DowntownDC BID releases 2021 State of Downtown Report and Discusses the Recovery and Future of Downtown


WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the recovery from the height of the pandemic continues, where is the DowntownDC economy currently, and what does the future hold? Today the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) released its annual State of Downtown report, which presents data and analysis highlighting the performance of DowntownDC’s many economic sectors based primarily on the year prior to its release, plus select data from the three months of the following year. For 2021, however, the BID believed it was important to extend that window a little further, into May.

“Usually, this report appears in April,” said Gerren Price, Acting President and CEO of the BID. “The year 2021 was an anomaly, however, between the arrival of two COVID variants and expanded access to vaccines and boosters. We saw signs in early 2022 that a steadier, truer upswing was occurring and felt it was important to capture that information for this year’s report. We see the current economic story of DowntownDC as one of steady, albeit gradual, recovery, with clear signs that certain sectors are on the rebound, and the opportunity to reimagine the future of how people experience DowntownDC.”

Downtown’s recovery — which started slowly in the second half of 2021, hampered by the omicron variant — was precipitated by significant pandemic-related investments from the federal government and the D.C. government, as well as investments from the private sector and efforts to assist tenants confronting leasing-payment issues. In addition to funding and grants, the D.C. government provided legislative changes that allowed many downtown businesses to survive, such as enabling restaurants to create streateries.

The rebound began in earnest in early 2022, as indicated by rising attendance numbers at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and Capital One Arena, which are now nearly at pre-pandemic levels, and theaters and museums. Additionally, there are a total of nine development projects currently under construction, representing a total investment of $1.2 billion, the first time that threshold has been crossed since 2018. And although downtown lost 19 destination restaurants, 15 have opened, and another 13 are planned to be open by year’s end.

And the reimagining? That’s evidenced in part by the handful of office-to-residential conversions — one under construction, two announced, and several projected — that will remove more than 1.1 million square feet of office space from the DowntownDC market and replace them with more than 1,400 housing units.

As Price and BID Board Chairman Greg O’Dell write in their State of Downtown letter: “In March 2021, the economic activity occurring in DowntownDC was only 16% of pre-pandemic levels. In March 2022 it was up to 40%, increased to 47% in May, and continues to climb. Recovery may seem slow due to the continued uncertainty of the worldwide pandemic, but we are optimistic for further recovery throughout 2022.”

Also today, the BID convened its State of Downtown forum at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, the first time since 2019 that the event has been held in person. Price was joined by City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto, along with a panel of industry experts: Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio; Elliot Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC; Rockefeller Group Senior Vice President Hilary Goldfarb; and Michael Abrams, Managing Director at Foulger-Pratt. The discussion was moderated by Alex Orfinger, Market President and Publisher of the Washington Business Journal. A video of the complete event will be available on 2021 State of Downtown report webpage in the upcoming week.

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The DowntownDC BID was founded in 1997 and is a private non-profit organization that provides capital improvements, resources, and research that keep the BID area clean, safe, economically and environmentally strong, and accessible. The BID is a catalyst, facilitator and thought leader in diversifying the economy, promoting public/private partnerships, and enhancing the DowntownDC experience for all. This special district, where property owners have agreed to tax themselves to fund services, encompasses a 138-block area of approximately 520 properties from Massachusetts Avenue on the north to Constitution Avenue on the south, and from Louisiana Avenue on the east to 16th Street on the west. For more information, visit