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Ballston Readies for National Science Foundation Departure

by Chris Teale March 9, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

With the National Science Foundation moving out of Ballston this year, its current building is slated for renovations.

The NSF will relocate to Alexandria, starting no later than September 1, and leave its present headquarters at Stafford Place on Wilson Boulevard.

And with its federal tenant on the way out, property owner Jamestown LP is looking ahead to the future of its buildings, which it bought for a combined $300 million in 2015.

The two buildings will be renamed the Ballston Exchange, with the 12-story atrium in 4201 Wilson Blvd set for a revamp in addition to new electronic systems and elevators and new tenants for the upper and lower levels.

All told, the renovation work will cost approximately $140 million, and will include new retail space on the ground floor.

Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown, said the firm is looking to take advantage of the growth in high-tech and cybersecurity jobs in Northern Virginia when searching for new tenants.

“We have specialties in internet security and in technology around that sort of process, but we also have the associations and the lobbying groups and the private industry that have all started to make Northern Virginia home,” he said. “To provide an environment for that for both small companies to incubate ideas and large companies to be part of the campus is our goal.”

To attract those tenants, Phillips said, Jamestown will make sure the renovated space embraces the new “interactive culture” of the workplace. Phillips said the redone space will include an interactive conference center and communal spaces, as well as amenities like yoga and spin classes to help with employees’ health and wellbeing.

And despite the departure of a federal tenant and the departure of more than 2,000 NSF employees, Phillips said Jamestown relishes the opportunity to revamp its property given the apparent region-wide trend away from government work.

“We bought the building knowing they [the NSF] were going, with the intent to do what we’re doing,” Phillips said. “I think there was a time that submarket was a very high percentage of government contractors and agencies, and I think that is shrinking and being replaced by private sector companies.”

Phillips said the renovation should be complete by next spring or summer, given that it will not begin until the NSF vacates.

Helen Duong, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, said the last permit application submitted for the NSF property was last August to remove the existing sky bridge.

Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell said the organization is looking forward to seeing what Jamestown will do.

“We’re excited about the significant new investment Jamestown is making that will deliver high quality Class A office space as well as new ground floor retail frontage in the heart of Ballston,” she said. “Additionally, this ideally-located property is located just across the street from the new Ballston Quarter public-private redevelopment.”

The redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall across the street — and its rebranding as Ballston Quarter — means there is plenty going on in that part of the county.

Demolition of portions of the mall to make way for the new apartment tower and retail center began last year.

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