Georgetown’s small experiment with wider sidewalks that it launched in January to accommodate more outside restaurant seating proved popular enough that it’s been greatly expanded, and the sidewalk additions will remain in place through at least the end of the year.
The Georgetown Business Improvement District has now completed the installation of 3,400 linear feet of sidewalk extensions that line M Street between 29th and 34th streets, and Wisconsin Avenue between Q Street and the C&O Canal. That’s about three-quarters of a mile of expanded sidewalks.
It had initially tested the idea outside of just three restaurants. More than 30 restaurants are now taking advantage of the additional space. In addition to more space for restaurant seating, it also creates more pedestrian elbow room for Georgetown’s narrow sidewalks by widening them from an average of 9.5 feet to 15 feet.
The decking is not permanently installed and can be easily removed. It does not hamper storm runoff. The areas are also protected from street traffic by concrete barriers.
To counter some likely complaints about the streateries taking away precious Georgetown street parking, the Georgetown BID is working with parking garage operators to offer discounted parking rates as low as $10 per day. There are 20 parking lots and garages in Georgetown.
The Georgetown Decks will be in place through Dec. 31, 2021. If Georgetown businesses and shoppers and diners still find them a favorable addition, the BID will go through another permitting process to keep them longer.
In January, The BID estimated the cost of the entire decking project would be about $1.4 million. The District is paying for some of that, with the BID, funded by Georgetown businesses, footing the majority of the bill.
While Georgetown restaurants and retailers that have survived the pandemic are now fully open, Georgetown’s retail vacancy rate remains 12%, and visits by shoppers and diners to Georgetown are still down 33% this year compared to 2019.
But 15 new restaurants and retailers have opened in Georgetown in the last year or so, with 16 others expected to open soon.