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Ballston in 2013: More WiFi, More Parks and Augmented Reality

Ballston Business Improvement District undertakes agressive 'placemaking' campaign.

Coming soon to Ballston: More WiFi hotspots, more public gathering spaces, several beautification efforts and a virtual showcase of area innovators.

It's all part of an aggressive placemaking push by the Ballston Business Improvement District, or BID — separate but complimentary to a new "where minds meet" marketing campaign and LaunchPad challenge for area entrepreneurs that kicked off last week.

"Now, we're rolling," said Tina Leone, chief executive of the BID, later adding "How do we connect our parks? How do we make the public experience more pleasurable in Ballston?"

The BID has several ideas.

First on the table is increasing the number of WiFi hotspots in the roughly five-block radius around the Ballston Metro. The BID also wants to create "parklets," or small public gathering spaces for people.

The first one likely will be the outdoor area attached to what used to be Chevy's Fresh Mex at Ballston Common Mall. The BID already has given the former restaurant an orange makeover — a nod to the nearby Metro line and part of the overall strategy of showcasing vacant commercial space. 

"For us, we see the future as being a type of mobile application… So as you're walking through Ballston, you can see where's the next park, where's the next WiFi hotspot. What is this public art thing? Why is it here? Who did it? What is it about? So those are the things we see developing."

The BID is working on an overall pubic art plan with Arlington County. The end result at this point could entail new light art exhibits and perhaps small changes to Ballston's current public art inventory.

The BID, too, has plans to beautify the medians of Fairfax Drive and Wilson Boulevard. The group wants to work with Metro and private property owners to beautify the Ballston Metro Station.

To top it off, the BID hopes to roll out a new augmented reality sculpture to showcase the talent working in Ballston.

Leone says she hasn't found any examples of such a sculpture — anywhere.

"You know how Washington, D.C., loves their monuments, their sculptures dedicated to amazing people," she said. "Well, we're going to do that here in Ballston, and showcase the innovators here in Ballston. But we're going to do that virtually."

The idea is to have a pedestal where a statue would be with a public touchscreen computer in front of it.

The screen would be programmed to showcase area innovators — anyone from the head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to a young project manager.

People also will be able to take pictures of themselves on the pedestal and upload information about projects they are working on, Leone said.

"We want people to get excited about that. Because we want people to get to know who is working here," she said.

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