- The newly formed Ballston BID will aim to launch a marketing and branding campaign for the neighborhood. (Photo: TBD Staff)
Ballston's largest commercial property owners had something to celebrate Saturday, after Arlington County approved an effort they'd been pushing for nearly 10 years: a business improvement district for the neighborhood.
Look for Ballston banners, signs, and street beautification in the neighborhood soon, now that the BID could have a projected budget of a little more than $1 million in 2012.
With some planning, and maybe some grants and other funding, it may also mean Capital Bikeshare comes to Ballston, according to Kelly Shooshan of the Shooshan Company, president of the Ballston Partnership board who led this most recent charge for the BID.
The BID will go into effect Jan. 1, and will receive its first funding through the Fiscal Year 2012 budget process, which would go into effect in July of 2011.
Shooshan's father, John Shooshan, told the county board Dec. 11 that he was happy to see the BID finally moving forward. "Ballston is perceived as a poster child of transit oriented development, but we can’t rest on our laurels," he said. "When you become the envy of other jurisdictions, we do compete directly with areas like NOMA, and the ballpark area. This could be one of those things that helps keep Ballston ahead of the pack."
Shooshan was part of the steering committee that unsuccessfully tried to form a BID in 2001. This time around, commercial property owners were looking at the economy, Shooshan says.
"I think people understood that we can't sit back and trust that inertia is always going to continue," he says.
Kelly Shooshan points out that continuing the model of the Ballston Partnership — which relies on a small allocation from Arlington County every year for its funding — is not sustainable. "The partnership has been huge success, but it's been a struggle to maintain that partnership," she told the board.
Roughly 50 percent of the commercial property owners in Ballston signed a petition supporting the BID, and owners representing about 14 percent opposed it. One of those opponents, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, asked the board not to raise taxes through the BID at the Dec. 11 hearing.
"This is not the economic times to increase our taxes," said John Montgomery. "The argument was that this would be cost neutral. But that probably will not happen. The cost of this BID to NRECA, is about an 80,000 per year increase on our taxes."
The board ultimately decided to support the BID, with board members saying they wanted to make sure Ballston remained a destination for commercial businesses.
"You have to thrive and be creative and invest in the future," board chairman Jay Fisette said. "We have two examples in Arlington to build on, and I think anyone looking at either of the first two, Rosslyn and Crystal City, will clearly come away recognizing the value added to those neighborhoods."
We’re very proud of success we have here, and Ballston is a great example," board vice-chairman Chris Zimmerman said. "But in a very competitive environment, what is on top one day, is not necessarily on top 10 years later."
"We have to make sure that Ballston continues to have an edge. This is not a solution to all problems, but it is a tool that can be used to position Ballston effectively," he added.