Problem: The Ballston Common Mall isn’t working very well. Solution: Open the mall up to the surrounding streets, so it becomes the center of a lively community rather than a walled-off separate place.
Ballston is one of the smallest malls in the region. It can’t compete well against bigger centers with more stores, like Pentagon City or Tysons Corner. Instead, the mall generally only draws customers from a small area nearby, and thus makes less money than other, bigger malls.
Meanwhile, being an enclosed mall that serves mostly local traffic, it saps sidewalk retail away from Ballston’s neighborhood streets. Stores that would otherwise be on the sidewalk are instead bottled up in the mall.
To fix this, developer Forest City plans to face more stores to the sidewalk, and give them more inviting storefronts. It will replace nondescript mall doors with open-air plazas that naturally extend the street into the mall. Capping the building will be a new 29-story residential tower.
Forest City still needs to work with Arlington County to finalize and approve plans. For now, these are just concepts. But if all goes well, the 1980s-style Ballston Common Mall will transition to become the contemporary Ballston Center in 2017 and 2018.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.