A partnership between District Bridges, DC Bar Pro Bono, and Community Mediation DC

WASHINGTON – District Bridges, DC Bar Pro Bono and Community Mediation DC announced a program partnership working to address small business displacement in DC. The Commercial Lease Mediation Project utilizes the skills and expertise of three local organizations to identify, guide, and support small businesses struggling with lease negotiations. In the fall of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, District Bridges did a small business survey, trying to identify the main issues facing small businesses. The results were devastating as we saw business owners struggling to make ends meet, facing permanent
loss of staff, and many feeling hopeless. One of the main factors contributing to whether or not a business could pivot and re-open was their relationship with their landlord. The flexibility and creativity of the property owner or management company made all the difference in a small business’ struggle to survive. Of the businesses surveyed, 28% had a landlord who offered relief or deferment on lease obligations, and 8% were still in negotiations. However, over 20% were not able to compoimise with their landlord and feared eviction, and 33% reported not being offered relief or deferment of any kind. Additionally, 55% reported that they were unable to meet their current lease obligations. Of the 45% who were able to pay, 12% said they would not be able to continue if the pandemic lasted too far in to 2021.

“As businesses continue to grapple with the aftermath of the pandemic,” says District Bridges Executive Director, Brianne Dornbush, “our six Main Street programs remain at the frontlines of small business support. We are excited to partner with two incredible community organizations to bring a new service to our small businesses.” The Commercial Lease Mediation Project will take business owners through a process to determine their eligibility, gather needed information, get the right parties to the table, and work towards a resolution. The program draws on the unique expertise of each organization:

District Bridges: a community ecosystem development organization with established,
trusting relationships with small business owners across Wards 1 through 4

Community Mediation DC: Works to make sure DC is a city in which mediation is used
to build strong and peaceful communities, and every DC resident has access to
high-quality, collaborative conflict resolution services.

DC Bar Pro Bono: Transforms lives by providing free legal assistance to individuals,
nonprofit organizations, and small businesses through volunteer lawyers.