(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A new pedestrian bridge for those heading to and from the renovated Ballston Quarter mall and the Ballston Metro station has cleared a regulatory hurdle.
The Arlington County Board yesterday voted unanimously to approve a site plan amendment for the bridge, which will replace an existing pedestrian bridge. The old bridge is, in the eyes of the mall owners and the county, fairly pedestrian appearance-wise.
The latest design renderings for the new bridge, from bridge architect StudioTECHNE, show a geometric steel-and-glass design that crosses above Wilson Blvd at an angle. Among the words used to describe the design in a presentation to the County Board were “sophisticated,” “iconic,” “vibrant,” “safe,” “well lighted” and “experiential.”
The bridge will feature the following improvements, according to the presentation:
- “Climate-controlled space with less slope that will improve safety and comfort of bridge crossing.”
- “Opportunities for sitting and viewing areas along the traverse of the bridge.”
- “Planters and sitting areas integrated into the bridge design at the sidewalk.”
- “An architecturally memorable design that blends function and artistic expression and creates an iconic civic presence in the heart of Ballston.”
“The new bridge will be not only more functional, but also more beautiful — it will be a real asset to Ballston Quarter and our community,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said, in a statement.
The existing bridge is expected to close to pedestrians mid-October, with demolition expected to begin shortly thereafter. Construction of the next bridge is expected to start at the beginning of March, following a public process to finalize the design. The newly-renovated mall and pedestrian bridge are scheduled to open on Sept. 13, 2018.
The old bridge’s demolition will allow for major changes to the façade of what’s currently known as Ballston Common Mall. From a press release:
Demolition of the existing pedestrian bridge will make way for a public plaza that is a key community benefit of the Ballston Quarter redevelopment.
Once the existing pedestrian bridge is removed, the mall façade that fronts on Wilson Boulevard will be transformed and the existing entrance to the mall will be eliminated. A 3,386 sq. ft. public plaza will be created at street level on Wilson Boulevard with steps and seating areas leading into another 2,500 sq. ft. of sunken, public plaza space with outdoor restaurant seating and event space.
Forest City Enterprises, developer of Ballston Quarter, will construct the new bridge with funding provided through the partnership between the County and Forest City. The reconstructed bridge will have public access easements that do not exist today, and it will be more functional and aesthetically pleasing than the current bridge.
Inside, instead of a traditional food court, the new mall will feature an “‘experiential food hub’ that will combine eat-in dining, prepared food sales and market elements,” perhaps similar to D.C.’s Union Market, the Washington Business Journal reported today.
The County Board also voted yesterday to formalize its public-private partnership with mall owner Forest City. The partnership means that a county-created Community Development Authority will pay up to $55.5 million in public infrastructure costs associated with the mall project, while receiving a portion of any increase in tax revenues associated with the mall.
(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) Heavy demolition is underway at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Randolph Street, as portions of the old Ballston Common Mall are demolished to make way for the renovated Ballston Quarter shopping center and apartment tower.
Demolition crews from Celtic Demolition are at work tearing down the corner of the building that contained one of the mall’s main entrances and the former Macy’s furniture store. Crews are hosing down the debris with water to reduce dust.
One tipster who works across the street from the mall, at the National Science Foundation, said yesterday — after demolition started — that the close proximity of the demolition to moving traffic was concerning.
“You have to see the way they are demolishing the Ballston Mall,” the tipster said. “It is such a recipe for disaster. The debris is falling onto [the street] as cars and buses are driving by.”
The extensive renovation project is expected to wrap up in 2018.
Update at 4:50 p.m. — One lane of northbound Glebe Road has been reopened, but major backups on Glebe are being reported.
Update at 4:30 p.m. — Firefighters say they’ve located the likely source of the smoke, in a mechanical room. No fire was found. Units are starting to clear from the scene.
Arlington County firefighters have shut down Glebe Road at Wilson Blvd as they investigate why the second floor of the Ballston Common Mall Macy’s store has filled with smoke.
Numerous fire department units are responding to the scene, but so far the source of the smoke has not been found. No flames have been seen and firefighters are checking the building’s HVAC system.
Drivers should expect traffic impacts in the area.
— LincolnACFD (@LincolnACFD) August 17, 2016
A pair of stores are coming to a couple of once-vacant storefronts on Pentagon Row.
The store offers “fine jewelry, watches, jewelry repair, watch repair, battery and band replacement, custom-designed jewelry, restringing, appraisals and eyeglass frame repair.” It is “getting close” to opening, according to a Facebook post.
Next door, a menswear and tuxedo rental store is coming to the former Denim Bar space, according to a tipster who chatted up the owner over the weekend. That store may open as soon as mid-month, we’re told.
The renovation of the Ballston Common Mall have forced the closure of a sidewalk near the building, disrupting the flow of pedestrian traffic there.
As part of the construction, a fence now blocks off the sidewalk around the former entrance on Wilson Blvd and N. Randolph Street, forcing pedestrians to either walk on the street or cross to the other side — the latter being the safer, recommended course of action, but many pedestrians seem to be choosing the former.
When an ARLnow.com reporter visited the construction site yesterday, numerous pedestrians were spotted walking along Wilson Boulevard in front of the mall, within a few feet of moving vehicles.
Along with the sidewalk closure, Arlington Transit has had to move one of its bus stops 100-150 feet south of its usual location.
So far, the sidewalk closure has ruffled a few feathers. A tweet from a concerned resident says the ongoing work puts pedestrians in danger and calls for the construction of a temporary walkway.
— Gerard Barile (@GerardBarile) August 3, 2016
Arts Truck, Grants Approved — The Arlington County Board last night approved $215,810 in grants to local arts organizations and nearly $70,000 for the purchase and deployment of a new mobile art studio. [Arlington County]
Snow Plowing Policy Change — Starting this winter, Arlington County will plow residential streets at the outset of snowstorms, reversing its previous policy of only focusing on major arterial routes before moving on to residential streets after the snow stops and major roads are clear. [InsideNova]
Ballston Mall Redevelopment Authority Approved — Arlington County is creating its first Community Development Authority. The CDA will be focused on making infrastructure improvements around the future Ballston Quarter mall — the new identity of Ballston Common Mall, which is being renovated. As part of a public-private partnership, the county plans to spend around $55 million to improve local roads, public plazas and the public Ballston parking garage. [Arlington County]
Chamber Supports Aquatics Center Plan — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has penned a letter in support of building a scaled-down version of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center. “One of Arlington’s main assets is the employee talent pool we have residing in our county,” wrote the Chamber’s president. “The proposed facility will help attract and retain this talent, as well as the businesses looking to employ them.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The Panera Bread restaurant in Ballston has closed.
The store’s signage is down and the inside is vacant. The location also no longer shows up on Panera Bread’s website.
When calling the store’s phone number, an automated message states that the Ballston location has permanently closed and that their “customer’s business has been appreciated.”
No word yet on what ultimately led to the permanent closure of the store.
Memorial Day Traffic to Peak Thursday — Heading out of town for Memorial Day? Try to avoid driving Thursday afternoon or evening, which is expected to have the worst traffic of the holiday period. A better time to leave is between 8 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Friday. [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments]
Ideas for Making Arlington More Bike Friendly — Chris Slatt, chair of the Arlington Transportation Commission, has 10 “big ideas” for making Arlington even more bicycle friendly. [Greater Greater Washington]
French Program at Wakefield Honored — Wakefield High School’s French program is one of 10 such programs in the country this year to receive the Exemplary Program Honors award from the American Association of Teachers of French. Enrollment in Wakefield’s French program has reportedly doubled since 2011. [WJLA]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
New Traffic Pattern on Route 1 — There’s a new traffic pattern for the lefthand turn from southbound Route 1 (Jefferson Davis Highway) to 23rd Street S. in Crystal City. The change was necessitated by operations of the new Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway. [Facebook]
Aurora Hills Library Eyed As School Site — The current Aurora Hills library and senior center is being looked at by Arlington Public Schools as a possible site for a new elementary school. Meanwhile, even though nearby Oakridge Elementary is over capacity, Superintendent Patrick Murphy says there’s actually a more pressing need for additional elementary capacity in north Arlington due to population growth around the Rosslyn-Ballston and Lee Highway corridors. [InsideNova]
Australian Company Says G’Day to Ballston — The Australian investment firm QIC has taken a 49 percent stake in Ballston Quarter, the soon-to-be-renovated shopping center currently known as Ballston Common Mall. The majority of the mall is still owned by Cleveland-based Forest City. [Washington Business Journal, Crain’s Cleveland Business]
Local Named New Jersey Cherry Blossom Princess — The 2016 New Jersey Cherry Blossom Princess is a 24-year-old Hoboken native who now lives in the D.C. area and works at Rosslyn-based CEB. [Hudson Reporter]
CEB Acquires Portland Firm — Rosslyn-based CEB is getting bigger. The company is acquiring Portland, Oregon-based Evanta Ventures for $275 million. CEB will be moving into a new namesake CEB Tower in Rosslyn after construction wraps up in 2018. [StreetInsider]
Arlington’s Top Bond Rating Affirmed — Arlington County has once again earned the highest bond rating from the three major rating agencies. “The County works hard to maintain these AAA ratings to finance critical County infrastructure projects with bonds that carry the lowest interest rates available,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. [Arlington County]
Photo via @WLHSIBProgram
Major Rosslyn Development Approved — A sweeping five-phase redevelopment of 7.65 acres of prime Rosslyn real estate was approved unanimously by the Arlington County Board on Saturday. The Board approved the framework for the development, though final approval will be necessary for each phase. Developers Vornado and Gould Property Company expect to complete the project over the course of 25 years. [Arlington County]
Gun Store Saga Continues — Who owns NOVA Armory, the gun store that’s planning to open in Lyon Park despite community opposition? The man who speaks on behalf of the business and holds its federal firearms sales license isn’t saying, exactly. Dennis Pratte declined further questions after describing it as “a female, minority-owned business” and stating “I may or may not be the owner.” Meanwhile, county leaders say there’s nothing they can legally do to prevent the store from opening. NOVA Armory is planning to a grand opening on March 26. [Washington Post, InsideNova]
Teen Tourist Scammed at Pentagon City Mall — A California teenager on a school trip to Washington was reportedly scammed out of $97 by an armed man at the Pentagon City mall. The man compelled the teen to give him $97 in exchange for what turned out to be a counterfeit $100 bill. [NBC Washington]
Arlington Natives Live Blog Day at Ballston Common Mall — Two friends who grew up in Arlington’s Bluemont neighborhood decided to spend all of Saturday at Ballston Common Mall, ahead of its imminent demise, and live-blog their experience. The blog mixes nostalgia for time spent shopping and working at the mall with observations about the current mix of largely chain restaurants and small, quirky stores. [Things Remembered: A Day at Ballston]
Other County Board Action — On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding to partner with Virginia Tech and join the national MetroLab Network, and voted to accept $731,813 in state funding to support the county’s permanent supportive housing program. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
An architect has been chosen to design a new pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd in Ballston.
The existing bridge, which connects Ballston Common Mall with the Ballston Metro station, is set to be torn down as part of the redevelopment of the mall. Demolition work on the mall is expected to begin in June. The rebranded “Ballston Quarter” open-air shopping plaza and mall is slated to open in 2018.
Mall owner Forest City formally announced today that Cleveland-based studioTECHNE has been selected as the design architect of a new pedestrian bridge, which will replace the old one. The firm has recently completed two other pedestrian bridges, including one at Case Western Reserve University.
The bridge project is being paid for by Forest City, as part of a public-private partnership on the redevelopment project. In addition to the mall, Forest City is also building a new 22-story, 406-unit residential tower.
“We are very excited to begin the conceptual design process with so much wonderful public input” said Marco Ciccarelli of studioTECHNE. “Our aim is to blend this input into creating a significant piece of functional public art which will perform for the Ballston community in a high profile manner for many years to come.”
“It is our hope and intention that this replacement pedestrian bridge project will be a civic landmark in the Ballston community,” said Kris Krider, planning supervisor for Urban Design & Research at Arlington’s Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “We feel we have the right mix of creative talent and demonstrated skill involved to act upon the community input and tight timeframe for this component of the redevelopment of Ballston Common.”
Angela Adams, Arlington’s public art administrator, also weighed in.
“We are confident that this civic design exercise will result in an iconic structure and welcome addition to Arlington’s growing inventory of thoughtfully designed infrastructure,” Adams said.
The proposed new bridge design is expected to be presented to Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz for approval in June.
The Regal Ballston Common Stadium 12 is replacing all of its existing seating with new “king size” plush recliners with footrests. The company is replacing the seating one auditorium at a time and expects the entire cinema to be outfitted by the end of March.
“Our guests will soon be able to stretch out, relax and recline while watching the movie,” said Regal exec Rob Del Moro, in a statement. “Regal constantly listens to our guests and looks for ways to improve. With this new concept, these luxurious recliners have scored extremely well. Moviegoers are eager to return for another visit.”
The Ballston theater has garnered poor reviews online for its dated decor, the occasional rodent sighting and various maintenance issues. Del Moro’s statement aside, the new seats seem to be getting a mostly positive reception.
The movie theater is expected to remain open during the upcoming major renovations at the mall over the next two years.
Image courtesy Regal Entertainment Group
(Updated at 11:55 p.m.) It’s still somewhat business as usual at Ballston Common Mall, despite impending major renovations.
A number of stores, restaurants and the much-maligned movie theater remain open. But the scene will be changing this spring, when work on the project to convert aging shopping mall to a modern shopping center with open-air plazas, called Ballston Quarter, begins.
“Our schedule continues to proceed according to plans,” said Gary McManus, spokesman for Cleveland-based Forest City, the mall’s owner. “Forest City has not wavered from its plans and timeline to begin demolition on the Ballston Quarter site in May/June of this year.”
Mass store closures inside the mall were expected after the end of 2015, but many stores have remained open and intend to stay open until just before demolition starts.
“The stores that remain open are doing so at their request and we were able to accommodate that request as we wade through the permitting process leading to demolition in the spring,” McManus said. “It never was and still is not our intention for all stores at the mall to close.”
Businesses with an exterior entrance — Macy’s, Regal Cinemas, Rock Bottom Brewery, Noodles & Co., Panera Bread, Sport&Health Club and CVS Pharmacy — are expected to remain open during the renovations.
Construction is expected to take about two years and Ballston Quarter is expected to open in time for the holiday shopping season of 2018.
Plans for a revamped pedestrian walkway over Wilson Boulevard in Ballston are up for discussion tonight.
Arlington County is scheduled to host a community meeting on the redesign of the pedestrian bridge at Ballston Common Mall (4328 Wilson Blvd) from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The gathering is slated to happen in the mall’s second floor retail area across from the Payless shoe store.
Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the walkway’s designer and give feedback on the project.
A new bridge is part of a $317 million plan to redevelop the mall, which is being rebranded as Ballston Quarter. The walkway provides an elevated, indoor pathway to the Ballston Metro station.
Final plans for bridge are expected to go to the county manager for consideration in late June.
Flickr photo by m01229
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall at its meeting last night.
In its approval of the project — which is now referred to as Ballston Quarter — the Board also entered a Letter of Intent to pursue a public-private partnership with Forest City Enterprises, the company that currently owns and operates the mall and is spearheading the redevelopment effort.
“This is an important, exciting redevelopment in the heart of Ballston,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “The long-term benefits of a revitalized Ballston Quarter warrant a public-private partnership — a wise strategic investment for the public good.”
The partnership is primarily financial at this stage of the project. According to a press release, the county plans to contribute $10 million to the project, including parking and transportation improvements around the mall, and would issue a $45.4 million Community Development Authority bond to further finance the redevelopment.
At the meeting, Hynes said other details of the agreement are “not fully fleshed out.”
The entire project is expected to cost $317 million for interior, facade streetscape improvements to existing buildings at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road. It also includes new development, like a 22-story, 406-unit apartment building where the Macy’s Furniture Store currently is.
The redevelopment of the mall itself involves more than 323,000 square feet of retail space, an open-air plaza with vendor stalls, improvements to the parking garage and a new pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd.
Public testimony given at the meeting by Ballston residents, business owners and stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive, thanking the Board for their work and expressing support for the project moving forward.
“Ballston has continued to evolve and transform over the years,” Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone said. “This property has served as a huge economic generator in the past, and it is vital to Ballston’s sustainability and long-term competitiveness.”
Resident and small business owner Jennifer Galloway echoed the need to rethink the mall.
“There’s currently a void in Ballston for most of our daily needs,” she said. “The redevelopment of the mall helps to fill that void and truly bring a town center feel to the heart of the area.”
Some residents did raise concerns and asked the Board to reconsider a proposal to remove the median strip on Wilson Blvd and to maximize the amount of space made available to the public on the property.
Board members addressed those concerns and took note to consider them moving forward. Still, members had positive views of the future of the project and of Ballston.
“This is a unique experience for us, stepping up like this to partner in the way we’re proposing to do it,” Board member Jay Fisette said. “It’s a smart, strategic investment all the way around, both public and private. We’re doing it with a reliable, experienced partner. That’s no small part in this.”
Board member J. Walter Tejada also shared his excitement.
“Ballston has the dynamic where you have to like urban living because it almost has the pulse of a city,” he said. “You can almost feel it, and [the project] has so much potential to make it even greater.”