Construction is a common sight throughout Arlington these days, but at its center—quite literally—is Ballston Quarter. The reimagined space that was formerly known as Ballston Common Mall is racing toward the construction finish line and is slated to officially open this winter. Ballston Quarter will be one of the first completed projects of 12 listed by the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID)—including office buildings, residential complexes and a new Metro plaza—that look to redefine what it means to live in the Arlington neighborhood.
“That particular site has really been the catalyst for Ballston’s evolution over the last two generations,” says Tina Leone, Ballston BID’s CEO. In 1951, the location was the site of Parkington, which was revolutionary in its size for a suburban retail space, and its parking garage was a catalyst for growth in and around Arlington. After the Metro came to Ballston in 1979, the then-struggling space received a facelift and became the Ballston Common Mall in 1986, which brought another round of improvement to the surrounding area. That renovation was handled by Forest City, which is the same developer behind Ballston Quarter.
The specifics of the new Ballston Quarter list it as a 385,000-square-foot space of retail and restaurants (not including Macy’s, which has been the longtime neighbor of the space), a “great mix of entertainment and food and beverage and national, regional, local or the best-in-class retailers,” says Will Voegele, senior vice president of development at Forest City. “It’s classic live, work, play, shop, eat.”
The new offerings that have claimed their spot within Ballston Quarter are expected to open throughout the second quarter of 2019.
D.C.-based Steadfast Supply is one of the local retailers that joined the Ballston Quarter lineup early on. Launched as a pop-up in 2016 before becoming a more permanent resident in The Yards in 2017, Steadfast is a concept shop that carries products from new, small, independent businesses, many of which are from the D.C. area. Its space in Ballston Quarter will do the same, but plans to highlight more Virginia-based businesses.
“So much development is happening [in Ballston] that it just felt like a natural move that if we’re going to expand outside of the District that it would be a perfect location,” says Virginia Arrisueno, the owner of Steadfast Supply, on her new space.
Initial talk of redeveloping the outdated mall started before the Great Recession, according to Leone, but was put on hold when the economy soured. Talks resumed in earnest in 2013 before the project was publicly announced in 2015. Arlington County threw its full-hearted support behind the reimagined mixed-use space, creating a Community Development Authority to provide both direct funds and the sale of bonds to help finance the project. All told, Arlington contributed $55 million—$46 million in bonds and $9 million in direct investment. Arlington knows what it has with Ballston Quarter.
“It’s a huge economic driver,” says Leone. “It’s like our town center; it’s the heart of Ballston.”
And it is prepared for the changed world from when Ballston Common was first launched. Voegele says Forest City is focused on what young professionals want—not just shopping, but experiential retail and an authentic connection with the community. With that goal in mind, Ballston BID and Ballston Quarter are developing events and activities that will take place in the development’s public plaza.
“These are projects that just have to resonate with how people live and what it is that they want to do and what they want their experience of life to look like,” says Voegele. “That’s what you can expect to see at Ballston Quarter.”
Expect the rest of Ballston not to be too far behind.
Ballston Quarter’s mix of retail and restaurants brings together local and national favorites.
Food: Mi & Yu Noodle Bar, Timber Pizza Co., Chick-fil-A, All About Burger, Ted’s Bullentin, Cucina Al Volo, French Exit, Ice Cream Jubilee, Pinch Dumplings, Rice Crook, Sloppy Mamma’s, Swizzler, The Local Oyster, Union Kitchen Grocery, Compass Coffee, Mezeh, Punch Bowl Social, South Block, Slapfish, Copa, True Food Kitchen
Retail: Bash Boxing, Nook, 5 Wits, Gossip, Francesca’s, Scout & Molly’s, Steadfast Supply, Potomac River Running, DC Lash Bar, Whino, Cookology