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.”
NSF Starting Its Move to Alexandria — “Moving day for the first group of National Science Foundation workers relocating from the agency’s Ballston headquarters to Alexandria starts this weekend, more than four years — and more than a bit of controversy — after selecting the site for its new home.” [Washington Business Journal]
TSA Moving to Springfield — The headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration will be moving from Pentagon City to Springfield, after the GSA awarded a new 15-year, $316 million lease. The move is expected to take place in 2020. [Washington Business Journal]
‘Doc’ Muse Dies — “Leonard ‘Doc’ Muse, who for 65 years – from the era of Jim Crow to the election of an African-American president – watched over the Nauck community from his perch behind the counter of the Green Valley Pharmacy, died the weekend of Aug. 19-20. He was 94 years old.” [InsideNova]
With the National Science Foundation moving out of Ballston this year, its current building is slated for renovations.
The NSF will relocate to Alexandria, starting no later than September 1, and leave its present headquarters at Stafford Place on Wilson Boulevard.
And with its federal tenant on the way out, property owner Jamestown LP is looking ahead to the future of its buildings, which it bought for a combined $300 million in 2015.
The two buildings will be renamed the Ballston Exchange, with the 12-story atrium in 4201 Wilson Blvd set for a revamp in addition to new electronic systems and elevators and new tenants for the upper and lower levels.
All told, the renovation work will cost approximately $140 million, and will include new retail space on the ground floor.
Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown, said the firm is looking to take advantage of the growth in high-tech and cybersecurity jobs in Northern Virginia when searching for new tenants.
“We have specialties in internet security and in technology around that sort of process, but we also have the associations and the lobbying groups and the private industry that have all started to make Northern Virginia home,” he said. “To provide an environment for that for both small companies to incubate ideas and large companies to be part of the campus is our goal.”
To attract those tenants, Phillips said, Jamestown will make sure the renovated space embraces the new “interactive culture” of the workplace. Phillips said the redone space will include an interactive conference center and communal spaces, as well as amenities like yoga and spin classes to help with employees’ health and wellbeing.
And despite the departure of a federal tenant and the departure of more than 2,000 NSF employees, Phillips said Jamestown relishes the opportunity to revamp its property given the apparent region-wide trend away from government work.
“We bought the building knowing they [the NSF] were going, with the intent to do what we’re doing,” Phillips said. “I think there was a time that submarket was a very high percentage of government contractors and agencies, and I think that is shrinking and being replaced by private sector companies.”
Phillips said the renovation should be complete by next spring or summer, given that it will not begin until the NSF vacates.
Helen Duong, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, said the last permit application submitted for the NSF property was last August to remove the existing sky bridge.
Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell said the organization is looking forward to seeing what Jamestown will do.
“We’re excited about the significant new investment Jamestown is making that will deliver high quality Class A office space as well as new ground floor retail frontage in the heart of Ballston,” she said. “Additionally, this ideally-located property is located just across the street from the new Ballston Quarter public-private redevelopment.”
The redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall across the street — and its rebranding as Ballston Quarter — means there is plenty going on in that part of the county.
Demolition of portions of the mall to make way for the new apartment tower and retail center began last year.
Board Approves Hospital Land Swap Option — The Arlington County Board has taken a first step to completing a deal to swap land with Virginia Hospital Center. The Board unanimously approved a non-binding Letter of Intent giving the hospital an option to purchase five acres of county-owned property adjacent to it. [Arlington County]
Apple iPhone Launch Day — A man has been camped out in front of the Clarendon Apple Store since Wednesday, in anticipation of today’s launch of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. The man, whose name is Joe, said it was his fourth year camping out for a new iPhone. [WJLA]
New Play Area Coming to Butler Holmes Park — Butler Holmes Park, which is tucked into a little corner of the Penrose neighborhood near Route 50, is getting a new, $414,000 pre-school play area, to complement the park’s existing playground and rain garden. “Besides whimsical tot lot features like a basket swing, see-saw and fairy tale structure, the project also includes safe play surfaces, a new park staircase and walkway, picnic tables and grills and signage,” said a press release. [Arlington County]
NSF HQ Purchased — An Atlanta-based real estate investment fund has purchased Stafford Place I, the Ballston office building that’s currently headquarters to the National Science Foundation. NSF will be moving out in 2017 and the buyer plans to “aggressively” market the property, which it purchased for $210 million. [Bisnow]
County Board Approves House Purchase — Arlington County will purchase a house at 2827 N. Harrison Street for $728,000, with the intention of knocking it down and using the property to enlarge Chestnut Hills Park. “This is another example of how the County is looking for every opportunity to add to our parks and open space,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Tighter Security at Marathon — This Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon will include tighter security than years past. Camelback-style hydration backpacks have been banned, as have Halloween masks. Runners will only be able to check items in clear plastic bags. [WJLA]
Google Maps Arlington National Cemetery — Google has used its Street View technology to map Arlington National Cemetery from the ground. Using a backpack-mounted array of 15 cameras and a hired walker, the company has gathered 360 degree images from around the hallowed grounds. [Washington Post]
Virginia ABC Wine Tasting Crackdown — Virginia ABC is cracking down on wine tasting events organized by wine distributors. Virginia law only allows winemakers or winery representatives to hold tasting events in restaurants. Among the retailers impacted by the recent enforcement effort is Cheesetique, which has locations in Shirlington and the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. [Washington Business Journal]
Lawsuit Filed Over NSF Lease — The broker that helped arrange the National Science Foundation’s pending move from Arlington to Alexandria is suing Hoffman Family LLC, the owner of the land where the new NSF headquarters will be built. Hoffman is only offering to pay $1 million of the $6.7 million that Jones Lang LaSalle says it’s owed. The deal is also being criticized for incentives that exempted payments to Alexandria’s affordable housing fund. [Washington Post]
Plantations in Arlington — Writer Alison Rice takes a look back at some of Arlington’s former plantations. Among them are Abingdon Plantation, located on what’s now Reagan National Airport; Analostan Island, on what’s now Theodore Roosevelt Island; and Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Favola: Streamline Development Approval — State Senator and former County Board member Barbara Favola (D) is urging Arlington County to streamline its development approval process in order to make it easier for affordable housing projects to be built. At a fundraiser for the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing this week, Favola and others said red tape and community resistance is making it more expensive to build affordable housing in Arlington. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington E-CARE Event This Weekend — Arlington will hold is biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. The event allows Arlington residents to safely dispose of household hazardous materials and to recycle items like bikes, small metal items, shoes, clothing, bed frames, etc. [Arlington County]
NSF Buyers Remorse in Alexandria? — Alexandria officials are thrilled to be taking the National Science Foundation and its more than 4,000 associated jobs from Arlington. But some are now voicing displeasure with a part of the incentive package for NSF that relieved the developer of the agency’s new headquarters from paying what would have been more than $1 million to the city’s affordable housing fund. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
New Laws, Sales Tax Hike Takes Effect in Va. — Today, July 1, a number of new laws take effect in Virginia. Among them: a new law cracking down on texting and driving, the decriminalization of unmarried cohabitation, and an increase in the sales tax in Northern Virginia from 5 to 6 percent. [WTOP]
NSF Buildings to Be Sold, Redeveloped — Changes may be on the way for the two office buildings in Ballston being vacated by the National Science Foundation in 2017. One of the building is being offered for sale, while the other is being considered for a conversion to apartments or a hotel, according to the Washington Business Journal.
Challenge to Va. Gay Marriage Law Considered — The law barring same-sex marriage in Virginia may face legal challenges in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, according to several local elected officials. [Sun Gazette]
Wayne Street Apartments to be Renovated — The Wayne Street Apartments on 2nd Street S. in Penrose have been acquired by developer Penzance. The company plans to renovate the aging complex, raise rents and incorporate the complex into the Myerton community apartment across the street. [Globe St.]
Flickr pool photo by Eschweik
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) sent a memo to its employees last week telling them that NSF planned to move its headquarters from Arlington to Alexandria by the end of 2016.
Whether NSF HQ would stay in Arlington has been under active discussion for over four years. All of the important decision-makers have had more than enough time to carefully consider their interests and options. This move was not a hasty decision.
In that light, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan made a poor decision publicly to question whether others had acted wisely. Ms. Donnellan issued a press statement that “we do not believe such a move would be in the best interests of the NSF, the federal government or the American taxpayer.”
In her initial anger in learning of the decision, Ms. Donnellan could be excused for harboring these sentiments, but she never should have issued a press statement to this effect. Arlington, as the losing bidder, has zero credibility to question whether other participants acted in their own self interests.
Also troubling was County Board member Jay Fisette’s statement that the federal government had pitted local jurisdictions against one another in a way he had not expected. His statement is troubling because it reflects a lack of understanding of the “new normal” competitive environment in which Arlington now finds itself.
Funeral for Arlington Firefighter Injured on 9/11 — A funeral will be held today for an Arlington firefighter who was a first responder on 9/11. Phillip McKee III suffered a severe leg injury while battling fires at the Pentagon following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. He also inhaled toxic dust and later suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. His family says McKee, 41, died from complications from those injuries. McKee, who held degrees from Yale and Harvard, was openly gay and is survived by his husband and partner of 15 years. [Washington Blade]
County Officials: No Subsidies for Gov’t Agencies — With the county still reeling from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation, Arlington officials are sticking to their guns and saying that offering tax breaks and other financial incentives to lure federal agencies is bad policy. Arlington Economic Development Director Terry Holzheimer is pushing for the General Services Administration to disclose additional information related to the decision to move the NSF to Alexandria by 2017. “None of it makes any sense,” Holzheimer said of the decision and its impact to other government tenants in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]
Bluemont Trail Improvements — Arlington County crews will be widening a section of the Bluemont Trail between Buchanan Street and the Ballston Holiday Inn this month. Crews will also be removing obstructions and landscaping around the trail. [Bike Arlington]
SUPERNOVA Photos — Dozens of artists invaded public spaces in Rosslyn over the weekend for the SUPERNOVA Performance Art Festival. Some of the artists and their performances can be seen in a series of photos published the the Ode Street Tribune blog.
Democratic Primary Today — Democrats will go to the polls today in Virginia to vote in the primary for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Among the candidates is Arlington resident Aneesh Chopra, who’s running for lieutenant governor. Polls will remain open in Arlington from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. [Arlington County]
The National Science Foundation, Arlington’s 12th largest employer, will be moving to new offices in Alexandria by 2017, employees at its Ballston headquarters were told today.
NSF employs 2,237 people in Arlington, according to Arlington Economic Development data. It’s the county’s 12th largest overall employer and its 8th largest government employer. Located in the Stafford Place I and II buildings at 4121 and 4201 Wilson Blvd, the NSF is also central to Ballston’s science and technology economy.
In a memo (below), NSF Acting Director Cora B. Marrett told employees today that the General Services Administration has signed a lease for a “new state-of-the-art building” at Alexandria’s Hoffman Town Center development, adjacent to the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station.
“We are told that the construction will take approximately three to four years to complete, so we anticipate a move to this new facility by the end of 2016,” Marrett wrote. “GSA has extended our leases at Stafford I and II for the interim.”
The National Science Foundation’s future in Arlington has been up for discussion since 2008, as the agency and the GSA considered whether to renew its Stafford Place lease, which was set to expire in December 2013. Arlington’s congressional delegation — Rep. Jim Moran and Sens. Mark Warner and Jim Webb — wrote a letter to the GSA in February 2010, urging the agency to renew NSF’s lease in Arlington.
Moving out of Arlington could have a “detrimental effect” on the National Science Foundation and on other scientific organizations that enjoy research synergies the Ballston area, like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Virginia Tech Research Center, the lawmakers wrote.
“We believe… Arlington [is] the ideal location for NSF Headquarters,” the letter said.
So far, the lawmakers have not commented on the planned NSF move. Attempts to reach numerous Arlington County and Arlington Economic Development officials were not successful.
The National Science Foundation describes itself as an “independent U.S. government agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through research programs and education projects.”
NSF’s 15-year lease in Alexandria will save a total of $65 million on rent, and will provide the government with $35 million “which can be applied to further rent savings, reduce costs of relocation, and reduce overall operational costs,” according to a press release.
The move, a coup for economic development in Alexandria, “would constitute one of the largest transfers of federal workers in Northern Virginia since the Patent and Trademark Office departed Crystal City for Alexandria in 2005,” the Washington Post wrote.
Update at 4:10 p.m. — Arlington County has issued a statement about the National Science Foundation move.
Arlington County is disappointed by the General Services Administration’s announcement that it will move the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Headquarters out of Arlington, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said Friday.
“We do not believe such a move would be in the best interests of the NSF, the federal government or the American taxpayer,” Donnellan said. ”Moving the NSF out of Arlington would run counter to the federal government’s investments over the last two decades in Arlington’s ‘scientific center of excellence’ that serves our defense and national security interests so well.”
Given concerns with GSA’s recent leasing decisions, County officials expect there will be vigorous oversight by Congress and others in the coming weeks. There are many unanswered questions about this announced move, and whether it would achieve the savings that GSA projects. “We continue to believe that Arlington County offers the lowest cost and highest value option for the NSF and other government agencies,” Donnellan said.
Arlington, with its unique mix of vibrant urban villages, a highly educated workforce, proximity to the nation’s capital and excellent transportation infrastructure, is a great place for the federal government to do business.
Update at 4:45 p.m. — The City of Alexandria has released a press release on the move. An excerpt:
“The NSF’s decision to locate its headquarters in Alexandria is a tremendous gain for our entire community,” said Mayor William D. Euille. “Having the NSF headquartered in Alexandria will strengthen our growing knowledge-based economy, and directly contribute to our professional workforce. Our high quality of life, access to public transportation, and cultural charm are key reasons why government and private businesses are drawn to Alexandria.”
City planners project that NSF will spur more than 1,800 additional permanent jobs beyond its own workforce of 2,400, and more than 800 temporary jobs to construct the new facility. This is a 4.5 percent increase in Alexandria’s overall workforce. Over the initial 15-year lease, the headquarters is expected to generate more than $83 million each year for Alexandria’s economy. The economic impact includes new salaries and wages for Alexandria residents, and spending by NSF employees and visitors at local businesses.
Given the extraordinary economic benefit of the NSF to Alexandria, and in order to make the Alexandria sites’ bids as competitive as possible, the City proposed the creation of an Eisenhower Avenue Science Redevelopment District. The property used by NSF would be subject to a lower real estate tax rate, which is projected to be a $23 million value to the property owner over the initial 15-year lease. This would still result in approximately $50 million in new tax revenue to the City during that period, even after the tax incentive is factored in. The creation of the new tax district is subject to public hearing and approval by Alexandria City Council.
Fight to Keep National Science Foundation — The National Science Foundation’s lease in Ballston is up next year, and neighboring communities are trying to lure the agency away from Arlington. So far, officials in Alexandria are some of the only ones who have openly expressed interest in bidding for the NSF. Fairfax County officials have kept quiet about whether they’re interested, specifically for areas along the upcoming Silver Line like Tysons Corner or Reston. Communities have until January 9 to submit proposals to the federal government. [Washington Examiner]
Parking Concerns with Ashlawn Elementary School Expansion — Updated at 9:25 a.m. — Despite criticism from some neighbors in Boulevard Manor, last week the School Board approved plans for the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School. Neighbors raised concerns about adding a new entrance on N. Manchester Street and adding additional parking on the school site. The issue will likely go before the County Board, which is able to adjust the number of parking spaces required under zoning requirements. [Sun Gazette]
SoberRide Program Ends Tuesday — SoberRide will continue offering free cab rides until Tuesday, January 1 at 6:00 a.m. Customers can call 1-800-200-TAXI for a free ride home (up to a $30 fare) from 10:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. every night until the program ends. All requests must be called in to the SoberRide dispatch and not to other cab companies. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
During the event, Venus passes between Earth and the sun, making the planet look like a dark dot on the sun. It’s one of the rarest predictable astronomical phenomena. The passing should last for about six hours, but will be visible at different times around the world. According to the Transit of Venus website, Arlington residents should be able to see the transit starting at 6:04 p.m.
Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium will hold a viewing at the top of the Kettler Iceplex (627 N. Glebe Road, #800), starting at 5:45 p.m. Displays, telescopes and safety glasses for viewing the transit will be available at the free event.
The National Science Foundation is also sponsoring a free Transit of Venus event. A lecture by Dr. Larry Marschall, Professor of Physics at Gettysburg College, will take place from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in the National Science Foundation (4201 Wilson Blvd) atrium. He will use pictures, movies and stories to describe the significance of the event. There will also be a telescope set up outside the north entrance to observe the transit, around 6:15 p.m.
If you want to watch the transit but can’t make it to one of the viewing events, be sure to take measures to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. The Transit of Venus website lists some safe ways to view the passing, and specifically says looking at the sun through common sunglasses is not safe enough. Slooh, an online space camera, will also provide a live feed of the event that is safe to watch, starting at 6:00 p.m.
This will likely be your only chance to see the Transit of Venus, because the next one doesn’t happen until December 2117. The last one occurred on June 8, 2004. The events take place in a paired pattern, with transits eight years apart, then more than 100 years apart.
Photo via Wikipedia
The National Science Foundation currently employs about 2,100 people at its Ballston headquarters, according to a spokeswoman, but the government agency has indicated that it is potentially interested in moving to a new building when its lease expires in 2013. NSF would like the new space to be about 25 percent larger than its current location at 4201 Wilson Boulevard, and about 12.5 percent cheaper per square foot than the current comparable office rent in Ballston, according to the Washington Business Journal.
The federal government’s office rent cap in Northern Virginia is $38 per square foot, compared to the average Ballston Class A office rent of $43.47, according to WSJ. That has led to speculation that NSF might leave Ballston altogether.
“We’re going to pursue them and we’re going to pursue them aggressively,” Alexandria Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said of the agency’s impending lease expiration, to the Alexandria Times. Donley was instrumental in persuading the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to move its headquarters from Crystal City to Alexandria in the early-to-mid 2000s.
The area’s congressional delegation, however, has asked the General Services Administration — which helps manage government properties — to strongly consider keeping NSF in Arlington.
“We urge you to take into account recent developments that we believe continue to make Arlington the ideal location for NSF Headquarters,” said a letter to the GSA’s top official, signed by Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Jim Moran.
The letter, dated February 23, 2010, argues that NSF benefits from its proximity to Ballston institutions like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of Naval Research and Virginia Tech’s new Advanced Research Institute.
“Arlington County is a national epicenter for scientific research, particularly in the areas of defense and homeland security,” the letter stated. “Not only does [Ballston] provide these agencies with access to one of the most highly educated and highly trained workforces in the nation, it also provides them with immediate access to a large pool of technical experts in the contracting community as well.”
“We believe a relocation of NSF Headquarters away from Arlington would [have a] detrimental effect on the ability of each of these research organizations to achieve their agency objectives,” the letter concluded.