The initiative to transform Washington D.C. into a 24-hour city involves a multi-faceted approach. One significant step has been to dispel misperceptions regarding crime. The reality is that D.C.'s downtown is statistically one of the safest in America, and crime has actually decreased 38% in the past five years.
New projects such as the 2.3 million-sq.-ft. Washington Convention Center (map, #1) will provide an added boost to the visitor base. The convention center is located on 7th Street near K Street and features 44,000 sq. ft. of retail space. The $778 million structure will be the sixth largest in the country when it opens in early 2003. The Washington Convention and Tourism Corporation expects the volume of conventioneers to double by late 2003. These tourists and business travelers have also been staying in D.C. longer as well. In 2000, the hotel industry reported travelers stayed an average of 3.8 nights, up from 1.82 nights recorded in 1999.
A new bus service is planned to improve transportation in and around downtown. The Downtown Circulator is expected to carry more than 9,000 visitors per day from points beyond the National Mall, Union Station, the White House and the Capitol into the heart of downtown. The free service is tentatively scheduled for a 2004 launch. The bus will have an easy-to-decipher, dedicated route, which will allow shoppers to park once and circulate throughout the city center for free.
Taxation of local business and residents has also taken a turn for the better. As a result of new leadership in local government, the District's Tax Parity Act of 1999 will decrease D.C.'s business taxes from 9.975% to 8.5% over the next two years, and commercial property taxes were decreased from 2.15% to 1.85% in 2001. Several years of budget surpluses along with population increases have bolstered the city's fiscal reputation on Wall Street.
All these improvements by downtown boosters have not gone unnoticed by their peers in the world of urban design and planning. In October the International Downtown Association awarded the City Office of Planning and the Downtown DC BID two awards for overall excellence in planning, management and leadership.
As Fortune, Forbes, the Places Rated Almanac, and Black Enterprise have recently reported, the District is becoming well known as a center for economic, employment and housing opportunities — a 21st century city rooted in neighborhoods and communities. “The reality is that there are so many things happening behind the scenes that two to three years from now when all of these things come to fruition it is going to be a very different landscape,” Eisen says. The city already hosts (and boasts) more “family visits per year” than Orlando.
Adds the downtown BID's Edwards, “Forbes.com ranked D.C. the No. 1 place to be single in America! Who wouldn't want to live the life of Rob Lowe of the West Wing?”
Businesses can visit the District's website, www.washingtondc.gov, to apply for business licenses or to get more information on doing business in the city.
The Downtown DC BID also maintains a website that features a master map of downtown development so retailers can actually see the massive scale of investment at www.downtowndc.org.