing buildings at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road. It also includes new development, like a 22-story, 406-unit apartment building where the Macy’s Furniture Store currently is.

The redevelopment of the mall itself involves more than 323,000 square feet of retail space, an open-air plaza with vendor stalls, improvements to the parking garage and a new pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd.

Public testimony given at the meeting by Ballston residents, business owners and stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive, thanking the Board for their work and expressing support for the project moving forward.

“Ballston has continued to evolve and transform over the years,” Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone said. “This property has served as a huge economic generator in the past, and it is vital to Ballston’s sustainability and long-term competitiveness.”

Resident and small business owner Jennifer Galloway echoed the need to rethink the mall.

“There’s currently a void in Ballston for most of our daily needs,” she said. “The redevelopment of the mall helps to fill that void and truly bring a town center feel to the heart of the area.”

Some residents did raise concerns and asked the Board to reconsider a proposal to remove the median strip on Wilson Blvd and to maximize the amount of space made available to the public on the property.

Board members addressed those concerns and took note to consider them moving forward. Still, members had positive views of the future of the project and of Ballston.

“This is a unique experience for us, stepping up like this to partner in the way we’re proposing to do it,” Board member Jay Fisette said. “It’s a smart, strategic investment all the way around, both public and private. We’re doing it with a reliable, experienced partner. That’s no small part in this.”

Board member J. Walter Tejada also shared his excitement.

“Ballston has the dynamic where you have to like urban living because it almost has the pulse of a city,” he said. “You can almost feel it, and [the project] has so much potential to make it even greater.”

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