Feb 27, 2024 - News

D.C. plans to revitalize downtown with new hubs and green spaces

Renderings showing more pedestrian spaces and greenery on downtown corridors

Renderings courtesy of the Downtown Action Plan report

D.C. is rethinking downtown with a plan to invest $400 million over five fiscal years and create new districts dedicated to culture, universities, and green spaces.

Why it matters: D.C.'s Downtown Action Plan aims to build up the residential base downtown, and look beyond Capital One Arena if the Capitals and Wizards do leave the city.

State of play: The 42-page plan, released yesterday, includes the first concrete proposals coming from downtown groups after a long process.

  • It aims to follow through on Mayor Muriel Bowser's year-old "comeback plan" to grow downtown's population by 15,000 people — emphasizing restoring public safety and improving the pedestrian experience.

Among the proposals:

  • More space for festivals and pedestrians in Penn Quarter/Chinatown.
  • A lush green boulevard for I Street north of the White House, with wider sidewalks on Connecticut and Vermont avenues.
  • A new entertainment venue (not yet determined) to anchor a new entertainment and cultural district in Downtown West, roughly between the nightlife area of Dupont Circle and Midtown Center on M and 15th streets.
  • Building on GW University's presence, Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House would be labeled as a district for higher education, tech, and policy groups.

The big picture: Downtown's annual tax revenue is down by $240 million since 2019, according to city stats.

  • The plan calls for $401 million invested into downtown, starting with $39 million in the next fiscal year.
  • "It will only get worse if we don't intervene," said Gerren Price, head of the Downtown Business Improvement District, at the plan's unveiling.

What's ahead: The plan document has the stamp of support from Bowser, which makes it likely that in her next budget she will adopt the proposed downtown investments.

  • But the $400 million proposal will also need approval from council members who must balance helping downtown's economy alongside housing, education, and social services programs.

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