Ballston: Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm

by Amanda Abrams

Ballston at night. Photo by Prince Roy.

Ballston, the Arlington County neighborhood on Metro’s Orange Line, is a very walkable, pleasant neighborhood in northern Virginia that seems to be searching for its sense of place.

While the streets are lined with shops and full of people during the day, most of the stores and restaurants are chains and there’s very little to set the community apart. As a result, there isn’t much reason to visit Ballston unless you work or live there.

But the neighborhood’s business owners are well aware of the issue—and of the growing popularity of Clarendon, just a mile to the east—and have hatched a plan that they hope will transform the area.

One End of the R-B Corridor

Ballston, which is bounded by Washington Boulevard to the north, North Glebe Road to the west, and North Quincy Street to the east, is home to North Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard, the oldest crossroads in Northern Virginia. The irony is that you’d never know it to see the neighborhood now, as it is just about as built up as it possibly could be.

In part, that’s the result of an Arlington County zoning plan that prioritizes density around Metro stations. Like a number of other stops along the Orange Line’s Rosslyn-Ballston (R-B) corridor, the area has numerous high-rise condo, apartment, and office buildings immediately near the Metro that eventually give way to townhouses and then detached single-family homes as you move farther out.

Ballston’s high-rises tower over relatively narrow streets, which isn’t necessary a bad thing—Washington has so few tall buildings that they’re almost a novelty—but it also doesn’t help warm up the neighborhood.

Not Just Young Professionals

“Around 60 percent of Ballston residents are 45 [years old] or younger,” James Schroll, president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, told UrbanTurf. “And the high-rises are filled with mostly 20-somethings.”

Townhouses in Ballston

It is not surprising that the condos, apartments, and even the townhouses a block or two away from the Metro appeal to a youngish demographic that might rather buy or rent in Clarendon, but can’t quite swing the higher cost. 

But Schroll and his vice president (and roommate) Conor Marshall are quick to point out that the neighborhood is full of a variety of residents, not just 25-year-olds working on the Hill (Schroll) or for a high-profile association (Marshall).

“In our townhouse complex alone, there are young families and also retired individuals whose families are grown,” said Marshall.

The roof deck at Liberty Center

Cheaper, Yes, But Not Cheap

From 1960s and 1970s-era townhouses to luxury buildings like Liberty Center that were erected in the last few years, the housing options in Ballston run the gamut. A few of the blocks at the northern end of the neighborhood even feature cute detached bungalows and Cape Cod houses. But though the housing stock may be more affordable than what’s available in neighborhoods closer to the District, you can’t call them cheap.

According to Mike Rosen, a real estate agent with the Provident Team, one-bedroom condos sell for an average of $317,000 and two-bedroom units go for $507,000. Two-bedroom townhouses, meanwhile, sell for around $596,000, while three-bedrooms cost roughly $672,000. Single family homes are slightly less expensive, averaging $667,000.

The area has a number of rental units. One-bedroom apartments range from $1,200 to $2,200 a month; two-bedroom units rent for between $1,800 and $2,900.

Transportation is Key

“The ease of getting around is a huge factor,” Ryan Andrews, 39, said of why he decided to move to Ballston. Andrews has a car, but he’s barely driven it at all in the two months since he moved to the area.

Because it covers a small area, it is hard to be much more than a five-minute walk from the Metro station in Ballston. The area is also close to I-66 and Route 50, both of which lead into DC.

The neighborhood is also well served by a variety of Arlington Transit (ART) buses, but the neighborhood transit hub—with its lack of good lighting and broad expanse of empty plaza space—has been the subject of residents’ complaints. The county has listened, and is currently conducting a study to reconfigure the space and improve its appearance and operation.

A Reason to Stay After 6pm

In order to improve a stagnant commercial district, the area’s business owners have banded together and are lobbying the county for approval to form a business improvement district (BID). If approved, the entity would be in charge of branding and marketing the neighborhood—in essence, giving people a reason to stay in Ballston after 6pm.

Currently, many of the area’s businesses are lamentably easy to overlook. Ballston Commons, the neighborhood mall, is much maligned for its lack of shopping options, despite having a Macy’s and a movie theater. Still, its facades are uninspired and outdated and don’t contribute much to the surrounding streets.

Sweetgreen opening in Ballston. Courtesy of Sweetgreen.

Elsewhere, the neighborhood is chock full of chains, many of which you can find anywhere like Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle, and Cosi. But the silver lining is that the area has very recently become home to a number of intriguing local chains, like Rustico and Buzz Bakery, both from Alexandria, and DC’s Sweetgreen and Vapiano.

There are also a few interesting independent restaurants—not a lot, but the number seems to be growing. Willow, an innovative Continental restaurant, is located in the heart of Ballston; Brgr:Shack, another in a line of new burger restaurants to hit the region, is opening soon; and Pizza Autentica opened a few months ago.

The Bottom Line

Ballston hasn’t done a great job in the past of marketing itself, but those who want to improve the area’s reputation will find they’ve got a lot to work with: a great location, a ton of young professionals with disposable income, a pedestrian-friendly area, and a slowly-but-surely growing restaurant scene.

Amanda Abrams is a Washington, DC-based journalist who has written feature stories for The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington City Paper.

More Info on Ballston

See other articles related to: hoods, ballston

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ballston_looking_to_give_people_a_reason_to_stay_past_6pm/2749


  1. BD said at 9:52 am on Thursday December 9, 2010:

    “The area is also close to I-66 and Highway 60, both of which lead into DC.”

    Think you might mean Route 50 here…

  1. Mary C said at 10:10 am on Thursday December 9, 2010:

    I am looking forward to the changes. I have lived in Ballston for three years and have loved it, but it needs a more creative restaurant and retail scene.

  1. AT said at 11:41 am on Wednesday December 15, 2010:

    I’ve lived in Ballston for 10 years. You didn’t mention the Marvelous Market (another local DC concept) around the corner from Rustico in Liberty Center.  It’s a hidden gem.  It’s been there for maybe 3 years, but no on seems to notice it.  Suffers from Ballston’s lack of identity as a retail location.  Hopefully more people will stay local in Ballston as more interesting businesses open up.

  1. Sebrin Adem Realtor said at 10:04 am on Saturday February 28, 2015:

    If you are looking to buy/sell a property in Ballston contact me I am a local realtor here to help. 703-225-8292 or email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Join the discussion

UrbanTurf now requires registration in order to post comments. Register here, or login below if you are already registered.

Click here if you forgot your password.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »

Upcoming Seminars ▾