Those seeking an escape from the midsummer heat experienced the opposite this weekend in the Regal Cinema in Ballston.
The theater at Ballston Quarter mall is suffering an extended outage of its air conditioning, just as droves of moviegoers flocked to the big screen starting Thursday for the highly anticipated release of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” — dubbed “Barbenheimer” for their shared release date.
“As of Thursday aka the release of Barbenheimer madness, the air conditioning was nonfunctional at the Ballston theater,” said a Yelp reviewer. “We checked out the theater, and it felt like 85 degrees in there.”
The theater is “unbearably hot,” according to a Google review posted Sunday.
While the outage has been ongoing for several weeks, according to tipsters, the informal double feature cast a spotlight on the uncomfortable situation.
Even the New York Times mentioned the Ballston theater’s plight in a discussion about the success of “Barbie,” for which Gerwig now holds the record for the highest-grossing opening in history for a female director.
Some movie-lovers stayed despite the heat, while others took advantage of refunds and vouchers Regal offered to those who chose not to stay.
Asked for comment, the general manager of the theater referred ARLnow to Regal’s corporate team. The company did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
Regal’s owner, CineWorld, is also feeling the heat financially. The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2022 due to increased financial pressure caused by the pandemic.
CineWorld anticipated ticket sales to remain lower than pre-pandemic levels over the next year, though “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” are providing a much-needed boost to the theater industry as a whole.
The two films raked in $155 million and $80.5 million respectively in their opening weekend. Between internet buzz and massive media campaigns, their performance exceeded projections and marked the biggest weekend at the box office this year.
Cinemas may face doldrums further down the road, however. Actors and writers have gone on strike, halting the production of numerous movies and TV shows.
(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) A spinning pop-up installation that can be sat in or laid or played on is set to debut in Ballston Quarter today.
Five brightly colored, life-size, woven figures named “Los Trompos,” or “the spinning tops,” will be available to play on now through Sunday, July 30, in The Outdoor Mews in front of the mall at 4238 Wilson Blvd.
The installation is named for a Mexican spinning top, or trompo, connected to a string. When released, the top is launched onto a flat surface, where it will spin. Like the top, the woven figures in the “Los Trompos Experience” spin — to the delight of children and adults, per a video of them in use on the Facebook page for Ballston Quarter.
“Whether you’re here for the shopping, dining, or entertainment, we strive to be a place where the Arlington community wants to spend their time,” Ballston Quarter’s General Manager TaVida Rice said. “For us that means finding new and exciting ways to engage with our shoppers by offering new interactive experiences like Los Trompos.”
While the tops most likely will not be re-installed after July, Rice told ARLnow that Ballston Quarter is always working to introduce new concepts and experiences to the neighborhood.
“In today’s environment, you have to continuously evolve and meet the changing needs of today’s consumer to remain a hub in the community,” Rice said. “This means not just offering a mix of great tenants, but also offering unique, interactive experiences that the community can take part in. This pop-up is an added element that we are able to offer shoppers.”
This installation was created by a Mexico-based duo, Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena. The two designers have showcased their creative talents throughout North, Central and South America.
“We are inspired by ordinary objects that surround us. We are influenced by our context and our everyday activities which allow us to visit and share different cultures and different individuals,” Esrawe and Cadena said on their website.
There is an option to get a ticket to the installation, however, admission is free and open to the public daily.
The Quarterfest Crawl is coming back to Ballston early next month.
The now-annual free event is set for Saturday, June 3 this year with a full lineup of music, food, drinks, street performers and family-friendly activities. This will mark the event’s fourth year, which replaced “Taste of Arlington” in 2019. It’s organized by the Ballston Business Improvement District (Ballston BID).
The Quarterfest will follow the same crawl format that’s been the case the previous two years. Organizers told ARLnow that this was originally a “pandemic solution,” but it’s been deemed so successful that they are sticking with the format “for the foreseeable future.”
The event will again be centered along Wilson Blvd, though a number of businesses off the main drag will also be participating. The line-up includes:
- Noon-7 p.m. –DJ Ricky at Ballston Quarter
- Noon-2 p.m. — Family Activations at Ballston Quarter
- 1-2:30 p.m. — Scott Kurt at the Filling Station
- 1:30-3 p.m. — Melissa Quinn at Bronson Bierhall
- 2-3:30 p.m. — David Thong Band at Ballston Local
- 2:15-3:30 p.m. — Rook Richards at Ballston Quarter
- 3-4:30 p.m. — The Crista Trio at SER
- 5:15-6:45 p.m — Keeton at Ballston Quarter
- 7-11 p.m. — Quarterfest Afterparty at WHINO
Several other bands and performances will be announced closer to the event date. A full list of participating restaurants will also be released as the event creeps closer.
As was the case last year, there are no planned Quarterfest-related road closures. Some 7,500 people attended the event in 2022 and organizers told ARLnow they expect similar attendance again this year.
Quarterfest debuted in 2019 as a replacement for the “Taste of Arlington” festival, which organizers said at the time didn’t adequately spotlight the then-new Ballston Quarter development.
(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) A pedestrian was struck by a driver in front of Ballston Quarter mall this morning.
The victim, said to be a man in his 50s, could be seen lying motionless in the roadway while bystanders directed traffic around the crash scene, prior to the arrival of police and fire personnel. A fire department dispatch noted that the 911 call center received multiple calls about the crash, which happened around 10 a.m., directly in front of Ted’s Bulletin restaurant.
After a few minutes of being tended to by medics, the victim was placed on a stretcher, brought to a waiting ambulance and transported to the hospital.
“The pedestrian, an adult male, was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “The driver of the striking vehicle [remained] on scene. Police remain on scene investigating.”
A church featuring a 500-person capacity auditorium is about to open at Ballston Quarter mall.
Grace Community Church, which had previously been holding services at Arlington’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School, is planning a grand opening at Ballston Quarter this coming Sunday, March 19.
The new space is located on the second floor of the mall, near Macy’s, and will also soon include a childcare center, the church said in a press release.
Grace’s Pastor John Slye, Jr. called the new space — which ARLnow first reported on last January — “a safe place to explore faith and to ask questions.”
“We have been able to design a space that is unique and fits perfectly with the unique calling that God gave us,” Slye said in a video message.
As of this (Friday) morning, work was still underway on the church’s expansive, window-lined lobby. The overall space, across from WHINO restaurant, is 23,280 square feet.
More, below, from the church’s press release.
Grace Community Church has moved from Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington, VA to Ballston Quarter. A newly customized space on the second level near Macy’s contains an auditorium that seats 500 people and a children’s ministry for ages 0-6th grade. Grace also has youth groups for middle and high school students and space for community classes.
Grace Community Church has been serving the Arlington community for over 20 years. This move brings Grace right to the heart of the city. Grace has a strong focus on compassion and justice initiatives, creating an engaging Sunday environment that is welcoming to all, and providing opportunities to connect and engage with others. The new space will also become home to a childcare center and many concerts, events and service opportunities for the community.
Services are held on Sundays at 9:00, 10:15 and 11:30am. Grace is celebrating its grand opening on Sunday, March 19 by giving away Ted’s Tarts from Ted’s Bulletin.
Arlington County police and medics responded to a near-fatal opioid overdose in the Ballston mall parking garage this afternoon.
The initial dispatch went out shortly before 1:30 p.m. for a possible cardiac arrest with CPR in progress after an overdose, inside the county-owned public parking garage. A group of teens was found near the mall elevators on the 6th floor of the garage.
First responders administered the overdose reversal medication Narcan to two people with suspected overdoses and reported that the person initially said to be in cardiac arrest had a pulse but was unconscious, according to scanner traffic.
The fire department established an incident command at the garage and ended up transporting three people to a local hospital via ambulance.
Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed to ARLnow that those involved were juveniles.
“At approximately 1:24 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of possible overdose in the 4200 block of Wilson Boulevard involving three juveniles,” Savage said. “First responders administered NARCAN on two of the juveniles which resulted in positive responses. The three juveniles were transported to an area hospital. The investigation is ongoing.”
A similar incident was reported at the parking garage last week, on a Tuesdy morning.
A group of highly intoxicated teens required medical attention in a stairwell, not far from the entrance to the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
“At approximately 9:33 a.m., police were dispatched to the 600 block of N. Glebe Road for the report of a Drunk in Public,” Savage said at the time. “Upon arrival, six juveniles showing signs of intoxication were located inside a stairwell of a commercial building. Out of an abundance of caution, they were transported to an area hospital for evaluation. The investigation is ongoing.”
ARLnow did not previously report on the alcohol incident. Between then and now, a police source confirmed to an ARLnow reporter that the juveniles were students at nearby Washington-Liberty High School and were skipping class.
Savage said it was not immediately clear whether today’s incident involved the same group.
“As part of the ongoing investigation, detectives will work to determine if this incident is related to any other reported incidents,” she said.
Today’s overdoses follow several involving students on and off school grounds since the start of December’s holiday break, part of an ongoing opioid epidemic at Arlington’s public schools.
At least three have occurred on school grounds so far this year, including a fatal overdose at Wakefield High School on Jan. 31. That has led to calls for various changes at APS by teachers, parents and School Board members.
(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Two local chefs have been named semifinalists for a prestigious James Beard award.
Rahman “Rock” Harper of Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken on Columbia Pike and Kevin Tien, owner of Hot Lola’s in Rosslyn and Ballston, were both recognized as semifinalists for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” in this year’s James Beard awards. The nominations were announced last week.
Named after the famed American chef, the national award recognizes “exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system.”
The Alexandria native Harper is the owner and head chef at Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken, located inside the local incubator Kitchen of Purpose at 918 S. Lincoln Street, just off of Columbia Pike, in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
Harper is also an author and winner of the third season of the cooking reality show “Hell’s Kitchen.” He told ARLnow that being named a James Beard semifinalist was a “pleasant surprise” and that the response from critics and diners alike has been “surreal.”
“They remind me that while pursuing my passion for telling Black stories through food, we will be rewarded with positive feedback along the journey,” Harper said via email. “Columbia Pike and Arlington have been incredibly supportive and welcoming to Queen Mother’s and I look forward to being here for many years! I hope this can serve as an example to customers, restaurateurs, elected officials, and developers that the future of Arlington and Northern Virginia dining is pretty bright.”
While Tien was actually nominated for his cooking at D.C.’s Moon Rabbit, he’s also known for Hot Lola’s and its two Arlington locations. The fast-casual restaurant also serves fried chicken sandwiches, but Tien’s blends Sichuan spices with the traditional Nashville recipe, creating his own brand of hot chicken.
The first Hot Lola’s location opened in the Ballston Quarter food hall in 2019, while the Rosslyn restaurant opened this past summer. Another location is coming to Fairfax County’s Lincolnia neighborhood.
Tien told ARLnow that being nominated for a James Beard award is an “amazing accomplishment” and represents “more than just good food and service.“
“It represents the commitment we make to our team, our community, our purveyors that we are cooking with purpose and for a cause,” he said via email. “To have a restaurant in Virginia with two other amazing Virginia chefs, Rock Harper and Joy Crump whom I love so much is incredible. The Arlington and NoVa dining scene is amazing and I am happy to be a small part of it.”
It’s been a big month for local restaurant recognition. Four Arlington eateries were included in Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list for 2023 last week, while Charga Grill on Langston Blvd was named the area’s best casual restaurant by Washington Post food critic Tim Carman earlier in January.
Bar and snack spot Ballston Service Station located inside of Ballston Quarter Market is now closed
The bar at the center of the food hall shuttered several weeks ago, Ballston Quarter Market’s general manager tells ARLnow, confirming several reader tips received by ARLnow.
Ballston Service Station was one of the first businesses to commit to the newly-revamped Ballston Quarter in late 2018.
The low-key watering hole was designed to look like “your hometown gas station.” It had a bar, a tap, and several televisions. Now, there’s only plywood and paneling covering the bar.
ARLnow reached out to the owners of Ballston Service Station about why it closed but has not heard back. Ballston Quarter management also declined to comment on if another tenant is lined up to replace it.
Recent months have seen several comings and goings at the food hall inside the Ballston mall. In August, British-inspired Salt Pop Kitchen closed while, in September, Kung Fu Tea opened on the other side of Ballston Service Station.
It’s holiday time and the lights are coming on in Arlington.
Over the next several weeks, a slew of tree lightings, Santa visits, markets, and holiday celebrations are happening around the county. That’s in addition to last night’s Shirlington tree lighting and the Santa photo shoots already underway at the Pentagon City mall.
Next week, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District is set to turn on the lights at its annual tree lighting ceremony, which now takes place at Central Place Plaza near the Metro station. It’s happening on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. and will be aired on ABC 7 with a countdown from local reporter Kidd O’Shea.
There will be musical performances from Cherry Blossom Organ Trio and HB Woodlawn’s Choir, as well as raffle prizes, holiday cocktails, free photos, and a coat drive benefiting PathForward.
Other upcoming Rosslyn holiday activities include:
- Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.: Rosslyn Cinema featuring”Elf” at Bennet Park Atrium
- Dec. 9 at 5 p.m.: Santa Paws Happy Hour at Central Place Plaza
- Dec. 10 & 11 at 11 a.m.: Holiday Market at Central Place Plaza
Santa is making his way to Ballston, meanwhile, and will be taking holiday photos with well-behaved children every weekend until Christmas starting this Saturday, Dec. 3, as well as the entire week between Dec. 19 and Dec. 23.
Santa will be stationed on the first floor of the mall near the Wilson Blvd street entrance.
Additional Ballston holiday events include:
- Dec. 3, 10, & 17 at 2 p.m.: Holiday Tunes & Treats at Ballston Quarter
- Dec. 7 at 5 p.m.: Ballston Sip & Jingle at the Ellipse Building at 4350 Fairfax Drive
- Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.: Barkin’ Holiday Bash at Ballston Quarter
The annual Peppermint Mocha Competition put on by the National Landing BID returns this weekend as well.
On Saturday, Dec. 3 starting at 11 a.m., three local businesses — The Freshman, Commonwealth Joe, and Beauty Champagne & Sugar Boutique — will compete to see which has the best peppermint mocha.
Other holiday activities in Crystal City and Pentagon City include:
- Dec. 2 at 6 p.m.: Miracle on 23rd Street at 750 23rd Street South
- Dec. 3 at 10 a.m.: National Landing Holiday Market at 556 22nd Street S.
- Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. & 4 p.m.: Wreath Making Workshop at 241 18th Street S.
- Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.: Gingerbread House Making Workshop at 241 18th Street S.
Tis the season for peppermint mochas and Santa photos.
The 2022 Starbucks offerings include Peppermint Mocha, Caramel Brulée Latte, Chestnut Praline Latte, Toasted White Chocolate Mocha, Irish Cream Cold Brew and Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte, in addition to bakery items like Reindeer Cake Pop, Sugar Plum Cheese Danish, Cranberry Bliss Bar and Snowman Cookie.
Meanwhile, Santa Claus is coming to town — sooner than you might expect.
Santa is set to start snapping photos with children at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City on Friday, Nov. 18, according to the mall’s website. Santa will be stationed on the first level of the mall near Nordstrom.
In addition to the daily photo ops, a special “Caring Santa” session for children with special needs is scheduled for Dec. 4 and pet photos with Santa is set for Dec. 11. Santa will also be hosting two breakfasts with kids at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton hotel on Dec. 3 and 17.
Reservations for the Pentagon City mall photo sessions can be made online.
Jolly Ol’ St. Nick will be arriving at the Ballston Quarter mall a bit later than his Pentagon City counterpart. Ballston’s Santa is set to start taking photos with kids on Dec. 3 and reservations can also be made online.
If you’re really jonesing for Father Christmas, there’s an even earlier option than the two in Arlington. Tysons Corner Center mall announced yesterday that Santa will be returning there next week, on Friday, Nov. 11.
Once you pick up your seasonal Starbucks tomorrow, to get in the holiday spirit — despite this week’s relatively warm weather — you might head over to the Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) ice skating rink. The rink officially opened to the public yesterday. As of early this afternoon, no skaters could be seen on the ice.
Ballston Quarter has a 50,000-square-foot vacancy problem.
The redeveloped mall at 4238 Wilson Blvd is home to a rotating roster of restaurants, as well as clothing stores, pet facilities, eye doctors, gaming experiences and other retail businesses, as well as an attached office building and the MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
But filling the retail roster has not been smooth sailing, writes land use attorney Kedrick Whitmore in a letter to the county on behalf of Brookfield Properties, which owns the mall.
Reading the changing economic winds, Brookfield Properties is looking to tack.
During the Arlington County Board meeting this weekend, the Board is slated to review the property owner’s request to lease about 28,000 square feet of second-floor retail space to a medical tenant. This tenant — which was not named — would provide primary care, ear, nose, and throat and eyes and vision specialists, speech therapy and other medical care, according to a staff report.
“Approving this application would help resolve the Project’s significant, systemic leasing challenges and creatively reposition the Mall,” Whitmore writes in the letter, filed last month. “The Applicant envisions a holistic and mutually beneficial relationship between potential medical offices and the local retail and entertainment market.”
New medical offices benefit those living and working in the heart of Ballston, and would result in more patients patronizing local businesses, Whitmore said.
Although current zoning permits office conversions by-right, the mall is governed by a retail plan that requires Brookfield to file a site plan amendment to make the change.
The mall had struggled for years, due to its large size and age, before its redevelopment was approved, with the goal of improving its performance against newer counterparts in the region. The work wrapped up at the end of 2018.
Around the same time, a county retail plan from 2015 recommended pulling storefronts to the street, creating outdoor activity and attractions, and making interior renovations to encourage activity there. The plan also called for “flexibility and creativity” to encourage these changes.
Per the county report, county staff looked over the retail plan and “understand[s] the challenges in leasing second floor internal spaces in a shifting retail market and that these spaces require greater flexibility in terms of permitted uses.”
This request is not out of the blue, either. The report adds that “even at project inception, office tenancy was viewed as a likely leasing option.”
Not everyone agrees with this assessment. The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association said it does not believe the change aligns with the retail plan, but should it pass anyway, it suggested the medical provider “target underserved, lower income communities which would benefit most from the easy access to public transportation.”
The mall recently approved another non-retail tenant, which agreed to lease a large space inside the mall: Grace Community Church. Still, tenants are cycling in and out, as there are fewer office workers from the nearby buildings visiting due to the rise of remote work, not to mention the convenience of online shopping.