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Ballston Quarter Delays Opening to Late October

The developer behind Ballston Quarter is now promising a grand opening late next month, a minor departure from the September date originally targeted for the revamped Ballston Common Mall to begin welcoming customers once more.

Forest City is now targeting Oct. 25 for the development to open its doors “barring any unforeseen delays,” Forest City Regional Director of Marketing Jill Fredrick told ARLnow, via a PR rep. The bevy of restaurants and retailers set to call Ballston Quarter home won’t open all at once, but on a “rolling basis” over the next nine months, Fredrick added.

The overhauled mall has been in the works for years now, as Forest City has sought to refresh the aging structure with a mix of retail, office and residential space. But the exact timetable for its completion has been difficult to pin down, with the developer reporting some construction delays to county officials over the past few months.

“You’ve got to look at the magnitude of this project — it only slipped a month,” said Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone. “Of course, we would’ve loved to have had a huge grand opening, but at least they’re opening.”

Leone and county leaders alike view the development as a critical one as Ballston continues to become an ever-more-urban section of Arlington — as she puts it, it will help transform Wilson Blvd into a “truly a retail street” and the neighborhood as a whole into “an 18-hour community.”

Yet the massive amount of construction required for the project, running in tandem with a host of other major Ballston developments, has snarled traffic in the area and forced visitors to the businesses that have remained open in the mall to wind through a confusing maze of scaffolding and tarps. Accordingly, Leone is quite anxious to see things start to wrap up on the site.

“There will be a critical mass of things starting to open in the fall, and then by the spring, end of the second quarter, it’s going to be up and rolling,” Leone said.

By the Oct. 25 opening, Fredrick expects that the mall’s “public areas will be fully open and accessible to the public, including vertical transportation elements like the escalators and elevators.” Leone says that will include clear ground-floor entrances along both Wilson and N. Glebe Road, as well as some big improvements to the mall’s parking garage.

“The elevator banks are going to match up with the floors in Ballston Quarter, instead of having to go up and down the stairs, and there will be more escalators,” Leone said. “It’s going to be more open, so you can actually see where you’re going and where the parking garage is. The connectivity is going to be much better. It couldn’t have gotten much worse, right?”

She added that sidewalks along Wilson will also be wider for people walking to the mall by the time it opens, which will help the development accommodate outdoor seating for a variety of its restaurants. The County Board is set to give the go-ahead for the new patios to open next week, when it could grant permits to establishments including Compass Coffee, South Block, Ted’s Bulletin, True Food Kitchen, Union Kitchen and Bartaco.

Leone also noted that the CVS pharmacy, which has remained open during the construction, will be accessible from both the Glebe and Wilson sides of the mall. And for fast food fans, she fully expects that the reopened Chick-fil-A will start serving customers by the time development opens.

Inside the mall itself, Leone hopes that the “wayfinding is going to be very, very clear” to help shoppers navigate the new space. Fredrick says construction will be ongoing even after the development opens, but she expects it will be “limited to the interior of tenants’ space and will not interfere with overall public access.”

Crucially, Leone says the new “plaza” at the center of the development should be open by the time fall rolls around, and she hopes to start working with Forest City to schedule activities and events in the space through the winter and spring.

One feature the area will be missing, however, is are the “large media screens” the developer originally proposed for the plaza. Attorney Evan Pritchard says the developer had hoped installing two LED screens there would “be an interactive and fun element to help activate the plaza,” but has since determined that they might not be allowed under county zoning rules.

Forest City is asking the Board to drop its request for the screens at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22), though Pritchard expects to pursue a change to the county’s zoning ordinance to allow them in the future.

“We hope to have Board support on that,” he said.

With or without the screens, Leone hopes the plaza will be a natural “entrance into the market area,” a 25,000-square-foot food court home to 18 restaurants. She expects that will open by November, as will Punch Bowl Social, a bar offering a bevy of games and entertainment options.

As for the rest of the offerings at Ballston Quarter, Leone hopes to see everything open by spring 2019. But half the battle will be the mall finalizing tenants for its remaining open space — Fredrick said three quarters of the development is already leased, with “additional deals in the works.”

“It’s just a matter of getting everyone into their spaces,” Leone said.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Lawmakers Will Have Final Say on Any Amazon HQ2 Incentives — Should Arlington or anywhere else in Northern Virginia win Amazon’s second headquarters, a panel of administration officials and General Assembly members on the Major Employment and Investment Project Approval Commission would have the final chance to review the state’s incentive package for HQ2. The commission’s chair says the group has already approved the broad strokes of what Virginia offered Amazon, but would have to approve any changes. [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Public Schools ‘On Track’ in Teacher Hiring — Superintendent Patrick Murphy says the school system has already managed to hire 300 teachers, who will report to orientation in the coming weeks as the start of classes inches ever closer. [InsideNova]

Podcast Explores Ballston’s History — Before the Metro station and the mall, Ballston was home to “an infamous saloon known as the Bucket of Blood” and a “pro football team known as the Ballston Skulls.” Local historian and journalist Michael Lee Pope explores the neighborhood’s history on the Ballston BID’s podcast. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Ballston Construction Projects Continue to Progress

Construction is ongoing for several major projects in Ballston, though at least two should be up and running by the end of the year.

Ballston Quarter, a transformation of Ballston Common Mall, plans to open its shopping and entertainment center in the fall, according to a news release from the county. The completion of a pedestrian bridge that will connect Ballston Quarter to 4201 Wilson Blvd and the Metro station has been pushed back to 2019, however.

Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone said Ballston Quarter will likely be fully leased within a year. So far, several eateries, retailers and entertainment-oriented tenants have signed on to the development. Retailers including Macy’s and Regal Cinemas have remained open during construction.

“That property has just been critical to how Ballston has developed over the last couple of generations,” Leone said. “Ballston Quarter really catalyzed these other developments to occur.”

Ballston Exchange, located in the former headquarters of the National Science Foundation at 4121 and 4201 Wilson Blvd, plans to include collaborative workspaces and first-floor retail.

That project is slated to be completed near the end of 2018, according to the Ballston BID. Restaurants already committed to Ballston Exchange include Shake Shack, We The Pizza and CAVA. A New York-based coworking space became the development’s first new office tenant last month.

A number of the current projects in Ballston include residential space — Ballston Quarter, for instance, will include a 393-unit residential tower, according to Ballston BID.

And 4040 Wilson Boulevard, the final piece in Liberty Center, will feature office, retail and residential space. The Shooshan Company, that site’s developer, plans to wrap up construction by January 2020.

Also set for delivery in early 2020 is The Waycroft (750 N. Glebe Road), to include residential units and an on-site Target and Silver Diner.

As Ballston continues to develop, “what we really want to achieve is a greater sense of neighborhood and a greater sense of community,” Leone said.

A full list of developments in Ballston can be found here.

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Podcast: Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone

Plenty of big changes are on the way for Ballston, and Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone has a front seat to all the latest developments.

Join Leone and ARLnow’s Alex Koma for a conversation about the future of the Ballston Quarter development, the shifting landscape of the neighborhood’s transportation needs and much more.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Art Gallery to Open in Ballston This Weekend

A new art gallery is opening in Ballston on Saturday (May 12).

The Fred Schnider Art Gallery, which is backed by D.C. area real estate investment and development firm Fred Schnider Investment Group, is planning a grand opening event from 6-9 p.m. at the Residences at Liberty Center (888 N. Quincy Street).

The gallery opening will feature the work of award-winning artist and longtime Marymount University professor David Carlson. He will display his “Out of My Mind” paintings and drawings from his “Fields and Transformation” series.

The 850-square-foot gallery will display seven exhibits a year, with each exhibit appearing for six weeks at a time. Normal exhibit hours will be from 2-7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday until July 8.

The gallery plans to collaborate with local universities to incorporate an educational setting into the space. It will also host events with the Ballston Business Improvement District and the Arlington Commission for the Arts.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Could Be Big Budget Winner — Commercial real estate analysts expect Crystal City and the Dulles Toll Road corridor to be the big winners from the new spending bill that was signed into law last week, boosting domestic and military budgets. Crystal City is also among the Northern Virginia locales under consideration for Amazon’s HQ2. [Bisnow]

Park Police Chief Cancels Meeting with BeyerUpdated at 12:30 p.m. — The chief of the U.S. Park Police cancelled a scheduled meeting yesterday with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. Beyer and Norton are seeking answers in the fatal Park Police shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, who fled from a reported crash and then from officers before being shot in Fairfax County. USPP later released a statement explaining the chief’s decision. [WUSA 9, PDF]

Ballston to Hold Puppy Party Tomorrow — “Didn’t feel the love on Valentines Day? Join the Ballston BID for a puppy pick-me-up. All dogs present available for adoption through our partner, Homeward Trails. They bring the furry friends. Earl’s will bring the food.” [Ballston BID]

Charlie Clark on Arlington and Its History — “Clark compared the local population to the cast of the NBC show ‘Parks and Recreation,’ a group of honest, do-gooders who try their best but things still go awry. They’re a body of citizens that aren’t afraid to challenge their local governance on issues, pointing in particular to the struggle put up by local citizens last year when Arlington worked to relocate Fire Station 8.” [Arlington Connection]

Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Reservations — Procrastinators rejoice, a number of Arlington restaurants were, at last check, still taking reservations for Valentine’s Day dinner tonight. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by Tim Brown

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Software Company Moves Headquarters to Ballston

OpenWater, a company that develops a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution for award ceremonies such as the TONY and James Beard awards, has move its headquarters from the District to the Ballston neighborhood.

The 35-person company signed a seven year lease at 4401 Fairfax Drive and moved in earlier this year, according to a press release by the company. OpenWater previously resided in D.C. for 8 years and was able to expand its footprint by 120 percent as a result of the move.

The company was named one of Inc’s 5000 fastest growing companies in 2017 and reported $2.5 million in revenue in 2016. On top of providing management software for awards ceremonies, their software is also compatible for other application review processes such as selecting board members, grants and scholarships.

The company also plans to open up the new space for technology forums and networking events.

OpenWater is a company that thrives on constant and consistent innovation, making them a perfect fit for the robust and fast-growing tech scene in Ballston,” said Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District, in a press release. “Ballston continues to lead the push for innovative technologies in the DC metro area because of companies like OpenWater and we are thrilled to have them in our neighborhood.”

Images via OpenWater

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Arlington Premiere Event to Honor New County Businesses

A sold-out reception in Ballston tomorrow will celebrate the new businesses that have moved into Arlington County.

Arlington Economic Development is hosting Arlington Premiere at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex (627 N. Glebe Road) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29.

Attendees can “welcome new business owners and network with other key business and community leaders as we celebrate our growing business community,” a blurb on the event, which is sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District, says. Registration is no longer available as the event has reached capacity.

Also at the event, AED will reveal the winners of the Arlington’s First Four competition. The contest honors locally-based businesses that have shown revenue growth over a three-year period.

“The Arlington Premiere is a great way for you to meet our new businesses and strengthen your relationship with other county and community leaders,” AED director Victor Hoskins wrote in an email to the public.

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Morning Notes

Ballston May Be Next ‘Hot’ Neighborhood — Thanks to new development, the renovation of Ballston Common Mall, and the efforts of the Ballston Business Improvement District and others, Ballston is being mentioned as the region’s “next hottest neighborhood.” [Washington Post]

Wegmans Coming to Alexandria — A Wegmans grocery store is finally set to open within a reasonably short drive of at least some parts of Arlington. Per WBJ, the Rochester, NY-based chain will open an 84,000-square-foot store at Hoffman Town Center in Alexandria, not far from where the National Science Foundation recently moved. [Washington Business Journal]

Decal Deadline is Today — Today is the deadline to display the new 2017-2018 Arlington County vehicle decal. “Beginning November 16, you will be at risk of receiving a parking ticket if your decal is not displayed on your windshield,” says the county. [Arlington County]

‘News Dude’ Finds Human Seat — NBC 4’s Adam Tuss was able to catch up with the man who wore a seat costume in Virginia Tech and Ford’s unusual “driverless” car experiment in Arlington. The researcher said he was “pretty stressed out” after Tuss ran up to him at an intersection and asked what he was doing dressed as a car seat in a van. [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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Morning Notes

County Focused on Child Care — “Demand for child care in Arlington is high and the County is working with business owners and families to meet the increasing needs. Preliminary steps also are underway to map out a comprehensive Child Care Initiative that establishes an action plan to advance the availability, accessibility, and quality of childcare in Arlington.” [Arlington County]

GGW Urges Support for Accessory Apartments — The website Greater Greater Washington is urging its readers to write to the Arlington County Board in support of two proposals: lowering parking minimums for buildings near Metro stations, and “reforming overly burdensome regulations on accessory apartments.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Yankee Stadium Operator to Run Rosslyn Observation Deck — JBG Smith has hired New York City-based Legends to run the public observation deck at the top of its Central Place tower in Rosslyn. Legends also operates Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, AT&T Stadium in Dallas and the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center. The 12,000 square foot Central Place observation deck will feature “an outdoor cantilevered terrace and full food and beverage program,” plus panoramic views. [Washington Business Journal]

Ballston Building Sells for $72 Million — New York-based property investment group Westbrook Partners has acquired the Two Liberty Center office building, at 4075 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, for $72 million. [Commercial Property Executive]

Ballston BID CEO on Redevelopment — Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone says changes along the Ballston corridor, including extensive renovations to the former Ballston Common Mall (now Ballston Quarter), are having a ripple effect. “This redevelopment has spurred on like 10 other projects here,” she said. “The face of Ballston is going to change again in the next three to five years, it’s going to look so different. I know it’s just going to be better.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reminder: No Parking Meter Enforcement Today — Parking meters in Arlington will not be enforced today, due to the Veterans Day observation, but meters will be enforced tomorrow. [ARLnow]

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Silver Diner Coming to Ballston

A new Silver Diner restaurant will be opening in Ballston.

The 6,700-square-foot eatery will join Target and Enterprise Rent-A-Car as retail tenants in the currently under-construction 750 N. Glebe development. Set to open in 2020, 750 N. Glebe will be a 12-story building with nearly 500 apartments, across from Ballston Quarter mall.

The new Ballston location will be the 14th Silver Diner in the D.C. area. The company has an existing Arlington location at 3200 Wilson Blvd in the Clarendon area.

The Washington Business Journal reports that, at least for now, Silver Diner plans to operate both Arlington locations simultaneously. (It has a long-term lease in Clarendon.)

Current plans are to operate both Ballston and Clarendon, although [Silver Diner founder Bob] Giaimo has acknowledged in the past that site where the Clarendon Silver Diner sits at 3200 Wilson Blvd., would likely be the subject of redevelopment at some point, putting the diner’s future there in flux.

More about the lease signing from a Ballston Business Improvement District press release, after the jump.

Saul Centers announced this morning that Silver Diner has signed a lease at 750 N. Glebe, a mixed-use development project located at the intersection of North Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard in Ballston. Silver Diner will be the development’s third retail tenant, joining previously announced tenants Target and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Construction began during the first quarter of 2017 and 750 N. Glebe is expected to deliver in the spring of 2020.

The Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) helped facilitate bringing in what will be the 14th Silver Diner location in the Greater Washington D.C. region. The BID orchestrated an all-day meeting in their office between Silver Diner management and several Ballston landlords where BID CEO Tina Leone provided neighborhood insights and statistics to demonstrate to Silver Diner that the Ballston community was the right fit for their next location.

“Silver Diner is a regional institution and we are thrilled to have them join us in Ballston,” says Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID. “With 33% of Ballston’s workforce eating lunch out three times a week, Silver Diner will be welcomed with open arms. Their addition bolsters the strength of our growing dining scene of over 60 restaurants and gives the community another great option for a family brunch, business breakfast meeting, and late-night fare.”

Silver Diner will occupy 6,700 square feet of 750 N. Glebe’s 61,000 square feet of first floor retail space. Earlier this year Saul Centers landed Target to be the site’s retail anchor with a 41,500-square-foot lease. “With the addition of Silver Diner to our tenant roster, 750 N. Glebe now has 80% of its retail space fully leased – we couldn’t be happier with the tenants we’ve secured thus far. Silver Diner’s commitment to chef-driven and locally-sourced farm-to-table food makes them a perfect fit for the neighborhood,” said Saul Centers’ President J. Page Lansdale.

Situated on the old Rosenthal Mazda dealership site, 750 N. Glebe will be a 12-story mixed-use development, containing 491 luxury rental apartment units plus the 61,000 square feet of retail space. Located in the heart of Ballston, 750 N. Glebe is across the street from the Ballston Quarter redevelopment and three blocks from the Ballston Metro Station, with access to the Orange and Silver lines.

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Ballston BID Faces Up to ‘First Real Challenge’ of NSF Departure

Ballston is prepared to cope with the imminent departure of the National Science Foundation, a major local employer, says Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone.

The NSF is set to finish moving from Stafford Place on Wilson Blvd to Alexandria later this year, and began to move employees earlier this month.

But with a number of new construction projects ongoing in Ballston, and the upcoming opening of the renovated Ballston Quarter mall, Leone said the neighborhood is going to be just fine without a federal tenant and its more than 2,000 employees, even though she said it will add about 1 percent to Arlington’s office vacancy rate.

“This is our first real challenge, I believe,” she said. “Ballston has been very much growing and sustaining organically, it’s always been a place where people can live and work very easily. And now this is probably our first big challenge, I believe.”

Leone said the reason for her optimism lies in the major development projects underway, especially the redeveloping Ballston Common Mall, rebranded as Ballston Quarter.

Demolition of the mall to make way for a new apartment tower and retail space has been ongoing for just over a year, and Leone said once that project is done in 2018 it can anchor the rest of the neighborhood.

Leone also pointed to the likes of Marymount University’s “Newside” building, construction of new mixed-use developments at 750 N. Glebe Road and the former Carpool building, as well as developer Jamestown LP’s revamp of the NSF’s current home for new tenants, as other examples of the neighborhood’s continued growth.

Ballston will also be home to a revamped Central United Methodist Church that will include affordable housing, as well as several other new apartment buildings.

“The Ballston Quarter development has helped spur on these other developments,” Leone said. “Once developers knew that this project was a go, they said, ‘okay, now we can push the button on our projects too.’ Who doesn’t want to live next to a beautiful new open air retail, restaurants, 360,000 square feet of fun? That’s what really pulled the trigger on many of these other developments, for sure.”

The county’s office vacancy rate remains an ongoing concern as it hovers between 18 and 20 percent, but Leone said she is hopeful that new tenants and businesses can be wooed to Ballston. Uncertainty about attracting new office tenants temporarily halted construction of the final building in the eight-building Liberty Center project in 2015.

Given its optimal location between Dulles International Airport and downtown D.C., Leone said the BID is looking to help attract companies from overseas that wish to expand their operations into the United States.

Leone said the BID also remains focused on building a sense of community among Ballston’s residents and those who work in the neighborhood. That effort began in March with the introduction of free Wi-Fi throughout the BID’s area, which Leone said will soon integrate seamlessly with the county’s first responders to allow them to use the fast network whenever they are in Ballston.

That sense of community also comes from a string of events the BID hosts throughout the year, including yoga classes, the farmers market and Taste of Arlington.

“We want to connect people and make people really love Ballston,” Leone said. “Part of that is having all these amenities and everything and great transportation and location and all that. But the other part of it is having a sense of community, which is what we’re really focused on…You’ve heard about being a Smart City. We are being a smart neighborhood in the region. That’s our goal.”

And in the coming decades, Leone said, Ballston will continue to prosper and evolve — to a point.

“I think Ballston is going to become a much better place to be,” Leone said. “I don’t think the landscape of it is going to change much. Arlington is really good about keeping density around the Metro, so I don’t think you’re going to see an expansion of these huge buildings going throughout. But what you’re going to see is better. Everything’s going to be better.”

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Katie Cristol to Attend Happy Hour To Promote Millennial Civic Engagement

A happy hour and listening session tomorrow (May 31) will look to encourage more young people to get involved in Arlington’s local government. County Board vice chair Katie Cristol is among those set to attend.

According to a brief blurb on the event, attendees can expect “an evening of lively conversation and discussion of the issues and topics of interest to millennials and young professionals in Arlington.”

Arlington was recently named the best city for millennials by website Niche.com, with its report card noting the good public schools, commute, health and fitness and other factors.

The event is from 6-8 p.m. at the offices of the Ballston Business Improvement District (4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100).

The event is nonpartisan and is expected to be attended by those on both sides of the political aisle. In an email to supporters, Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans chair emeritus Matthew Hurtt said young people can play a key role in helping shape county policy. He pointed to the legalization of Airbnb last year and the AFCYRs’ role in helping beat back some proposed regulations on rentals.

“Whether you realize it or not, the AFCYRs is the largest Arlington-focused millennial political organization in Arlington — even bigger than the Arlington Young Democrats, according to club election statistics,” Hurtt wrote. “During the community conversation about legalizing Airbnb, AFCYRs made up a significant portion of the community feedback, rebuffing a number of destructive (and ridiculous) regulations. AFCYRs played a key role in the favorable outcome of that debate.”

The event is jointly sponsored by the county’s Office of Communications and Public Engagement and the Ballston Business Improvement District. Those interested in attending can register online.

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Revamped Road Medians Coming to Fairfax Drive in Ballston

Construction has begun on new, more aesthetically-pleasing road medians in Ballston.

Work kicked off yesterday on the medians along Fairfax Drive, from N. Quincy Street to Glebe Road. The improvements include a decorative fence, solar-powered “gateway signage” and “more plantings of annuals and perennials while maintaining the stately Bald Cypress trees.”

The Ballston Business Improvement District is spearheading the initiative as part of its placemaking efforts.

More from the BID:

A new pedestrian fence inspired by Ballston’s distinctive brand will increase pedestrian safety, solar-powered gateway signs will welcome all to the neighborhood, and an artistic design will be created on the median noses using the iconic Ballston-orange.

Initial work will include some demolition, repair and replacement of existing medians. The pedestrian fence installation will commence mid-May, and the final stages of work including painting, signage and plantings will follow in early June. Work will take place after morning rush and before evening rush hours with a vehicle lane closure on each side of the medians from Glebe Road to Fairfax Drive.

First image via Ballston BID. Second image via Google Maps

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First Best of Ballston Awards Will Honor Neighborhood’s Hidden Stars

The Ballston Business Improvement District’s annual meeting will have a new twist this year, as it hands out the first Best of Ballston Awards.

The awards will be in three categories for those in the neighborhood: property manager, innovator and broker.

Nominations are being accepted through May 1, ahead of the event on June 21 at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel at 801 N. Glebe Road.

“Talented, creative, smart and savvy people walk the streets of our neighborhood — this event is our time to share their success stories!” reads the online nomination page.

The Property Managers Award will be presented to a neighborhood property manager who connects tenants to services, products and programs that help build their business and retain or grow their presence in Ballston.

The Best of Ballston Innovation Award is for a Ballston tenant who has developed an innovative product or service, and the Best of Ballston Broker Award will go to a local real estate broker that has leased space, attracted the greatest number of new tenants, or leased the greatest square feet of space.

In addition to the awards, BallstonGives, the charitable subsidiary of the Ballston BID, will give the donation check from the Taste of Arlington food festival to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

And the Robert Ball Award, named after the Ball family for which the neighborhood is named, will be presented to developer John Shooshan in recognition of his contributions to Ballston and Arlington.

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