BID Remembers DowntownDC Advocate Charles Docter


By Alexis Neely

Long-time Market Square resident and DowntownDC proponent Charles A. Docter, 86, died on July 27 and his contributions to the revitalization of downtown continue to be remembered by many. 

Described by the Washington Post as “pivotal to establishing a vibrant, living downtown,” Docter’s primary career was as a bankruptcy attorney, but he gave much of his time to efforts as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and a member of the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) board of directors from 1997 to 2012. 

Former BID Executive Director Richard Bradley remembers Docter as “a short man with a large presence.” 

“Before the BID got started, if [downtown] had a brand, the brand was dull, dirty and dangerous,” Bradley said. “Charlie was one who wanted it to be active and vibrant. He was a citizen activist, sometimes a singular voice.” 

Docter assisted the BID with its early projects of securing additional housing developments, implementing a tax abatement program and enacting changes in zoning. 

As a former New Yorker, he was committed to bringing a comparable city experience to the District. 

BID Director of Economic Development Gerry Widdicombe met Docter when Widdicombe joined the BID staff in November 2000. He described Docter as “persistent and totally focused on a ‘living downtown.’” 

“Charlie wanted more people living downtown and more activity downtown, particularly shopping,” Widdicombe said. “He also recognized that market forces sometimes needed catalytic investments like the [former MCI Center] Capital One Arena.” 

Through work with the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation and the U.S. General Services Administration, Docter helped to bring the International Spy Museum, the Hotel Monaco and 450+ condos at the Clara Barton and Lafayette Condominium buildings to DowntownDC. 

He also played a role in the Woolly Mammoth and Shakespeare theatre projects, was involved in the creation of the Downtown Retail overlays and advocated for the Mather Building to become housing. 

“If he committed to something, he stayed with it,” Bradley said. “He was also just a wonderful character. Great sense of humor. Just a wonderful human being.” 

Docter’s services were held at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Monday, July 30 at 12 noon.