Arlington, VA

The Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) has rebranded to reflect the changes in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

Signs with the new black, white and orange logo — which includes a lowercase “B” in a map-pin shape — have been popping up around the neighborhood — along Fairfax Drive, Glebe Road and near the Ballston Metro station. More signs will be installed this week, a BID spokeswoman said.

The BID unveiled its new look during last week’s “Ballston Street Bash and Mega Market” festival. In some of its new marketing materials, the new BID logo is followed by its new slogan, “Life is Full.”

“‘Life is Full’ was strategically created to reflect the premier neighborhood’s significant growth as a true hub of the best of what the region has to offer for businesses and residents alike,” said the spokeswoman.

Over the last 18 months, the neighborhood has seen the opening of the renovated Ballston Quarter and Ballston Exchange retail centers, along with numerous new restaurants and other new businesses. New nightlife spots like Bronson and the future Quincy Hall, meanwhile, are helping to turn Ballston from a place where people mostly just live and work to a going-out destination, as well, local leaders say.

“With all the new developments and the completion of Ballston Quarter and Ballston Exchange, Ballston is now a 18-hour neighborhood,” said Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone.

According to the BID, there are currently 60 restaurants and 15 fitness studios in Ballston, and 2,400 new apartments under development.

“Since we launched [the BID] seven years ago, we have been a rapidly developing neighborhood in one of the most thriving, sought-after cities in the U.S.,” said Leone. “It is time for our brand to reflect all that Ballston has to offer and to communicate that ‘life is full’ right here.”

In addition to the new signs, the BID’s new branding is now adorning the rear ad panels of Metrobuses that service the neighborhood.

The BID operates as a nonprofit, funded from a commercial property tax surcharge, serving Ballston businesses and residents via everything from community events to park maintenance. Upcoming projects proposed in the BID’s $1.5 million Fiscal Year 2020 budget include:

  • Establishing a digital business resource center in coordination with Arlington County and Arlington Economic Development.
  • Exploring collaboration opportunities between Ballston Quarter and the Washington Capitals.
  • Coordinating a Ballston holiday market.
  • Developing a landscaping and signage proposal for the Route 66 gateway on Fairfax Drive.
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(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) On Thursday, a new music, food, and drinks festival will take over a street in Ballston.

Hosted by the Ballston BID, the Ballston Street Bash and Mega Market is scheduled to run from 3-8 p.m. at Welburn Square, along N. Stuart Street. It will include live music, a beer and wine pavillion, and the regularly-scheduled Thursday farmers market.

Admission is free, while drink tickets are $5.

The festival incorporates the weekly Ballston FreshFarm Market, which includes vendors selling fresh produce and food stands from DMV Empanadas and Timber Pizza Company.

A concert is planned, with performances from several local bands, including White Ford Bronco and Jumpin’ Jupiter.

Additional activities include a free VIDA Fitness SweatBox Class at 6 p.m., with pre-registration required.

Photo provided by Ballston BID

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Next week, Arlington will participate in two transit and environmental events: PARK(ing) Day and Try Transit Week.

PARK(ing) Day will transform 13 parking spaces around the county into pop-up parks, while Try Transit Week encourages residents to use public transit.

For Try Transit Week — which runs from Sept. 16-20 — the “ART Prize Patrol” will ride various ART routes to surprise passengers with giveaway items. Additionally, the ART bus fare will be free for all passengers on Thursday, Sept. 19.

On Friday, Sept. 20, Arlington will  — as in years past — celebrate PARK(ing) Day, described as an “annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform parking spaces into small parks to elicit a reconsideration of the designation of public space.”

Participants this year include a “Sit Up to Climate Change” pop-up park at Ballston Quarter mall, presented by the Ballston Business Improvement District’s charity arm, BallstonGives, and the urban planning firm LandDesign. From 9 a.m.-3 p.m., trainers from OneLife Fitness will be onsite guiding park guests through a series of sit ups. For every sit up completed, five cents will be donated to the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture.

Additional pop-ups include a “Mind and Body Oasis” from the Crystal City BID with a yoga area and chair massages, plus a “Water Theme Park” from the Department of Environmental Services near Columbia Pike.

The full list of PARK(ing) Day sites can is listed below.

  • AECOM — 2940 Clarendon Blvd — “Park and Ride.”
  • Arlington Art — 2099 15th Street N. — “Celebrate the Mural,” featuring local artist Marc Pekala.
  • Ballston BID & OneLife Fitness — 4238 Wilson Blvd — “Sit-Up Challenge,” raising money for AFUA.
  • Bike Arlington & Walk Arlington — 1735 N. Lynn Street — “Relax and Engage,” with massage area, games, and outreach.
  • Crystal City BID & March of Dimes — 2200 Crystal Drive — “Lounge Area” with smoothies and healthy snacks, focusing on well-being for mothers.
  • Crystal City BID & Freddie’s — 500 23rd Street S. — “Beach Oasis” with games and relaxation.
  • Crystal City BID & Mind and Body Oasis — 2200 Crystal Drive — “Zen Garden,” with yoga area and chair massages.
  • Crystal City BID & GW Sustainable Urban Planning Student Organization — 2200 Crystal City, “Learn and Play,” urban heat island effect and climate change.
  • Dept. of Environmental Services, Public Engagement — 100 S. Walter Reed Drive — “Water Theme Park,” children’s pool with inflatables and water education table.
  • Dept. of Environmental Services, Solid Waste Bureau — 4115 Campbell Drive — “Back to the Future II,” kitchen display showcasing how to reduce waste.
  • Dept. of Environmental Services, Traffic Engineering & Operations, Commuter Services/Dept. of Parks & Recreation — 2300 Clarendon Blvd — “Obstacle Course,” scooter safety set-up, DES outreach, relax area.
  • HDR Architecture & Animal Welfare League of Arlington — 1109/1101 N. Highland Street — “Dog Training,” hourly dog behavior and training demonstrations
  • Little Diversified Architectural Consulting — 1046 N. Taylor Street — “Relax Lounge.”

“Events like PARK(ing) Day enrich our community life by creating an inviting streetscape and by promoting activities that allow for social exchange, fun, creativity and critical thinking,” the county said on its website. “PARK(ing) Day in particular can furthermore promote a rethinking of the usage of the public-right-of-way and may motivate the public to more actively participate in the civic processes which shape our urban environment.”

PARK(ing) Day began in 2005 when San Francisco art studio Rebar transformed a metered parking space into a temporary park. Since then, parking day has grown into an annual nationwide event.

Photo via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services

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For some diners, Ballston ends at Glebe Road, and a handful of restaurant owners at the western end of the neighborhood are feeling left out.

As numerous businesses have sprung up in the central part of Ballston, the western edge has suffered a series of high-profile closures.

The epicenter of the new restaurant openings is the newly-redeveloped Ballston Quarter mall and the ground floor of Ballston Exchange, just across Wilson Blvd from the mall — both in the central portion of the neighborhood, where several new residential and office buildings are also under construction.

“The gathering place is on the other side of Glebe Road,” said Brian McBride, one of the owners of Mussel Bar and Grille (800 N. Glebe Road). He listed off a number of places near his restaurant that have closed.

Cheesetique, which closed in June, is the most recent example. The storefront is still vacant, with lingering signs advertising long-gone desserts. Applebee’s and Il Forno along the same stretch of Glebe Road have both also closed over the last few years.

Manny Tangle, owner of Filipino restaurant Bistro 1521 (900 N. Glebe Road), said the improvements and changes taking place across Glebe Road have had no discernible effect on his businesses — for better or worse.

Restaurateurs along the west side of Glebe Road almost unanimously agreed that the biggest challenges for local businesses all stem from traffic issues. McBride and Tangle both agreed it can be difficult for visitors to find the right places to park. The parking for Mussel Bar and Grille, for instance, is only available by making a somewhat complex set of turns behind the building.

For Bistro 1521, the big frustration is being stuck between the “No U-Turn” signs at Fairfax Drive and Wilson Blvd, so if someone misses their turn to get to the restaurant, it’s several more blocks before they can turn around and make another pass.

Even at Good Company Doughnuts and Cafe (672 N. Glebe Road), which had a stronger than expected first few months, co-owner Kate Murphy said most of their customers came from the residential areas west of Glebe Road. The sparse number of crosswalks and perpetual construction meant the eatery didn’t see as much foot traffic from people visiting the Ballston Quarter area across the street, according to Murphy.

But it’s not all gloom and doom for these restaurants. Mary Marchetti, owner of Stageplate Bistro (900 N. Glebe Road), said the challenges of the west side of Glebe Road also come with some unique opportunities.

“Our side of Glebe Road tends to be more affordable to the independent restaurateur,” Marchetti said. “SER, us, Mussel, Bistro… would any of us have been able to afford Ballston Quarter? No, the rents are too high and we don’t have that kind of clout. So here we are, on our little independent strip of restaurants.”

If anything, Marchetti said the biggest challenge for the archipelago of independent restaurants is overcoming the reputation that west-of-Glebe is where eateries go to die.

“Ending that stigma will help drive businesses here,” Marchetti said. “The dining scene in Ballston has so much to offer. Ballston should be a dining mecca.”

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A Ballston art project of motion-activated lights above the Metro station entrance is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Arlington County Board voted during its Saturday meeting to chip in $245,347 for the project, which is named “Intersections.”

The total expected cost of the project is around $500,000, with the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) on the hook for the other half. BID CEO Tina Leone said she hopes the project will brighten up the dark Metro canopy, which she nicknamed the “Darth Vader hat.”

Dutch design company Blendid is creating the art installation, which will consist of a dozens of LEDs that can be individually programmed to respond to motion sensors that detect riders coming in and out of the station. A staff report to the Board last week said it hopes the art “will serve as a bold new gateway for Ballston.”

“It’s been a long road getting the design and the technical aspects to it laid out,” said Leone. “We’ve been really waiting of the county’s work on the Metro plaza to get underway.”

The county has long discussed plans to renovate the plaza outside the Ballston Metro station entrance and redesign the bus parking area to reroute buses off N. Stuart Street. Leone told ARLnow that the BID can’t install the canopy project until the plaza is finished because dust and construction could damage the sensors and lights.

Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said that the county cancelled the most recent hunt for a contractor after the bids Arlington received were too high — a problem the department recently connected to contractor shortages.

“Staff and our design engineer consultant are adjusting the project scope and will issue a revised procurement this fall,” Balliet added. “Selection of a contractor and approval of the construction contract is currently anticipated for late fall 2019.”

For now, the BID will use the newly-approved funds to on the project’s design process and seeking approval from Metro. Until the county begins its construction, the timeline for completing the project remains murky.

Board members approved the funding unanimously as part of their consent agenda for the weekend meeting.

The BID will also be responsible for monitoring the progress of the installation and whether Blendid meets the benchmarks required to receive the public funds.

The Arlington Public Art Committee (PAC) gave the green light for the project four years ago, according to a staff report, which attributed delays to the project’s “size and ambitious scope.”

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Arlington Public Library has opened its new pop-up library in the Ballston Quarter mall.

The library partnered with the Ballston Business Improvement District to create the mini lending library, which opened earlier this month on the mall’s first floor, above the Quarter Market food hall. Located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, the mall is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and on Fridays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., until Friday, August 2.

The Ballston pop-up features a reading nook called “Alterspace” where users can control lighting, sound effects and color. The technology behind it was developed by Harvard University’s metaLAB and is being shared outside Massachusetts for the first time.

Ballston Quarter’s website says the Alterspace reading nook is “the ideal environment for meditating, reading, collaborating, playing, or whatever activity brings you here!” The space also includes a mobile charging station for phones and tablets.

This is the library system’s second pop-up, following a successful experimental pop-up in Crystal City.

“Although the Ballston Quarter Pop-up Library is only a short walk from Central Library, we are encountering so many people who aren’t aware of the library and its resources,” said library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist.

“Meeting our community where they are — in the mall during their lunch breaks, after school, or during their evening commute — gives us an opportunity to connect new users with library materials, services, and resources, which they may not know are available to them,” he said.

At least one librarian will be on-site in the space during operating hours to help patrons with check outs and new library cards.

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Ballston Quarter could soon be home to a temporary pop-up library.

According to an Arlington County Board agenda item, the owner of Ballston Quarter mall and the Ballston Business Improvement District invited Arlington Public Library to create a temporary pop-up library in unoccupied retail space on the street level of the mall.

“The use of the newly renovated mall space is being offered to the County for one month at no cost,” the agenda item noted. “The county will be permitted to open a new pop-up library location within the mall for a period beginning on July 1 through August 2, 2019.”

Library services could include a small collection of books and audio-visual materials along with technology access. The library would be open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The space will be provided by mall management at no cost to the county, while the operation of the library will be paid from the library’s general operating funds.

This would not be the first pop-up library in retail space. In 2016, Arlington County opened a pop-up library in Crystal City Shops that has since been extended through 2019.

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(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) It’s the eve of the big NCAA basketball tournament and the Ballston Business Improvement District is planning to mark the occasion with puppies.

The BID is hosting an event dubbed “Bark Madness” from 5-7 p.m. tonight (Wednesday), with pizza and drinks — and puppies looking for a home. The event is being held at the BID’s office at 4600 N. Fairfax Drive.

“The BID office will be filled with pups and dogs of all shapes and sizes ready to be drafted into a permanent home,” said a spokeswoman for the BID.

Proceeds from the event will go to Arlington’s Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, which teams up with other rescues to help home animals from kill shelters. Homeward Trails is also where many of our Pet of the Week stars come from.

Attendees are asked to make a $25 donation to Homeward Trails to attend.

As for the cat lovers, don’t despair: Homeward Trails Animal Rescue is hosting a cat adoption event at noon this coming Saturday, March 23 at the Ballston Unleashed by Petco (3902 Wilson Blvd).

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Ballston’s Metro station could soon see a colorful, motion-activated, LED light display as part of a new public art project.

Dubbed “Intersections,” the project is being backed by the Ballston Business Improvement District and is still many months away from completion.

But the BID is picking up steam on the effort, according to documents prepared for the County Board, and it’s designed to “create a dynamic, ever-changing feature that will turn an ordinary subway entrance into a place of surprise, wonder and delight.”

The BID is teaming up with a Dutch “design/art collective” to create the art installation, which will consist of spotlights projecting a variety of different colors onto the canopy stretching over the Metro station’s entrance.

The lights will also come equipped with a “a grid of sensors” to “pick up the activity of the people moving in and out of the Ballston station, making the pedestrians active participants in the work,” according to a description of “Intersections” on the BID’s website.

“Pedestrians have a direct influence, in that their presence under the canopy will effect the spawning of lines that travel over the canopy,” the design team wrote about the project, according to a county staff report. “Where these animated lines intersect one another, they will give life to ‘autonomous artifacts of light.’ Once these artifacts pass a threshold, they will form the basis of a more involved visual effect. Afterwards, the installation will reset to its initial state.”

The BID is funding the project with the help of a collection of Ballston businesses, and it’s one in a series of public art installations the group has commissioned over the years.

In a report to be reviewed by the Board at its meeting Saturday (Feb. 23), the BID says it has yet to receive Metro’s approval for the project, but it expects to win WMATA’s sign-off soon. Once that’s done, it’ll take about 15 months to fully design and construct the installation, likely to be completed sometime in fiscal year 2021.

The BID described these changes as part of its annual funding request to the Board. The business group is funded by a property tax in Ballston, and the BID is asking the Board to hold the tax rate steady this year to maintain its existing operations.

Board members agreed to a small rate hike last year to account for a dip in property values in the area, and the BID argues that it still needs the extra cash. The Board will begin its full round of budget deliberations in earnest Saturday, in what could be a challenging year.

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Morning Notes

APS on Two Hour Delay — Arlington Public Schools is a two hour delays this morning amid a light coating of snow. Fairfax County Public Schools, meanwhile, is closed after initially announcing a two hour delay last night. [Twitter]

County Still Seeking Aquatics Center Sponsor — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has not given up on his goal of finding sponsors to help offset the cost of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center. ‘I remain optimistic that we will be successful” in finding partners,’ Schwartz told County Board members Jan. 29, though he offered no specifics.” [InsideNova]

ACPD: Get a Designated Driver for the Big Game — “Super Bowl LIII is slated for kick-off this Sunday, February 3, and, for many, this celebratory evening includes alcohol. Enjoy the game and festivities, but don’t drop the ball on safety. Make it your game plan to take a sober ride home – whether it’s by using a ride sharing service, taxi, public transportation, or designated sober driver.” [Arlington County]

Ballston BID to Launch ‘Club’ — “The Ballston Business Improvement District is launching a club for area residents… which appears to be a first-of-its-kind program in the region. When the club kicks off by the end of summer, members will enjoy exclusive benefits like discounts for restaurants and retail, in addition to events like yoga in the park and outdoor movies.” [Washington Business Journal]

Wardian Does It Again — “Michael Wardian, 44, of Arlington, Va. has won the first of seven marathons in the World Marathon Challenge in Antarctica.” [Canadian Running, Twitter]

Arlington Firm Makes Big Acquisition — “CACI International Inc. has reached an agreement to acquire LGS Innovations LLC for $750 million in a deal that extends Arlington-based CACI’s reach into the signals intelligence and cybersecurity markets.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Starbuck77

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After 31 years, Ballston’s annual “Taste of Arlington” street fair will be replaced by a new event focusing on the neighborhood’s largest development: “QuarterFest.”

The Ballston Business Improvement District announced the swap today (Thursday), sketching out plans for a similar spring festival geared around Ballston Quarter, the newly revamped Ballston Common mall.

QuarterFest is slated to be held on May 18-19, 2019, and will be managed by “BallstonGives,” the BID’s charitable arm. Though the event will be more focused on Ballston Quarter, it will still be held in the same general area as Taste of Arlington, largely centered on Wilson Blvd near the mall.

BID CEO Tina Leone told ARLnow that her group decided to make the switch because “we really accomplished what we wanted to do” with Taste of Arlington over the years.

“The goal was always to put the spotlight on Ballston, and now with Ballston Quarter, we have this big draw,” Leone said. “We really wanted to move [the event’s] focus to center more on Ballston and now we have Ballston Quarter, which is a great way to do that.”

By the time QuarterFest rolls around, Leone expects that the new development will be about “80 percent open.” Shops and restaurants in the overhauled mall have been slowly opening for business over the course of the last month, and Leone believes a “big bunch” are hoping to open up by early January or February.

“By May, it’s going to be very active and vibrant around there,” Leone said. “By the time it’s fully open, Ballston will have 90 restaurants in all, so this will just be a great way to get people into the physical space, get them to visit and bring them into all those restaurants.”

Leone said that the change doesn’t mark the end of Taste of Arlington, necessarily. She points out that the BID could always “bring it back or partner with other organizations,” so she views it as being on more of an indefinite “hiatus.”

So while she hopes the new event is “the same amount of fun with the same amount of activity,” she also believes it will mark a new chapter in the county’s evolution.

“To us, this is a whole new festival,” Leone said. “Ballston is going through so many changes right now, and that really represents what’s going on Arlington-wide.”

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