The DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) in January 2019 activated the DowntownDC Business Improvement District Foundation (“DowntownDC Foundation”) to serve as a vehicle for philanthropic initiatives aligned with the BID’s mission and to directly address four core areas:
- The renovation of Franklin Park into a premier urban park
- Homeless Services, including The Center and The DC Landlord Partnership Fund
- Cultural and social impact programs and events in the BID
- Public space revitalization, including the New York Avenue Arts Allee, the redesign of the McPherson Square Metro, and the transformation of historic call boxes into art
The DowntownDC Foundation holds tremendous potential to affect change as a philanthropic organization .The following mission statement and principles were developed to guide the Foundation’s development:
The DowntownDC Foundation exists to enhance and elevate the core business of the BID: keeping DowntownDC clean, safe, and accessible and creating a quality experience for all.
The BID’s successful economic development strategies have created a greater demand for resources to manage that success. The Foundation allows the BID to address the higher level of need and sustain a vibrant downtown economy.
The DowntownDC Foundation will not solicit funds from organizations or individuals aligned with racial, gender, or sexual discrimination or intolerance.
Franklin Park is a 4.79 acre park owned by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) in the heart of DowntownDC. Despite its prominent location and vast footprint, the park currently does not meet the diverse urban needs of the area. While the BID has implemented summer programming and safety and cleanliness initiatives to improve the park in the short-term, the park is slated to undergo a massive renovation that will transform downtown’s largest green space into a premier urban park.
Franklin Park Today
Franklin Park currently provides adequate services and amenities for residents, employees, tourists and other guests, including seating, via installed benches and BID-provided flexible chairs and tables, food via third party food trucks during weekday lunch hours, and a generally clean and safe area. The BID in recent years has offered an annual summer concert series, DowntownDC Live, in Franklin Park, as well as spot entertainment programming, activations and an outdoor coworking space with free wifi and inflatable furniture.
Franklin Park of the Future
The park’s revitalization will include enhanced physical and programmatic innovations that will not only provide essential services such as restrooms and drinking fountains (not currently available), but also:
- A pavilion that will provide both creative stormwater management solutions and an event space that highlights DC artists,
- A multi-generational play garden designed for both structured and unstructured play and learning,
- An interactive reimagining of the Park’s central fountain, and
- A more sustainable, maintainable and ecologically sensitive landscape renovation.
Park programs will include large, medium and small activities that will be balanced to harmonize with the standards of care for park maintenance and operations. In addition, the park will be monitored 24/7 through the support of the BID’s SAM ambassadors during the day and professional security at night.
Beyond this, Franklin Park will be framed by an enhanced streetscape and integrated with multiple transportation modes, such as bike and scooter sharing, DC Circulator, Metrobus, Metrorail and more. Once completed, Franklin Park will serve as a premier urban park, event venue and tourist attraction.
Groundbreaking for the park improvements are anticipated to take place in Fall 2019.
The District and BID have invested in reimagining Franklin Park, but in order for the Park to meet its full potential and truly become an attractive destination, additional revenue and enhancements are necessary. Funds raised by the Foundation will provide an ongoing revenue stream for operating maintenance costs as well as programming and structural enhancements.
DowntownDC is the epicenter for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness in the Washington, DC area and over half of chronically homeless individuals in the District suffer from mental illness, substance abuse, or other chronic health/disability issues—a reality which makes the problem of chronic homelessness even more challenging.
The path to permanent supported housing for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness is fraught with human and institutional obstacles. The responses to basic needs of individuals living on downtown streets is often chaotic and it unintentionally contributes to disorder in public spaces. It has been a priority of the BID to address and work to eliminate chronic homelessness in DowntownDC.
The DowntownDC Foundation seeks to raise funds for two priority programs in the realm of Homeless Services: The DowntownDC Day Services Center, (“The Center”) and The DC Landlord Partnership Fund.
Despite the combined efforts of the BID and other governmental and nonprofit agencies, the number of people experiencing homeless in Washington, DC has not decreased since 2003. One reason for this increase has been the lack of convenient access to services that provide a path to successful placement into housing. The absence of basic human services during the day for people experiencing homelessness further impairs individuals’ ability to navigate the housing process. The Downtown Day Services Center (“The Center”) will provide a single point of access to an array of services, a proven method of reducing homelessness.
The Center’s social and human services will include clinical services provided by Pathways to Housing DC, food and beverages, personal hygiene facilities, transportation support facilitated by Center staff, urgent medical care through Unity Health Care, legal services through Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and access to a variety of governmental resources, including: DC Department of Employment Services (DOES) for job acquisition and retention, DC Department of Human Services (DHS) for housing assessment and diversion services, Economic Security Administration (ESA) to determine individuals’ eligibility for benefits, Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) for mental health and substance use support, and the District Department of Motor Vehicles for non-driver’s ID.
The DC Landlord Partnership Fund
The purpose of the DC Landlord Partnership Fund is to incentivize landlords to relax screening criteria for people who are experiencing homelessness and who may have barriers that preventthem from securing housing on their own, such as poor credit and past evictions. By offering a Fund to mitigate landlord exposure to the increased costs of renting to people experiencing homelessness including excess damage and unpaid rent, a strong relationship can be created with landlords who otherwise may not lease to individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
The District is facing a severe shortage of affordable housing and a shortage of landlords willing to lease affordable units to households with histories of homelessness. Without more housing units that these households are able to access, it will be extremely challenging for the District to match the households with available apartment units that meet their needs, resulting in longer stays in shelter and fewer exits to permanent housing.
The Landlord Fund is supported by private funding and is managed and administered through the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED), a well-established organization whose primary focus is devising, implementing and advocating for solutions so that low- and moderate-income District residents are able to thrive.
(conclusion paragraph under homeless services for both The Center and the Partnership Fund)The construction and operation of The Center and fundraising for the Landlord Partnership Fundwill allow the Foundation to fulfill its mission to enhance and elevate the core business of the BID: keeping DowntownDC clean, safe, and accessible and creating a quality experience for all. It has been proven that a path to ending chronic homelessness is to reduce or remove barriers for those individual who seek support and resources. The funding from BID taxes alone will not allow the BID to effectively impact the homeless population.
Indiana Plaza is located at the intersection of 7th Street, Indiana Avenue, and Pennsylvania Avenue and was constructed as part of the 1970’s Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation’s (PADC’s) redesign of that corridor. With the demise of PADC in 2000, all the open spaces in the downtown Pennsylvania Avenue corridor were transferred to the USNational Park Service (NPS). Unfortunately, due to chronic underfunding, NPS has been unable to maintain the plaza, and it has deteriorated with time and a significant section of the plaza currently serves as an impromptu lot for illegal parking.
Understanding the potential of this plaza, the BID and the Indiana Society have partnered to raise funds to invigorate this downtown gateway for the thousands of tourists, residents and workers who experience it every day. Concept plans for new seating, landscaping and regular programming have been developed with the intention of creating an inviting place of respite and recreation at the crossroads of downtown and the monumental core of the city.
Historic Call Boxes
The BID aims to enliven downtown sidewalks by transforming historic police and fire call boxesinto works of art and interpretation. Located in 27 spots across downtown, the beautification of these call boxes is viewed as an important part of the continued revitalization of public spaces within the BID.
Police and fire call boxes were installed throughout the Washington area beginning in the 1860s. They began to become obsolete with the introduction of the 911 emergency call system in the 1970s, and the working electronic components were all removed by 1995. Yet the call boxes remained, too large and heavy to remove, and soon became subject to deterioration from weather and vandalism.
Nearly 20 years ago, Cultural Tourism DC partnered with the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) for a city-wide effort to restore Washington’s abandoned police and fire call boxes as neighborhood artistic icons. The 27 call boxes in the DowntownDC BID were not a part of this initiative.
Within the BID’s 2019 budget and with the assistance of outside funding, the BID in 2019 is able to fund local artists to transform nine of the 27 call boxes. Contributions to the DowntownDCFoundation would allow the BID to beautify the remaining 18 call boxes in the BID area.
[Insert Call Box photos once the existing 9 are done]
McPherson Square Metro
The McPherson Square Metro Vermont Avenue entrance is a dark and bleak passageway experienced by thousands of workers, visitors and residents every day. This station is under the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) building and is the closest Metro exit to the White House.
By capitalizing on the station’s potential and with the intention of creating a more inviting passageway, the BID developed a plan for placemaking in this space that includes a colorful mural by a local artist and new, creative lighting. The mural design depicts the diverse population of US veterans over time, and the entire project has received strong support from the VA, the General Services Administration, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and the surrounding community as well as grant funding.
The mural is just the beginning of the BID’s vision for this reimagined Metro station entrance:this entrance is not only dark and gloomy, but the escalators are surrounded by bars and fencing, currently attracting pigeons and garbage, and earning the nickname “the birdcage”. A proposed redesign would replace the bars with a clear surface with opaque firm and a colorful light installation which, when coupled with the new mural, will breathe new light and life into this entrance.
New York Avenue Arts Allee
In 2010, the New York Avenue Arts Allee was initiated as a partnership between the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) and the BID, with the support of local government agencies. The project sought to redefine New York Avenue as a pedestrian-friendly, arts and culture corridor utilizing the medians as a platform for art installations.
A plan was created and approved by local and federal government to be implemented in phases. The plan spanned New York Avenue from Herald Square at 13th and H Streets to Mount Vernon Square at 9th Street.
The first phase and only phase of the plan, the New York Avenue Sculpture Project, was firstestablished in 2010 in the 1200 block of New York Avenue and has featured five sculpture installations by contemporary women artists, complemented by landscaping, lighting, and interpretive signage.
The BID seeks to complete the transformation of this entire corridor into a true Arts Allee, featuring artistic works from local and national artists. To do this, the BID needs funding for the New York Avenue median infrastructure: irrigation, lighting, platform construction and landscaping. Working with downtown arts and cultural institutions, partnerships for art installations will be expanded to ensure continuous exhibitions.
Thomas Circle is located at a major city hub where 14th Street, Vermont Avenue, M Street and Massachusetts Avenue converge and is often thought of as the connector between downtown and the popular Logan Circle, Shaw, and 14th Street Corridor neighborhoods.
Thomas Circle is one of the original elements of the L’Enfant Plan for Washington, DC, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Circles formed a defense perimeter for the area north of the White House and were placed strategically throughout the city. However, as vehicular traffic grew in popularity in the mid-1900’s, the Circle was shrunk to accommodate the volume and flow of traffic in the area.
In the early 2000’s, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) planned a massive reconfiguration of the roadways surrounding Thomas Circle and decided, in cooperation with and via support of NPS, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), to restore the Circle back to the original L’Enfant vision. The restoration created a large and more functional area for potential landscaping, pedestrian access with crosswalks and new sidewalks to the center of the circle. Large, concrete, triangular spaces define the outer edge of the circle.
In the 12 years since the completion of the Thomas Circle restoration and redesign, the surrounding neighborhoods have grown into vibrant urban communities combining residences, businesses, entertainment venues, shops, and restaurants. As a result, Thomas Circle itself is becoming more than just a connector of downtown and midtown, but a unique and historic green space with the potential to invite residents and visitors to refresh and relax, not just pass through.
No landscaping has been undertaken on Thomas Circle since the restoration occurred to fully realize its potential contribution to the quality of life in downtown. The BID wants to take this additional step of revitalizing this historic landmark in a way that honors the past but reflects the energy and uniqueness of the District today.
Cultural and Social Impact Programs
Free, public programming in DowntownDC’s parks and plazas has become a hallmark of the BID, and the DowntownDC Foundation seeks to grow and expand the programming opportunities downtown. The existing programming for the BID includes varied outdoor freeevents in the summer, including a DowntownDC Live lunchtime concert series in Franklin Park,DowntownDC Summer Flicks: Can I Kick It?, a martial arts/hip-hop movie series on Freedom Plaza, Chinatown Block Party, a creative Friday night arts workshop and block party at Chinatown Park, Children’s Story Hour, and other spot programming opportunities.
The BID also manages and funds programming related to the National Cherry Blossom Festival (March-April), Bike to Work Day (May), Park(ing) Day (September), the Chinatown Community Festival (September), and a Halloween Fall Festival (October). The BID also continues to host and fund signature large-scale events: the DowntownDC Holiday Market (December); the State of Downtown Forum (April), the Momentum Awards (February) and the twice annual District of Fashion Runway Show. The BID also supports many partner events and pop-up events including World Cup Viewings and Cherry Blossom Yoga on Freedom Plaza in 2018, a pole-vaulting competition in 2017, Jazz in Franklin Park, a Step Afrika children’s showcase and more.
The DowntownDC Foundation aims to raise funds to allow the BID to grow current programming offerings and into additional spaces as well as explore new opportunities for events and programs that highlight the rich history and culture of DC.