Column: Ballston BID Is Launching the Future

Column: Ballston BID Is Launching the Future

In a bygone era, the old adage “good fences make good neighbors” might have been true — but not in today’s Northern Virginia, and definitely not in Ballston.

Our region’s neighborhoods are what make us great, thanks to thoughtful planning, development, and cooperative relationships. The philosophy of the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) puts it this way: “It’s good business to have great neighborhoods.” In fact, Ballston has the most balanced mix of commercial and residential properties among adjacent communities, with a 50/50 blend of businesses and homes. As a result, Ballston’s reputation as a great place to live, work and play continues to grow.

More than 119 commercial properties are thriving in our midst, including nearly 60 restaurants. Ballston was recently voted the most walkable neighborhood in Arlington, earning a rating of 90 from With dedicated lanes for riders and seven Capital Bikeshare stations, the neighborhood is among the most bike-friendly around. It’s a key hub for the Metro transit system, and just eight miles from Reagan National Airport, but residents can easily stroll to Fresh Farm market and hear live music.

Yet the BID’s commitment to ensuring a great neighborhood goes beyond livability. A true brain trust calls Ballston home: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, Accenture, and Virginia Tech Advanced Research Institute, among others. This concentration within a five-block radius, means Ballston is populated by the most scientists and technologists per square mile in the world. This synergy of organizations attracts like-minded private sector companies, think tanks and nonprofits focused on research, science and technology.

To capitalize on this rich heritage of innovation, the Ballston BID created the LaunchPad Challenge as a key element of its strategic plan. The LaunchPad Challenge seeks the next great idea or outside-the-box invention in science, technology, healthcare or any other field. In May, the top 10 idea-makers will be placed with mentor teams, who will help them meet a set of planning milestones and foster achievement. The teams will present to a panel of judges in November. Three semifinalists will be chosen to vie for a life-changing opportunity to go before Ted Leonsis, the ultimate judge. The winner, in addition to donated free office space and a $15,000 cash prize, may secure the support of Leonsis in implementing his or her dream.

The goal of the LaunchPad Challenge, says Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID, is to “encourage imagination, discovery, passion, collaboration, accessibility and inclusiveness.” It is a groundbreaking approach to increase awareness and appreciation of Ballston as the top choice for business, entertainment, education, and living.

Ballston won’t just be our region’s epicenter of research and innovation alone. Someday soon it will evolve into a nationally recognized model of revitalizing great neighborhoods.