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Ballston Common Mall's New Look

Last night, the Ballston BID celebrated another big year at its annual meeting. But the real news came from the folks at ForestCity, which unveiled detailed designs for its multi-phase Ballston Common Mall redevelopment. (No matter who you are, you will be always be upstaged by shopping.)

We snapped ForestCity Washington COO Tom Henneberry with colleague Sarah Forde in front of one of several designs (from architect RTKL) at the Westin Arlington Gateway. Tom tells us the focus will be to work from the outside in; the cavernous layout of the current mall will be replaced by an open air design that maximizes exterior storefronts for retailers and makes things more inviting for shoppers. ForestCity took design cues from its Yards project in Southwest DC, Tom says, including the warehouse look you see next to Sarah in the rendering (that's the Wilson Boulevard side). Like at The Yards, Tom says the new retail mix in Ballston will be a combination of national retail chains and local food and beverage operators.

The roof will be removed from much of the property, creating this breezy look. (And finally giving that one pigeon trapped in every mall a way to get out.) There's also a 393-unit apartment complex in the mix at Ballston Common—which ForestCity is rebranding as Ballston Center. Entitlements and approvals are still needed from Arlington County, and Tom says a realistic delivery date for the first phase would be late 2017/early 2018.

Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone (right, with Tysons Partnership's Michael Caplin and Leadership Arlington's Betsy Frantz) had plenty else to celebrate. 40,000 packed in her org's Taste of Arlington event last month (double last year); the event donated $10k to the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Tina says she's also working on getting the Ballston Metro Plaza renovated, as well as spicing up the neighborhood with programmable LED light fixtures. The BID's mobile app, BallstonConnect, which contains neighborhood news and a business directory, among other features, has also been a big success, she says.

At Taste of Arlington, the BID held its first-ever Restaurant Challenge, a competition aimed at filling a vacant retail space at 1110 N Glebe with a fresh new concept. Christiana Campos (right) was honored by Simon Carney of Brookfield (the building's owner) and Tina last night for winning the competition with Casita, a Spanish comfort food concept. Christiana received a 10-year lease at the building (with the first year free and below-market rents afterward) and a $245k interest-free loan; she hopes to open the restaurant this fall. The competition was co-created by super chef Mike Isabella, who's opening up his Kapnos concept in Ballston later this year.