Mayor Muriel Bowser first designated the U Street Main Street in October of 2019. As with every Main Street, we were prepared to use the National Main Street’s Four Point Approach: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion, and Organization. I set out to make up for the missing pieces of the U Street Main Street.
During a typical year, my work hours would consist of in-person introductions to business owners, sponsoring the DC Funk Parade, and hosting the kick-off, but in 2020 everything shifted. Technical assistance turned from general business support to COVID relief. Our District Bridges team quickly joined forces between our Lower Georgia Avenue, Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant, Cleveland Park, Logan Circle Main Street Managers/Directors to address our community’s needs when they were informed that non-essential businesses would be closed as of March 24, 2020.
With the support of the District Bridges model, we focused on developing a new strategy for engaging business owners while keeping them informed about the resources readily available to them through social media and our USMS newsletter. District Bridges’ [USMS’s] support has helped us identify pilot programs that will increase the visibility of U Street Corridor businesses, attract tourism and drive hospitality to the corridor’s bars, restaurants, and venues. While also educating residents and tourists on historical landmarks and the impact our neighborhood contributes to our Nation’s Capital history.
To date, we have:
- Supplemented Ben’s Next Door’s kitchen with new equipment
- Financed Outdoor Patio material for Taqueria Nacional
- Replacing broken window after civil unrest for Black and White Optical
- Purchased new ventilation for George’s Shoe Repair
- Delivered over 195 hours of technical assistance in FY20 Q2 and Q3
- Provided weekly newsletters of curated, must-know small business technical resources, Federal and DC government regulatory updates, webinars and training, and outside financial resources to U Street businesses.
- Conducted consistent in-person check-ins with business owners, employees, and managers along the corridor.
- Represented and advocated for USMS to DC Council, DSLBD, DMPED, and several COVID-19 working groups
- Developed Re-Opening planning processes for USMS businesses
- Leveraging and providing over $52,000 directly to U Street small businesses through the USMS Small Business Grant program.
- Distributed PPE Phase One re-opening packages from District Government to support businesses in re-opening across the corridor.
U Street Main Street is a part of the District Bridges family. Each of our six programs provides critical technical assistance to business owners and help them compete for grants. We bridge our residents, community leaders, and business owners who make our communities the places we know and love. Help us continue doing our work by chipping in $10, $100, $1,000 at districtbridges.org/donate.