The Newsroom - Washington DC

Rapid change could make Ballston — yes, Ballston — the next hot spot

With several development projects in the works, Ballston could become the next hot community. (Justin Gellerson for The Washington Post)
Top developers and first-time home buyers alike are all looking for the next hot neighborhood where investing is not only safe but will yield the highest return on investment.

Over the years, many communities have become suddenly hot — from Shaw, to H Street, to Petworth, to North Bethesda.

Now, the next hottest neighborhood is . . . Ballston, Va.

Here’s why:

North Arlington — anchored by the Metro, Interstate 66 East and four bridges to the District — has long been the epicenter of Northern Virginia’s urban development. For years, Washingtonians and area businesses have gravitated to this Virginia suburb given the proximity and easy access to downtown D.C.

The migration of population from D.C. to Arlington has provided an opportunity for local developers and businesses looking for new building projects, investments and clientele. Until recently, Ballston — the Orange line’s northern neck of urban Arlington — has been overshadowed by the bustle of Rosslyn and Clarendon. However, dramatic change is underway which is changing the area’s equilibrium.

In recent years, Ballston created a Business Improvement District (BID) which helps to organize, support and connect Ballston residents and businesses, as well as sponsor events such as Taste of Arlington and a weekly farmers market. The Ballston BID has spearheaded a significant upgrade and has subsequently drawn the attention of large regional developers who are looking to leave their mark in Arlington.

As a result, over the next two to five years, the stretch of road on Wilson Boulevard and Fairfax Drive (considered the heart of Ballston) is slated for some incredible change, starting with the redevelopment of Ballston Mall — now formally named Ballston Quarter.

Here’s a sample of some of the development headed to Ballston: Nine mixed-use projects will add 2,062 luxury condos and apartments, 550,000 square feet of new office space and 480,000 square feet of retail space for shops and restaurants. Moreover, the Ballston Metro stop is due for a complete renovation, which will include an updated look, dedicated kiss-and-ride space, new bike storage and an updated bus terminal.

This will be a reimagined Ballston.

The planned 2,000-plus new housing units would nearly double the total number of existing apartments and condos in the area. This likely will significantly boost demand to live in the area and provide built-in daily customers for the new shops and restaurants.

Second, the retail and commercial spaces will all be within a short walk to the Ballston Metro station and two blocks from the exit to I-66 East, accessible to D.C. and the Beltway. Ballston already has a Walk Score of 93, meaning that most of what residents need is accessible by foot. The development will enhance that with open-air retail concourses, outdoor courtyards and widened pedestrian walkways throughout. Ballston will promote a completely car-free lifestyle for those living in the area.

Moreover, large retailers, including Target, have already signed deals which will attract thousands more daily shoppers.

The real estate data is pretty convincing — a large demographic of home buyers in the region are baby boomers/empty nesters and millennials, both of whom are disproportionately looking for urban walkable luxury living.

Plus, the 550,000 new square feet of office space will attract a huge new workforce, many of which might participate in the already popular trend of living where you work. That will further drive demand for area housing.

The first phase of redevelopment with its attractive commercial district could boost residential property values.

Just in the last year, the median home price in Ballston rose 6.6 percent which is roughly 2 to 3 percent above regional averages.

In my estimation, we’re seeing the start of a booming micro market in North Arlington.

All of the changes in Ballston will make it Arlington’s most impressive development project to date, which can only have a strong positive impact on local housing prices in the immediate area.

Jonathan Fox, a Realtor with Compass, writes an occasional column on Washington-area housing market conditions.

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Jonathan Fox
Washington, D.C.

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