WASHINGTON, DC — The DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) on May 28 released its annual State of Downtown Report at a virtual forum, where panelists and speakers, including DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, discussed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of DowntownDC and the region. [Click here to watch the forum.]
“We have the opportunity… to think collectively about the things that we learned that we want to keep, the things on the other end of this pandemic that will allow our city and our region to function better,” Mayor Bowser said during her remarks at the forum. “So this indeed is a time for innovation.”
The mayor shared that she was proud of the recent budget advanced by her administration because it maintains city services “at a high level,” invests in schools, public spaces and transportation and “looks to the future” despite the news the city faces a $700 million shortfall due to the pandemic.
The mayor noted the many synergies and collaborations that exist between the DowntownDC BID and the District of Columbia government. She pointed out that her administration will be calling on the DowntownDC BID to assist in innovating as the city emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The role of BIDs in the city’s recovery was also addressed by DC City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who noted that he remembered the legislation creating business improvement districts in DC was very controversial in the nineties, “which is a little hard to understand today. I find BIDs to be critical to the vitality of our commercial neighborhoods.”
BID President & CEO Neil Albert noted that the net fiscal impact of DowntownDC in 2019 was estimated to be $869 million. But due to the pandemic, in May 2020 major sectors of the economy were just partially open in DowntownDC: 27% of retailers; 46% of hotels; and 59% of restaurants. Mayor Bowser announced this week that Phase One of reopening in the District would begin Friday, May 29.
Panelists for the forum, moderated by Washington Business Journal Publisher Peter Abrahams included: DC City Administrator Rashad Young, DC Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt; Chicago Former Treasurer Kurt Summers, Trammell Crow Principal Adam Weers and Akridge President & CEO Matthew Klein (a Member and Past President of the BID Board of Directors). A presentation was also provided by Jeannette Chapman, Director of The Stephen S. Fuller Institute at George Mason University.
Panelists addressed the changes both present and future caused by the pandemic, including rethinking the workplace. “Even as we get through this pandemic and COVID-19, the nature of work for us is forever changed,” said Young, noting that he has approximately 15,000 city employees teleworking. “We’re going to be thinking about how we manage and engage our workforce differently because of this crisis.”
2019 State of Downtown Report Highlights
- In the year 2019, operating performance was below average – the first such year since the Great Recession.
- Development and hotel sectors were the only sectors with above average years
- The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, culture and entertainment and residential sectors had a strong, but average year
- Employment, office and retail (both shopping and dining) sectors had a strong, but below average year
There was also good news in DowntownDC …
- Office and hotel markets ranked No. 4 in the U.S. on operating performance after New York City, San Francisco and Boston
- Employment in DowntownDC was 24% of D.C.’s overall employment
- Occupied private office space was at 98% of 2018’s record level
- A dozen restaurants received Michelin, James Beard and/or RAMMY recognitions
- Apple and Tiffany & Co. opened stores
- As of February 2020, 13 restaurants had announced openings
- Future development projects totaled $2.3 billion, including hotels and residential projects and major office redevelopments
- Net fiscal impact on the city was an estimated $869 million, which helps fund the city’s robust social agenda and economic development investments
- The Downtown Day Services Center opened in February 2019 and at its peak daily served 160 individuals experiencing homelessness