The coronavirus pandemic earlier this decade economically devastated the downtown sector of the District, but the leaders of DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) — charged by the Bowser administration to resurrect it — are confident they can make it a profitable area again, which was their main message at a gathering on June 21.

The DowntownDC BID hosted 250 business and community leaders and residents for their annual meeting held at Planet World in Northwest. DowntownDC BID President and CEO Gerren Price said the location of the meeting serves as an example of downtown’s possible revitalization.

“This building sat vacant for years and before that it was the Franklin School Shelter,” said Price. 

“Now it is a thriving museum with a restaurant, Immigrant Food +,” Price added. “You have to get here early if you want lunch on weekdays.”

Price said the board of directors approved the organization’s $15.7 million budget for 2023-2024 and is in the process of celebrating the BID’s 25th anniversary. He said the time is ripe for downtown’s revitalization, noting the meeting “is the first in-person event since the pandemic.”

Price said 2022 was a transition year where the organization stepped up to challenges. He said there was widespread concern of a potent new variant of the coronavirus that could shut downtown again, but it never materialized. Price said downtown is grappling with the rising homeless population, an increase in First Amendment activity and concerns about public safety.

“We cannot have a reimagined downtown and D.C. if we don’t have a safe downtown and D.C.,” he said.

D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) spoke to the audience about her activities aiding the BID’s efforts with the legislature. 

The event was keynoted by Eran Chen, a world-renowned architect with buildings in Chicago and Buenos Aires.  Chen suggested the District should look to employ city alleyways to connect parks and plazas in downtown.

Price remains upbeat on downtown’s development and his organization’s commitment to it.

“Together, we’ve been resilient, and we’ve weathered the storm of danger and of doubt throughout the pandemic,” Price said. “And now, as we continue to face challenges, we believe we have an unparalleled opportunity to completely reimagine the downtown as we know it and to secure its future for many years to come.”

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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