PRESS RELEASE: Panelists Discuss DowntownDC’s Importance and WeWork’s Success at State of Downtown Forum

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WASHINGTON, DC — The importance of DowntownDC’s economic vitality was the topic of conversation Friday morning at the DowntownDC Business Improvement District’s (BID) annual State of Downtown forum.

“A thriving downtown is necessary for the growth and prosperity of all eight wards of Washington, DC,” said DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Investments in the downtown are critical to how our entire city does.”

Mayor Bowser was one of several public officials, private sector leaders and non-profit principals who participated in the forum, where the BID released the 2018 State of Downtown Report, which analyzes DowntownDC’s economic role in the District and the region.

The BID’s President & CEO Neil Albert spoke during the panel about the ways in which the BID is working with city and federal partners to elevate their support for the DowntownDC community they serve, including the recent opening of the Downtown Day Services Center through a $1.7 million grant from the city, and the future renovation of the National Park Service’s Franklin Park, which the BID will operate and manage following its reopening.

“We realize that a lot of what we do in the DowntownDC BID is supported by assessments, but we also want to augment the revenues that we get, so we started a foundation,” Albert said. “It would take $750,000 dollars a year to maintain Franklin Park effectively, and we cannot ask the government to do that, we are going to actually do that ourselves.”

The DowntownDC Foundation works to support the BID’s philanthropic efforts including homeless services, Franklin Park’s renovation and improvements to public space as well as public art and programming.

The foundation’s efforts are designed to assist the community and boost the DowntownDC economy, which continues to face challenges outlined in the 2018 report.

Austen Holderness, chief development officer for Carr Properties, said on the panel that coworking is responsible for saving the office market, specifically, coworking company WeWork.

“To be frank, WeWork has saved downtown. If you take out the ‘WeWork effect,’ there would be negative absorption downtown. Without coworking’s influx downtown, the office market, which is already stagnant, would be in decline.”

Panelist Paul J. Wiedefeld, CEO and general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), also addressed Metrorail’s continued challenges. “Ridership is about stagnant, but as soon as we get some of these big projects out of the way I think that will come up, especially since the development community is banking and betting on us,” Wiedefeld said.

Friday’s forum was held at the Newseum and moderated by Washington Business Journal Editor-in- Chief Doug Fruehling. Additional panelists included: Regional Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration Scott Anderson; Founder and CEO of Planet Word Ann B. Friedman; and Executive Chef and Restaurant Owner Tim Ma.

Watch the forum here.

Click here to download your copy of the 2018 State of Downtown report.

2018 State of Downtown Report Quick Facts:  

  • DowntownDC remains a key contributor to the health and vitality of the District and the region. 
  • DowntownDC provided a net fiscal impact of $791 million, enough to fund both the DC Metropolitan Police and DC Fire and Emergency Medical service departments.   
  • DowntownDC hosted a record 9.4 million visitors, bolstered by the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup win.  
  • The Walter E. Washington Convention Center had record attendance of 1.54 million and is projected to benefit in 2019 from Apple’s flagship store, set to open in the Carnegie Library.  
  • DowntownDC set a regional record office sale of 900 G Street NW for the price of $1,273 per square foot.  
  • In 2018, DowntownDC had a 23% share of DC’s hotel total with the opening of two new hotels: Eaton Hotel and Moxy Hotel.
  • Overall, performance by the office market and additional sectors was down due to development constraints, regulatory uncertainty and competition from surrounding markets.
  • The DowntownDC retail market experienced an increase in vacancy rates.