August 2, 2022
The Board of Equalization reduced the assessed valuation for the Ballston Quarter neighborhood. Board members unanimously voted to lower the assessment rate from $91.1 million to $86.7 million.
The independent panel of the Circuit Court has been set up to deal with property disputes in Circuits and gives expert advice to the court. Brookfield Properties, the Chicago-based firm that owns the mall (known before a major renovation as Ballston Common) ended up with a win. The vote revealed the final number of $49.5 million was higher than their original figure of $46.4 million.
For a while during the hearing, it seemed as if the settled number might be $85.5 million, but eventually the panelists reached an agreement on a slightly larger sum. Laurie said in the hearing that the assessment staff believed $91.1 million was spot on.
Ballston Quarter is facing many difficulties and challenges, but it is doing better than it did in 2021. Shopping malls used to derive revenue from people who work in the surrounding offices, but COVID drove them away and has not come back. COVID may never come back, as it is still driving away many office workers. Hoffman discussed the current office vacancy in Ballston. He mentioned that usually 50% of the buildings there are occupied, but now it is only about 30%. Shawn Venstrom, representing the property owner at the hearing, said the food court and stand-alone restaurants are doing well, with so-so performance of a movie theater
The problem is the retail sector. With most retailers continuing to see a decline in sales, or a saturation of competition, the main issue is that there isn’t enough space for all of them. The leasing team is trying to do everything possible to fill spaces, Venstrom told the Journal. Current occupancy stands at 77 percent. The property was just leased a few months ago to a religious institution, although at significantly cheaper rates. The transformation of Ballston Common to Ballston Quarter was a lengthy and challenging project. It was derailed by COVID’s arrival late in 2020.
Ballston Quarter has a future despite downturns in nearby neighborhoods from this rare win.