Owners of mixed-use buildings in Arlington are struggling to find tenants for ground floor retail space, and instead have been seeking permission to fill the space with other uses.
“It is definitely a trend,” said Michael Smith, director of real estate at Bethesda-based retail strategy firm Streetsense. “We are at a point in time where we have a lot of retail space and a decreasing number of prospective tenants to fill those spaces.”
The owner of the Ballston Pointe building at 4300 Wilson Blvd (which once housed Ted’s Montana) is asking permission to convert its 2,132 square-foot ground floor space into a gym for residents and office space.
Likewise, Le Meridien seeks to convert its 900 square-foot retail space into offices, and the 1776 Wilson Blvd building in Rosslyn (home of Quinn’s and formerly of Kona) wants to cast a wider net for “retail equivalent” tenants like education organizations to fill its 22,829 square feet of unused retail space.
County staff wrote in a report to the Board that the Meridien vacancy is “due to a combination of design and location factors the site has not been a successful retail space” and in another report, that 1776 Wilson “cited difficulty retaining leases with tenants that meet the definition of retail.”
“Municipalities are trying to encourage ground floor retail environments to create sense of place, but the reality of it is that there is only so much of it going around,” said Streetsense’s Smith.
He cited millennials’ penchant for prioritizing experiences over things as one reason retail has been declining over the last decade — leaving fewer prospective tenants. Another problem with filling ground-floor retail space is that not all spaces nor streets are ideal areas to attract shoppers.
That contrasts with an aggressive, former Arlington County policy dubbed “retail everywhere,” which was replaced in 2015 with a more “curated” approach.
Restaurateurs have long bemoaned certain portions of the county, like the western side of Glebe Road in Ballston, as places businesses struggle. The old adage of “location, location, location” applies in Arlington, but sometimes it’s hard for businesses to figure out what will work in which places.
Smith said buildings in Arlington’s neighborhoods like Rosslyn, which is hillier and sleepier at night compared to places like Clarendon, typically have a harder time finding and keeping retailers. However, he noted the Rosslyn Business Improvement District’s community events and artwork are steps toward making the area more attractive to people and businesses.
“While we would all want our streets lined with beautiful boutiques or cafes, that’s just not the reality,” he said.
The County Board has issued approvals for retail space to be turned into alternatives like medical offices for years. Members have also OKed converting office space back to retail space, though that process is sometimes fraught.
Smith said that government-led programs or economic incentives only make sense “if the numbers pan out and its win-win for everyone.”
“The best thing you can do is turn the faucet off, and put retail where it belongs,” he said.
If you want to remain in the dark about the contents of the mysterious Ballston time capsule, which is set to be opened next year, read no further.
Melinda Schaedig, who was a third grader at Taylor Elementary School in 1988 when the capsule was buried, approached ARLnow with details from when the capsule was put into the ground.
“In 1988, it seemed like 2020 would never arrive, but here it is in the blink of an eye,” Schaedig said. “I just turned 40 and the time capsule is all that I have been thinking about as I have been waiting for this day for a long time.”
In the 31 years between the time capsule was buried and now, Schaedig said some of her memories from the burial have grown hazy, but she reached out to her third grade teacher to help put more details together.
“It was a big deal at the time,” Schaedig said. “I’ve always thought about it. I recall a couple months ago I was driving in the car with my mom and kids and I said ‘2020 is coming, is there anything on the building?'”
Schaedig saw the plaque and inquired inside the building, eventually being directed to the top floor where the building’s owners told her what a spokesperson for WashREIT told ARLnow yesterday: the capsule is there and but the company has no idea what’s inside.
But Schaedig remembers.
“I remember seeing a steering wheel with an airbag, which was new at the time, and maybe some Redskins memorabilia,” Schaedig said.
An article in the Northern Virginia Sun said a signed baseball, old coins and a postcard from an Arlington auto dealership were included as well. The article notes that Schaedig — then Melinda Foulke — added a poster showing how America has changed since the Constitution was signed.
The poster selected via a competition for local elementary school students.
“The contest presented local teachers with an opportunity to review Ballston’s evolution from farmland in the 1800s to the retail, business and retail center county planners forsaw when they wrote the Ballston Sector Plan in 1980,” the Sun noted.
Foulke said she dug up old news footage her mother had kept around, in which the building owners talked about how Ballston was poised to become the new downtown of Arlington.
“They talked about how in the future, there were unlimited possibilities because of the number of corporations moving in,” Foulke said. “They were predicting that with growth between Rosslyn and Ballston, [Arlington] would have more office space than Miami.”
The video does show some items being placed in the capsule, confirming Foulke’s memories of a steering wheel and a Redskins pin.
WashREIT said they were unsure how to open the time capsule. One of the old clippings shows Schaedig and the late County Board member Ellen Bozman holding a key to the capsule. Schaedig says she doesn’t know where the key is now.
“I hope to go when they open it,” Schaedig said. “It’ll be exciting to bring my kids and my family. It’s silly, but it’s been a part of my life.”
Newspaper photos courtesy Melinda Schaedig
Completion of the Ballston Quarter pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd could be delayed by another three months.
The Arlington County Board is set to discuss extending the completion deadline of the under-construction bridge from September 1 to December 1 at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday). The delay is at the request of the mall’s owner, which is building the bridge as a condition of Ballston Quarter’s recent renovations.
The company cited “difficulties associated with the complexity, constructibility issues of the design, field modifications, and the current status of construction” as reasons for the extension, according to as staff report to the Board.
This will be the second time the bridge project has been delayed. Originally, the walkway was scheduled to open last fall so it would be ready for the first shops to open at Ballston Quarter. Then the deadline was pushed to September of this year.
A spokeswoman for mall operator Brookfield Properties told ARLnow they are “on track for a November opening” for the bridge, pointing interested locals to a blog with periodic bridge construction updates.
It’s been more than two years since the original Wilson Blvd bridge was torn down. Once the new walkway is completed, it will link the mall to the Ballston Metro station.
A time capsule in Ballston that has been largely forgotten to time is set to be opened at some point next year, and no one seems to know what’s inside.
An inconspicuous plaque on the side of the Fairgate office building (1005 N. Glebe Road) announces the time capsule.
“A time capsule celebrating Arlington County and the building of Ballston, placed by the Rouse and Associates in 1988, to be opened in 2020,” the plaque reads.
A lot has happened since 1988, however. For one, Rouse and Associates no longer exists. In 1994 it was sold and the company, based in suburban Philadelphia, is now known as Liberty Property Trust.
“Oh wow, that would be us [behind the plaque],” says Jeanne Leonard, vice president of Liberty Property Trust. Over the phone, she detailed how Rouse and Associates did have a Northern Virginia office at one point, but it was shuttered several decades ago.
“We developed this office building in 1986,” Leonard said, confirming the site of the capsule. “But we have not owned it in many years. Unfortunately, there is no one here now who was with our Northern Virginia operation back in the 80s. I’ve got no idea what could be in it.”
Per county records, the building was sold in 2012 to WashREIT, a D.C.-based real estate company. Deanna Schmidt, a communications official at WashREIT, confirmed that the firm knows about the capsule and said they are exploring the best ways to celebrate the capsule come 2020.
They aren’t quite sure how to go about opening it and said they will update their plans once that detail is figured out.
As for what’s in there?
“No idea,” said Schmidt.
A reader first tipped ARLnow off about the plaque, which can be seen from the corner of 11th Street N. and N. Vermont Street. Representatives for the Ballston Business Improvement District, Arlington County and Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History were similarly unable to find any information on the time capsule.
“I’ve probably walked past that plaque 100 times without noticing,” said Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services.
Update on 9/20/19 — We now know at least some of what is in the capsule.
A shuttered restaurant space in Ballston is getting a makeover now that a new wellness center with botox services is moving in.
Posters for D.C.-based Javan Wellness advertise a late summer 2019 opening for its new space space at 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston. Co-owner Anita Abdeshahian told ARLnow today (Wednesday) that the business is eyeing an October opening after some construction delays bumped their original September plans.
The wellness center offers botox, dermal fillers, laser hair removal, and IV hydration among other services, and the location will be Javan’s second after it debuted on U Street last year.
“I personally have looked into moving to the Ballston area,” she said. “I love the atmosphere, the people, it just seems like such a great location for young professionals. They’re just happy people who want to have a good time.”
The wellness center is filling in the space which once housed Mike Isabella’s restaurant Pepita Cantina, which opened in 2015.
The Mexican restaurant closed in 2018, along with Isabella’s neighboring restaurants Kapnos Taverna and Yona after Isabella settled a lawsuit that accused him and his business partners of groping and sexually harassing female staff and declared bankruptcy.
Now Abdeshahian and her co-owner and brother Dr. Ehsan Abdeshahian are planning an October grand opening party with music and skincare product giveaways. But first, she says they’ll put the final touches on the medical space she hopes will be designed with an “artistic” flare instead of a sterile one.
“It looks like at this point we’re just waiting on some permits and certifications and things like that,” added Abdeshahian.
Ballston Burglar Busted — “At approximately 6:41 p.m. on September 15, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside her residence when she observed the male suspect allegedly approach the door to the residence and attempt to force entry, causing damage. The suspect attempted to flee on foot prior to police arrival. Officers located the suspect in the area and he was positively identified.” [Arlington County]
N. Va. Locales Team Up to Lure More Employers — “Prompted partly by the success in luring Amazon, 10 Northern Virginia jurisdictions have formed an alliance to market themselves as a region to attract other companies, especially those in the high-tech arena. Instead of trying to poach businesses from each other, or promote themselves at their neighbors’ expense, they will compete mainly as a group against other major metropolitan areas such as Boston and Silicon Valley.” [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]
Housing Discrimination Forum Planned — “A coalition of organizations will look at the history of housing discrimination in Arlington in an upcoming forum. ‘The Color of Housing: The History of Racism in Housing in Arlington’ will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Wakefield High School.” [InsideNova]
N. Arlington Couple’s Nomadic Adventure — “Journalist Dan Kois and his wife, attorney Alia Smith, felt that their busy, comfortable existence in North Arlington was stifling true connections with their young daughters. So they did what some Washington parents only dream of: They moved far away. Then they moved again. And again.” [Washingtonian]
A string of vehicle break-ins in north Arlington is continuing, but this time a suspect might have been caught on camera.
Someone stole a cell phone from an unlocked car in a garage on the 4700 block of N. Carlin Springs Road late Thursday night or early Friday morning, according to Arlington County Police.
“Between 11:00 p.m. on September 12 and 3:10 a.m. on September 13, an unknown suspect entered an unlocked vehicle inside a garage and stole a cell phone,” ACPD said of the theft. “The investigation is ongoing and detectives will work to determine if this case is linked to any others reported in Arlington County.”
An anonymous resident in the same area as the break-in, a few blocks from Ballston, contacted ARLnow with video footage (above) of a man looking into a vehicle behind a house, taken that same night. Nothing appears to have been taken in the video, however, and police declined to confirm whether the person seen is a suspect in the theft.
ACPD was notified about the video, the resident said.
The video was taken with an Ring video camera. Arlington County Police are considering a public safety partnership with the Amazon-owned company, the Washington Business Journal reported last week, despite concerns nationally about the privacy implications of such partnerships.
On Ring’s Neighbors app, at least a half dozen car break-ins have been reported in and around Arlington over the past week — mostly involving unlocked vehicles. ACPD has been reminding residents to lock their cars and homes at night as part of a public safety initiative dubbed the “9 P.M. Routine.”
(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Arlington County Police say there was no shooting last night in Ballston, just a panic caused by a single juvenile male.
In a press release Sunday morning, ACPD said the boy walked into a movie theater playing IT Chapter 2 at Ballston Quarter mall and shouted about a shooter. There was no mass shooting, just a mass panic and a mass exodus from the mall as dozens of police and emergency responders swarmed the area.
“As word of the incident spread, patrons from all areas of the Ballston Quarter began to self-evacuate,” police said. “One individual suffered a minor injury while self-evacuating from the building and was transported by medics to an area hospital for treatment.”
Police searched the theater and the mall well into the night, encountering some patrons who had locked themselves into back rooms or even freezers. They did not find evidence of any violence.
Mall customers and employees were left standing outside the cordoned-off block around the mall, with personal property still inside the building and cars parked in the closed parking garage, which did not reopen until after midnight.
UPDATE: Police are opening the garage. Citizens can access their vehicles. Those who left property in the food hall area of the Quarter can retrieve it now outside True Food Kitchen.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 15, 2019
Police say items left inside businesses should be retrieved from those businesses, while property left inside the Quarter Market food hall can now be claimed by calling the police non-emergency line at 703-558-2222.
More from the ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department completed a thorough investigation and determined that no shooting occurred at the Ballston Quarter on the evening of September 14, 2019.
At approximately 8:38 p.m., police were dispatched to multiple emergency calls reporting a possible shooter inside the movie theater at the Ballston Quarter located at 4238 Wilson Boulevard. Upon police arrival, the theater was placed under shelter in place status while a systematic search of the entire Ballston Quarter was initiated. The search concluded with negative results and no evidence of a shooting or any victims of a shooting were located.
The preliminary investigation suggests that an unknown juvenile male entered a theater playing the movie ‘IT Chapter Two’ and shouted that there was a shooter, causing patrons to run from the theater yelling for people to call 9-1-1. As word of the incident spread, patrons from all areas of the Ballston Quarter began to self-evacuate. One individual suffered a minor injury while self-evacuating from the building and was transported by medics to an area hospital for treatment.
Patrons who left personal property inside of Ballston Quarter businesses during the incident should claim their property through the individual businesses. Those who left property in the public food hall area of the Ballston Quarter should call the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 to facilitate retrieval of their items at the Police Department, located at 1425 North Courthouse Road.
This remains an active investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
GMU to Expand Va. Square Campus — “George Mason University wants to transform its Arlington campus into an ‘innovation district’ as it kicks off an Amazon-inspired overhaul… Mason expects to use the expansion to add 3,000 to 4,000 graduate students to the campus by 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]
Man Arrested For Assaulting Police in Ballston — “At approximately 8:32 p.m. on September 11, police were dispatched the report of a disorderly subject inside a restaurant who had allegedly been throwing items and threatening staff. Upon police arrival, the business staff requested the subject be banned from the property. While speaking with the subject, he threatened an officer and took a defensive stance. While placing him under arrest, the subject became combative, kicked and spit at the officers.” [Arlington County]
Home Inventory Tight in Arlington — “New listings in Arlington declined 16.5% in August compared with last year, said Chris Finnegan, vice president at Bright MLS. The median sale price for all home types in the 22202 ZIP code, where Amazon is building and staffing up HQ2, was $749,000 in August. It’s a 23% jump since the company made its HQ2 announcement in November 2018.” [Washington Business Journal, InsideNova]
Tech Company Picks Arlington for U.S. HQ — ” Varjo, the technology leader in industrial-grade VR/XR headsets, today announced the opening of its U.S. headquarters… in Arlington, Virginia, located just outside of Washington D.C.” [Varjo via Potomac Tech Wire]
Potomac Kempo Now Open — Martial arts studio Potomac Kempo yesterday held a grand opening ceremony for its fifth location, at 3650 S. Glebe Road, in the Potomac Yard area. The studio started holding classes on Aug. 31, we’re told. [Facebook]
Video: USS Arlington Crew Welcomed at Fire Station — “Crew members from the USS Arlington were welcomed at Arlington’s Fire Station 5 before running in the The Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial Race. The USS Arlington honors the 184 victims and the thousands of emergency, fire and rescue personnel of Arlington County and localities in the National Capital Region who provided critical emergency assistance after the attack on 9/11.” [YouTube]
VIDA Fitness is expanding our family and opening our doors in Virginia!
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VIDA has been voted the Best Gym in D.C. by Washington City Paper and The Washingtonian, and offers countless services to promote a healthy and happy lifestyle. VIDA features state-of-the-art equipment, and boasts spacious weight room floors perfect for all types of strength work. We draw some of the best instructors in the D.C. area to drive results and engage members in hundreds of classes on our expansive group fitness schedule.
Between yoga, mat Pilates, barre, Zumba, Body Pump and much much more, we have something that every member is sure to enjoy. Our dedicated staff of Personal Trainers are some of the best in the industry, and will work with you to create and design individual workout plans to help you achieve your goals.
All of our facilities feature luxurious locker rooms that are fully stocked to ensure you have everything you need to start your day, and leave the gym feeling refreshed. Relax in our steam rooms and saunas after your workout, and enjoy quality Bang Salon products to leave feeling nourished and restored.
Visit www.vidaballston.com today, and become the latest member of the VIDA family! We can’t wait to share the VIDA experience with you.
Road Closures for 9/11 5K — “The 18th annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff Memorial 9/11 5K race will take place on the evening of Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will close several roadways around the Pentagon and in Crystal City to accommodate the event.” [Arlington County]
Pentagon, Rosslyn Rank Among Busiest Stations — “In Virginia, the Pentagon [Metro] station averages around 14,000 entries and exits each weekday, ranking it and Rosslyn ahead of Pentagon City, Crystal City, Ballston, Vienna and Wiehle-Reston East.” [WTOP]
Hotel Occupancy Rate Going Down — “Arlington’s year-over-year hotel-occupancy rate is down from 2017 for the first seven months of the year, but the average room rate is higher, according to new data.” [InsideNova]
Even Shirlington Feeling Amazon Glow — “It might be a bit of a stretch to call it proximate to the e-commerce and cloud computing company’s second home in Arlington County, but a Shirlington office building with future ‘Amazon HQ2 upside’ is being offered for sale.” [Washington Business Journal]
Startup Moving After Big Funding Round — After raising a new $51 million funding round, Arlington-based Federated Wireless is moving its 80-person team to a new 20,000+ square foot space at 4075 Wilson Blvd in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]