-It took a certain amount of confidence on the part of the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District people to call its annual forum and confab on the state of downtown business “Creating Confidence in the Future.”
But confidence there was on the part of the panelists and in the details and contents of the report on the state of Downtown, mixed cogently with pragmatism and realistic assessments of the state of the economy. The report struck a note of optimism about the future in the opportunities that were present, but also noted the fact that the District, including the Downtown BID area, did not escape the after-shocks of a shrinking national economy.
The forum, moderated by BID Executive Director Rich Bradley, included representatives of the federal government, the District government and the private business and development sector. Represented were William B. “Bart” Bush, regional commissioner of the US General Services Administration’s National Capital Region (a reminder of the critical importance of the federal government’s participation), Valerie Santos, deputy mayor of the Office of Planning and Economic Development, David Mayhood, president of the Mayhood Company, and Mitchell N. Schear, president of Vornado/Charles E. Smith.
According to reports from the Downtown BID newsletter, and from participants, the Downtown area showed some losses in jobs, commercial sales, real estate and condo sales, but the Downtown area, BID included, fared much better than the District and the region at large. Panelists noted that the BID area’s overall economic performance in 2009 was “the best of the best.”
It was duly acknowledged that the downtown federal presence was a key stabilizing economic factor. Panelists also pointed out the need for the building of a Convention Center headquarters, and looked forward to taking advantage of the retail opportunities in the upcoming CityCenterDC project.
Business sector panelists said that the 1990s goal of achieving a living downtown had been achieved, and that the area remained vital. The condo slide, according to some, has been slowed but office space demand would take some time to catch up with supply. In addition, it was noted that office workers were in demand.
The Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District remains a key component of the city if you look at the figures: 1.5 percent of the District population, 2 percent of its land area, 7 percent of its retail space, 26 percent of all office building development and renovation investment, 15 percent of local tax and other revenues, 17 percent of museums, 23 percent of theater seats, 24 percent of Zagat-rated restaurants, 26 percent of jobs, 34 percent of morning Metro exits, 4 percent of total private and government office spaces and 51 percent of hotel rooms.
For the complete State of Downtown report, visit www.downtowndc.org.