Taste of Arlington will be a ticketed event for the first time this year, both for entry and to purchase alcohol.
Previously a free event, attendees at this year’s festival on May 21 will need to pay $5-15 for admission ($5 is the current early bird price) then pay an additional $5 for each drink ticket and $1-5 for each taste, paid directly to the restaurant or food truck
Many restaurants and food trucks will accept cash and credit cards, although some may only take cash. A number of ATMs will be on site.
More than 50 restaurants, food trucks and chefs are expected to participate, including international cuisine.
Restaurants will compete in the “Best of the Best” food competition in the following categories: Best Appetizer, Best Brunch, Best Fast Casual Entrée, Best Fine Dining Entrée, Best Dessert, Fan Favorite and Best Food Truck. Winners will be announced at 5 p.m. on the main concert stage.
This year’s festival has also moved closer to the Virginia Square Metro station on Wilson Boulevard, and stretches along Wilson from N. Randolph Street to N. Nelson Street. It will last from noon to 6 p.m.
Last year, Taste of Arlington raised $40,000 for BallstonGives and the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
A busy street in Ballston will be closed this weekend while crews work to erect a construction crane.
N. Randolph Street is set to be blocked off between Wilson Blvd and the Ballston mall parking garage starting at 9 a.m. Saturday. The massive crane will be assisting with the construction of the new residential tower, which is part of the Ballston Quarter project.
More from the Ballston BID:
Clark Construction Group and their subcontractors will be erecting the tower crane for the Ballston Quarter Residential Tower this weekend on Saturday (3/18) and Sunday (3/19).
They will be closing N. Randolph Street between Wilson Blvd. and the Arlington County Parking Garage starting Saturday, 3/18, at 9 AM. and will be reopened upon completion. Vehicles will be detoured from N. Randolph St. for the entire duration of the closure. (Note: The County parking garage entrance on N. Randolph St. will remain open.) You will find a diagram of this condition for your above.
Off-duty police officers will be present to help enforce the closures and field and questions.
BLinked is available throughout Ballston’s public areas, thanks to a partnership between the Ballston Business Improvement District and Rockville-based startup Wi-Fiber. The BID says it is the first seamless, district-wide network in the region.
Wi-Fiber developed a system to serve the more than 30,000 people that work in Ballston. More than 30 discreet antennae relay signals connect all of Ballston’s outdoor public spaces to the “gigabit-capable” network, according to a press release.
Using algorithms to track data usage patterns throughout the neighborhood, BLinked also reads and interprets network activity in real time. It then uses the gathered data to redistribute resources to meet traffic and usage demands, meaning that users should not experience slow-downs.
“This is the next step in making Ballston stronger, smarter, and safer,” said Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID. “We’re proud to be the first to meet the impending need for public connectivity, and we anticipate this inspires new information and communication infrastructures throughout Arlington and across the region.”
Such programs have been requested by local business leaders, including Monumental Sports & Entertainment chairman Ted Leonsis in an interview with the Washington Business Journal last month.
A similar initiative has been undertaken in New York City through LinkNYC, which has worked to replace pay phones in the city with so-called “Links,” which provide services like high-speed Wi-Fi, phone calls, a tablet for maps and city services and charging outlets.
The new Wi-Fi network can help reduce strain on traditional cellular networks, which can crumble under heightened activity in crisis situations.
Chase Donnelly, a founding partner of Wi-Fiber, said the move to area-wide Wi-Fi can help integrate electric grids, water systems, stoplights and more into the Internet system to improve efficiency.
“This network could one day serve as the spinal cord for the city’s infrastructure,” Donnelly said in a statement. “This vision people have about the next generation of cities in which everything is interconnected, that’s what we’re providing the foundation for.”
Update at 3 p.m. — A PR rep for the BID clarified that the network is “gigabit-capable,” not “gigabyte-capable” as stated in the press release. The network is currently being tested and is expected to be available to the public by the end of the month.
What does it take to plan an event with 50,000 attendees and dozens of restaurants, vendors and entertainers?
For the four-person team behind Taste of Arlington, planning this year’s event started the day after last year’s event.
“It’s a year-long project,” said Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District, which organizes the annual event. “It starts off like a tsunami, very calm, then it explodes. We’re a four person team and we have many other projects going on. The stress level definitely rises, but we always pull it off, every year.”
“You immediately start to renew the sponsors,” Catherine Roper, the BID’s Chief Marketing Officer, said of the early planning. “When planning something of this magnitude you have to work smart. So we form a lot of strategic alliances, partnerships with folks.”
Those partnerships — with organizations from TV and radio stations to local professional sports teams to this very website — have helped the event to grow from around 10,000 attendees when the BID took over its planning to the nearly 50,000 attendees expected this year.
“It’s one thing to plan something and execute it well but you need the people to come,” said Roper.
This year the BID is also partnering with the Arlington Food Assistance Center. AFAC is helping the BID recruit some 450 volunteers for the event. In return the BID has committed to donating at least $25,000 in proceeds from Taste of Arlington to AFAC.
In years past, the setup on Wilson Blvd took place from midnight to 6 a.m. on the morning of the event. With the growth of the event — it now takes place up over several blocks — the BID decided to start the setup on Wilson Blvd the day before.
“This year we get to set up on Saturday and get the tents up in the daylight,” said Roper. “When you’re dealing with something outside, you have to bring everything to the streets [and] you have to make sure you have energy to make everyone happy.”
The expanded layout means that long food lines and jam-packed streets are mostly a thing of the past.
“We expanded the footprint and fortunately [attendees] don’t all come at one time, it’s over seven hours,” said Leone. “It never feels overcrowded, we’ve made improvements to the layout of restaurants. You can now buy tickets online so we don’t have to worry about” long ticket lines anymore.
The day of the event, hundred of volunteers help to make the event happen while the core team makes sure everything runs smoothly.
“We train our volunteers very well, they know what they’re going to be doing that day, they know the map,” said Roper. “We couldn’t do this without our volunteers. It’s crazy, there’s a lot of energy, but it’s all for a good cause.”
Taste of Arlington is taking place this Sunday, May 15 from noon to 7 p.m. This year it will feature a 400-foot “street pub” plus an expanded, family-friendly KidZone and a lineup of eight bands on two stages. Tickets are still available online.
Don’t miss ARLnow.com’s “tasting table” with our friends Sarah Fraser and Samy K, amid the main restaurant row at Taste. See the four dishes we selected for the tasting table here, here, here and here.
Taste of Arlington will feature a mammoth “street pub” this year.
The 400-foot long portable bar travels the country, offering draft beer from Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery at various large events. Proceeds from the beer sales will be donated to charity, said a rep for the Ballston BID, which organizes the annual event.
“This partnership will not only take the beer garden to a whole new level, but will greatly increase Taste’s fundraising clout,” said Mollie Wagoner.” As a signature event of the Ballston BID’s new charitable arm, BallstonGives, they hope to outdo all past fundraising. The BID has already guaranteed a minimum $25,000 donation to Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) with a goal of raising much more.”
The event, held along Wilson Blvd in Ballston, features food from more than 50 restaurants and attracts some 40,000 people each year. The beer and wine sales area is consistently one of the most crowded sections of the festival.
This year’s Taste of Arlington is scheduled for May 15 from noon to 6 p.m.
The wall is an 8 by 12 foot chalkboard with the words ‘I wish I had the courage to…’ stamped across the top. Below are spaces for passersby fill in what they wish they had the courage to face up to, using the chalk that will be made available.
Alexandria native Nancy Belmont first erected the Courage Wall in May, in the Del Ray community, to “create a conversation about fear and allow those passing by to reflect on what is holding them back from achieving their dreams.” It quickly went viral and was featured on Good Morning America and the Today Show.
While in Ballston, the wall will be located in Welburn Square, across from the Ballston Metro station. The current plan is for the wall to stay in the square until July 31.
Piedmont Office Realty Trust and the Ballston Business Improvement District worked together to bring the wall to Arlington. The BID says it hopes the wall will provide “an opportunity for reflection as the community begins celebrating the Fourth of July.”
The wall will be erased when it is full of entries, but prior to that a photo of the filled-in wall will be taken and posted to Facebook and Instagram.
Photo via nancybelmont.me
This year, Taste of Arlington will feature 49 restaurants and a beer and wine garden that’s bigger than ever. Booklets of tickets for tasting and drinking are on sale now.
Stop by the Ballston farmer’s market tomorrow evening, from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. at 901 N. Taylor Street, for a $25 packet of 10 tickets. If you purchase on the Ballston Connect mobile, app, a packet costs $30. Packets purchase online are $35 and packets purchased at the festival will be $40. Tickets to the VIP pavilion, with unlimited beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres provided by SER, cost $100 online, and $110 at the festival.
The festival will close down the streets of Ballston all day: Wilson Blvd from N. Glebe Road to Quincy Street and Stuart and Randolph streets from Wilson to 9th Street N.
In addition to the restaurant booths, beer and wine garden and VIP pavilion, there will be three stages for live music, a Kids Zone with games and face painting and the return of the World Pup Tournament, which costs $10 to enter one’s dog to participate.
The restaurants in attendance will compete for a “Best of the Best” food title in the following categories: Best Appetizer, Best Fast Casual Entrée, Best Fine Dining Entrée and Best Dessert. The judging will be held at 3:00 p.m. in the VIP pavilion and the winners will be announced at 4:00 p.m. on the main stage.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center. The restaurants participating and competing are as follows:
- Westover Beer Garden
- Sehkraft Beer Garden
- Thunder Beast
- Tasty 6
- Naan Stop DC
- Pepita Cantina
- Water & Wall
- Rito Loco
- Postmodern Foods
- Curley’s BBQ
- Sweet Fix DC
- Bracket Room
- Orient Bowl
- Don Tito
- Sushi Rock
- Urban Bumpkin BBQ
- Ben’s Chili Bowl
- American Tap Room
- Dolce Sweets
- Pizza Vinoteca
- Koolzone Ice and Treats
- Mac’s Donuts
- Northside Social
- Lyon Hall
- Mussel Bar & Grille
- Liberty Tavern
- Commonwealth Joe
- Epic Smokehouse
- RedRocks Pizzeria
- The Melting Pot
- Which Wich
- The Front Page
- P.F. Chang’s
- Nando’s Peri-Peri
- La Tasca
- Il Forno
- World of Beer
- Fuego Cocina y Tequileria
- Kapnos Taverna
- Big Buns
- A-Town Bar and Grill
- Lebanese Taverna
File photo. Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) The annual Taste of Arlington food festival in Ballston will be back for 2015 on Sunday, May 17.
Last year, the festival drew a record 40,000 attendees, according to its organizer, the Ballston Business Improvement District. This year, the BID hopes to surpass that mark, with new restaurants Pizza Vinoteca and Kapnos Taverna joining Taste of Arlington regulars P.F. Chang’s, Pete’s Apizza and Fuego Cocina y Tequileria.
All food and drinks can be tasted with the purchase of a ticket booklet, which costs $30 until May 1, when the price goes up to $35. Each booklet contains 10 tickets. Tickets to the VIP Pavilion, which includes unlimited beer, wine, champagne and appetizers, cost $75, and go up to $100 on May 1.
There will again be a KidZone and a Bark Park and World Pup Tournament, so families with pets and children can all have something to participate in. There will also be a Girls on the Run 5K race in the morning, before the main event, which runs from noon to 6:00 p.m.
The actual event is free for all to roam around Wilson Blvd and surrounding streets that will be closed to traffic for the afternoon.
File photo. Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Serving dishes from every region of Spain, chef and co-owner Josu Zubikarai doesn’t shy away from the idea that only “foodies” might try certain items from his menu, like the Txipirones — squid in its ink, tentacles and all.
“Spain is less than half the size of Texas, but the variety of food is incredible,” Zubikarai said from his resturant at 1110 N. Glebe Road yesterday. He’ll cook up baby eels, octopus and barnacles. “I love barnacles and the baby eels are very good, but I know not everyone will order them.”
While some of the dishes suit the more adventurous, the chef who founded D.C.’s La Taberna del Alabardero 26 years ago is also happy to offer up Spanish crowd pleasers like six different kinds of paella, including seafood, duck and rabbit. He’s especially proud of his bacalao al pilpil, a traditional Spanish cod dish made in a salt and olive oil emulsion.
SER — which is both the Spanish word for “to be,” and an acronym for “Simple. Easy. Real.” — is in the midst of a soft opening the next two days, offering 20 percent off all food. Thursday will be the restaurant’s grand opening. SER will only open for dinner, at 5:00 p.m., until Monday, March 16, when it will start serving lunch at 11:00 a.m.
Happy hour is every day from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the bar, which also features an extensive list of cocktails, three different sangria options and eight different sherries.
Customers will not only be able to enjoy Zubikarai’s traditional seafood options, but they can also order plates of Spanish charcuterie and a “cochinillo,” which is a roasted suckling pig and serves up to three people for $58. It’s safe to say there are not many restaurants in Arlington offering such dishes.
The bold menu is partly a representation of the special circumstance SER — which is co-owned by Javier Candon, whose wife, Christiana, is “the face” of the business — finds itself in. As the winner of the Restaurant Challenge, after the other finalist, D.C. chef Victor Albisu, dropped out, the restaurant was given a year of free rent and an interest-free, $250,000 loan. SER can afford to find a customer base without having to compromise with a more broadly appealing menu.
That’s music to Zubikarai’s ears, because he reminisces about the days back in Spain when restaurant critics wouldn’t write about an establishment until it had been open at least three years.
“In Spain, people love bullfighting and they say a restaurant is like a bull: it has to be 4 or 5 years old before it’s ready to fight,” he said. “With the year of free rent, we can hire more people, spend that money on training and have much more opportunity to find customers.”
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
Christiana 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.”
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.”
(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…)
(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.
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.