Business Preservation Assistance Program

Business Preservation Assistance Program

The Challenge

The Business Preservation Assistance Program (BPAP) is an initiative designed to help DC’s culturally-vital small businesses avoid displacement as neighborhoods across the city continue to gentrify.

In March 2019, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRA) published a study that found Washington, DC has the highest number of gentrifying neighborhoods in the country. While this study focused largely on residential displacement the impact of gentrification is deeply felt by small business owners in these neighborhoods as well.

Many small business owners in these gentrifying neighborhoods are facing 20-30%  increases in their commercial rent in a single year. Many of the older buildings where many of small businesses owners have been for years are being demolished or redeveloped as high end space more suitable to chains who can afford the higher commercial rent.

As neighborhoods experience the cascading impacts of gentrification, many small business owners are focused out of the neighborhoods they have long served and the loss of these locally owned and operated businesses undermines place identity and has resulted in commercial corridors being marked by cultural homogenization.

The Solution

The Business Preservation Assistance Program is a pilot program working to provide a means for small local businesses to purchase their building instead of leasing. The emphasis of the program will be placed on maximizing development potential for small business in order to make the ownership opportunity as affordable as possible. By working with small businesses and the local community the Business Preservation Assitance Program team will help bring together mission-driven social impact investors, community developers, and local business owners to achieve this objective.

Affordable Tenancy Options

Commercial Condos

The properties developed to include commercial condominiums for future purchase by small business owners.  This model also allows for mixed-use, multi-level developments that more readily attract investors in higher-earning components.

Master Leases

The commercial space for eligible small business owners could be master-leased to a public-private partnership, which would then sub-let the space: the master-lease would address the credit risk to the developer and investor.

Commercial Land Trusts

The land underlying the development could be owned and stewarded by a community land trust to maintain the on-going affordability of the retail space

Connecting with BPAP

For more information about our BPAP program or to explore participating please contact the following:

Brianne Dornbush

Executive Director, District Bridges

Jim Steck

Senior Vice President, City First Enterprise