Foggy Bottom/West End Community-Based Economic Development Initiative

Case study overview

To aid ANC2A in their efforts to strengthen the commercial corridor and revitalize the neighborhood of Foggy Bottom/West End, District Bridges proposes the pilot Community-Based Corridor Enhancement Lab (CCEL), model. Together, we can build a strong community-focused economic development initiative that allows for maximum flexibility and creativity in developing a model that meets the needs of various stakeholders and addresses key concerns.

District Bridges was put in touch with representatives from ANC 2A by Councilmember Brooke Pinto to discuss the potential for establishing a Foggy Bottom/West End community-based economic development initiative, such as a Main Street, Business Improvement District (BID), or CCEL program.

Initiative Overview 

ANC 2A is seeking to establish the foundation for a sustainable economic development initiative in Foggy Bottom/ West End that will: 

  • Support small businesses 
  • Develop neighborhood branding that establishes a sense of place and identity for the two neighborhoods 
  • Asess the appropriate vehicle for long-term economic development

Key Areas of Concern

  • Engage community stakeholders
  • Leverage the unique assets of the respective communities to promote equitable economic prosperity for businesses of all sizes
  • Previous opposition from major property owners for the establishment of a BID

Current State 

Lack of dedicated support for small businesses Long-term vacancy due to high commercial rents and the cascading impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lack of neighborhood identity/branding

The Foggy Bottom and West End neighborhoods are home to diverse and dynamic community stakeholders and significant landmarks that make the area a highly-trafficked and sought-after destination for both visitors and Washingtonians alike. The neighborhoods are home to the White House, Kennedy Center, George Washington University, World Bank, and the Watergate Hotel. They are also home to many acclaimed small local businesses such as Founding Farmers, Tonic at Quigley, Rasika West End, and the Blue Duck Tavern. These neighborhoods not only have attractions that make them appealing to visit but also many high-end hotels that make them a prime location for visitors and tourists to stay and easily access the surrounding amenities. 

Despite all of these fantastic features, Foggy Bottom and West End have no established economic development initiative such as a Main Street or Business Improvement District. Previous attempts to establish a Business Improvement District were unsuccessful due to a lack of buy-in from several of the major property owners. However, due to the highly dynamic nature of this area, local small businesses continued to thrive and vacancy in the area remained low. But that changed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the city went into lockdown, the high foot traffic from visitors, students, and the local workforce suddenly disappeared. This was catastrophic for small and big businesses. With the closure of the major hotels and high commercial rents, many small businesses have found it difficult to stay afloat, many closing their doors permanently. As we hopefully near the end of this pandemic and we turn our attention to economic recovery, the establishment of new community-based economic development initiatives will be critical in reimagining recovery and reigniting our local economy. 

Why CCEL? 

A Community-based Corridor Enhancement Lab focuses on the core elements of building a strong community based economic development initiative. Because a CCEL program is initiated by the community and self-funded, it allows for maximum flexibility and creativity in developing a model to suit that community. Additionally, by developing broad-based community support and engagement from the outset, stakeholders are invested in the long-term outcomes the initiative seeks to achieve because they were part of their development.

While above we have proposed a year-long timeline, a CCEL can develop at whatever pace makes sense for that community. The flexibility to develop over time also enables a CCEL to develop broad-based community support to understand objections or opposition to change that inevitably arises when such an initiative is launched. This holistic approach allows for all stakeholders to be heard and serves as a mediator ensuring all stakeholder concerns are addressed and solutions are incorporated into a functional/ realistic long-term plan.