After graduating from Georgetown University two years ago, Samantha Baker found a home in Arlington County’s Ballston community, a place decidedly different from Long Beach, Calif., where she grew up.
“I’m a walker,” said Baker, 24. There “you had to drive no matter where it was.” But in Ballston, she said, she can get to everything she needs — supermarkets, drugstores and restaurants — on foot.
For Christiana Campos and her husband, Javier Candon, moving to Ballston five years ago meant finding a place to raise their two children: an 8-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.
Having lived in the District before their children were born and in Rosslyn when they had one child, the couple wanted more space. “It was close to the city, and we wanted to have a house,” Campos said. “It’s small but nice, and we have a back yard.” Ballston has a “small-town vibe” with a “touch of urban,” she said.
Blending old and new: Ballston is a triangular-shaped community with high-rise office buildings, apartment buildings and condominiums, street-level retail, and single-family houses as you move away from the Ballston Metro station.
The community is named for the Ball family, which lived in Arlington as far back as the 1700s, according to the Arlington Historical Society. Ensign John Ball, a Revolutionary War veteran, was one of the early settlers.
Attractions include the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where the Washington Capitals practice and area residents engage in various activities on skates; a comedy club; a movie theater; and a black box (experimental) theater.
There is a Harris Teeter supermarket on North Glebe Road, and from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, May through October, residents can browse the FreshFarm market in Welburn Square, at North Stuart and North Taylor streets.
Seventy restaurants operate in a five-block radius.
Still, “it needs more entertainment options,” said Tina Leone, chief executive of the Ballston Business Improvement District for the past 21 / 2 years. That’s because Ballston’s population is relatively young (the average age is 36), Leone said.
One longtime Ballston landmark — the Bob Peck Chevrolet dealership — disappeared after it was sold in 2006. The developer managed to work some of the dealership’s architecture — blue diamond shapes — into the 10-story office and retail building at 800 North Glebe Rd.
It’s just one indication of how Ballston has managed to blend past and present.
Ballston Common Mall is set to undergo a major renovation that will turn parts of the mall into an open-air town center. “The one area that Ballston has been lacking is a town center,” Leone said. “The mall is a major, major player in Ballston. It’s critical for the future success.”
Transit: Ballston is served by Metrorail’s Orange and Silver lines, Metrobus and Arlington Transit buses. Rental bicycles are available through the Capital Bikeshare program.
“You can pop out on the Metro and be surrounded by buildings,” said Zachary Schrag, professor of history at George Mason University and author of the book, “The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro.”
This is true of the five Metrorail stops from Rosslyn to Ballston, largely a result of Arlington County’s efforts beginning in the 1960s. County officials and residents were “involved in getting Metro to go through [the community] and under it on Wilson Boulevard, rather than through the median on [Interstate] 66,” Schrag said. On sites closer to Metro, developers were allowed to build higher, and moving away from Metro, there is a “tapering effect,” Schrag said. “The process of building upward is still going on.”
Living there: Ballston is roughly bordered by North Glebe Road to the southwest, North Quincy Street to the east and I-66 to the north.
In the year that ended June 30, 42 residences sold in the Ballston area at prices ranging from $375,000 for a one-bedroom condominium to $1.04 million for a four-bedroom, four-bath house, according to Dave Lloyd of Dave Lloyd & Associates, Weichert Realtors. Properties on the market include a two-bedroom condominium for $565,000 and a five-bedroom, 51 / 2-bathroom Craftsman-style single-family house for $1.43 million.
Schools: Washington-Lee High School, Swanson and Thomas Jefferson middle schools and Arlington Science Focus Elementary School.
Crime: During the 12 months that ended June 30, there were 15 aggravated assaults, 10 robberies and 11 burglaries, Arlington police said.
Harriet Edleson is a freelance writer.