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Fixing the Unfixable: How will the Much-Maligned Ballston Mall be renovated?

Photo by Alex Brandolino/SENTRY

Photo by Alex Brandolino/SENTRY

Andy Belilos, Sentry Staff Reporter

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“It has potential.” That is the kindest thing many can say about the current state of Ballston Common Mall. For years now, the oddly-shaped and confusing mall has been shunned by both hardcore shoppers and those simply looking for a night out. Thankfully, the company that owns the mall, Forest City Washington, has big plans to renovate the structure and turn it into something similar to Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria- fun and friendly places where citizens can go to get a good meal and do some light shopping.

Currently, there is not much to envy about Ballston Common outside of a few movie theatres, the Kettler Iceplex, and a couple of decent food options including Chipotle, Noodles and Company and Panera Bread. Gary McManus,  the Vice President of Corporate Communications for Forest City, says that his company has plans to change that.

“Ballston is going to be significantly altered, upgraded, improved and enhanced from its present state,” McManus said. “In addition to a considerably upgraded store mix throughout, the mall concourse will be completely renovated and an open-air concourse will be created for a portion of the redeveloped center.”

More specifically, the Wilson Boulevard side of the mall would be completely redone, including the additions of several street level stores to create buzz and vibrancy alongside the street. Several of these proposed stores would be brand-new restaurants, with many also having rooftop dining and terrace options.

In addition, McManus revealed a plan for the brand new open air “center of activity” for the redone mall.

“A terraced central plaza area, surrounded by a food hall, will become the civic centerpiece and gathering place of the Ballston neighborhood,” McManus said. “This will be created in the area where the current pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd. connects to the building.”

Another interesting proposal currently in the approvals process is the addition of a new residential tower in place of the current Macy’s furniture store. The proposed building would include over 300 apartment units; also, the first three levels would incorporate retail space in order to better integrate with the mall.

Junior Johnny Dominguez believes that the current sad state of the mall is due for an upgrade.

“I do think a remodel would be in the best interests of the mall,” Dominguez stated. “The stores currently in the mall and the mall itself lack character and originality. However, I think if they do a earnest job in the renovation, it has potential.”

Dominguez’s main concerns with the project stem from the millions of dollars it would take to pull off a construction job of this magnitude

“If the project turns out to be a bust and they don’t make the right improvements to the mall, all the money will have been wasted.” Dominguez said.

As for a construction timetable, McManus said that it may be years before Arlingtonians are able to utilized a renovated mall.

“The governmental and civic approvals process is expected to take most of the rest of 2015 to accomplish,” McManus said. “It is our hope to begin site work on this project in spring 2016 with the initial completions of the various components happening in 2018.”

This remodel is a big first step in changing public perception on the mall and transforming it into a modern, shopper-friendly gathering spot for the community.

 

 

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The student news site of Yorktown High School
Fixing the Unfixable: How will the Much-Maligned Ballston Mall be renovated?