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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
(Updated at 2:30 p.m. on 3/29/17) You’ll need a paid wristband to get into Taste of Arlington this year.
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.
Previously, attendees had to buy a $30-40 book of tickets to sample the food at the various restaurant booths; now it’s a la carte. The drink ticket is $1-3 less expensive than an equivalent pour last year, a spokesman pointed out.
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 and Fan Favorite. 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, the charitable arm of the Ballston Business Improvement District, 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.”