Plan to revitalize downtown DC would cost $400 million

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie speak during the unveiling of a plan to revitalize downtown D.C. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

A plan announced by D.C. political and business leaders Monday that aims to increase activity in the city’s downtown area would take five years to fully implement and would cost $400 million.

The downtown area finds itself at a “post-pandemic inflection point,” according to a presentation from the DowntownDC Business Improvement District and the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District.

“Once a bustling employment center, Downtown D.C. has faced an outflow of office workers in response to remote and telework trends, and it has not added nearly enough visitors and residents to offset the resulting loss of day-to-day activity,” the business improvement districts said.

“While we recognize the need to adapt and pivot, we don’t want to send the message that our downtown is a ghost town,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser. “It’s far from it.”

Still, Bowser said intervention is needed due to a steep drop in economic activity.

Across downtown, annual revenue generated from taxes has dropped by $243 million since 2019.

That number is expected to grow in the near future.

“In other words, assuming no intervention, Downtown D.C. stands to generate about $436 million less in annual tax revenue in five to 10 years, relative to that which it generated in 2019,” according to the business improvement districts.

Over the next five years, the revitalization plan calls for $82 million dedicated to driving up numbers of visitors by improving streetscapes, cultural districts and the arts.

More than $50 million would go toward improving the quality and quantity of parks and open spaces, and $45 million would be spent on attracting and retaining new office users.

“Our next steps are going to be an economic development approach that helps us attract new businesses, retain our current businesses, increase our residential population while also focusing on a downtown that welcomes everyone,” said D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who chairs the council’s business and economic development committee.

McDuffie said he was particularly interested in aspects of the plan that would “better coordinate how we can improve our business climate and make immediate, tangible improvements to our public safety infrastructure.”

“The next few years are crucial,” McDuffie said.

Under the plan, the city would spend $40 million to expand retail, $32 million for “economic evolution,” including business attraction staffing and $20 million to support retailers, including grants for pop-up and short-term concepts.

More than $31 million would be directed toward public safety initiatives.

“Downtown D.C. currently serves approximately 320,000 employees, 25,000 residents, and 16 million unique visitors each year,” according to the business improvement districts. “It generates more than $2.3 billion in annual local fund revenues to the District.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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