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Dupont Circle on Track to be Designated a Business Improvement District; Public Hearing Set

Accompanying images can be viewed on page 1 of the February 2018 issue pdf

By P.L. Wolff

Now, 15 months from when a group of Dupont Circle business owners, led by Michael R. Kain of Kain & Associates Real Estate Development, as incorporator, formally submitted their extensively documented application for the establishment of a Business Improvement District (BID) to include the commercial blocks of P Street and Massachusetts Avenue west of the Circle and Connecticut Avenue north of the Circle, they are about to accomplish what they set out to do almost 10 years ago.

For a BID to qualify under the Business Improvement Districts Act of 1996, over 50% of the commercial properties located within the designated commercial district must verify their acceptance. Michael Kain, who spent, as he told The InTowner, literally a decade making the rounds and talking to owners of each and every property situated along the streets that will comprise the BID; the final tally is a little over 51% signed on. He was, however, unable to garner sufficient interest from the commercial property owners along the nearby 17th Street neighborhood business strip; however, he says, if someday they decide to join the BID they will be welcomed.

One final step needs to be had, which is a public hearing. This will occur on Monday, February 26th at 11 a.m. at 441 4th Street, NW in Room 805-S.

Once the BID is officially approved, all of the commercial property owners –- not just the over 51% who formally registered their acceptance – will be asses an annual charge added to their commercial property tax bills which the city will in turn remit to the BID. These charges are set by law as follows: for and office and retail (restaurants, stores, etc.) properties, nine cents per $100 of assessed value; for hotels and apartment buildings, $120 per hotel room/residential unit.

The Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) on its website, by way of summarizing the scope of BID’s purpose, that “expenditures are used primarily for purchasing supplemental services, which could include: Maintaining commercial corridors through litter and graffiti removal and landscaping to supplement city services; Increasing security through the presence of ambassadors who walk the commercial district; Promoting the commercial district and the businesses operating therein; Providing homeless and youth services; and, Making capital improvements (e.g., street furniture, decorative lighting) to supplement city services.”

The BID organizers’ submitted business plan articulates their rationale as to the need for a BID, as follows:

“The Dupont Circle area, radiating up Connecticut Avenue and across P Street, has long enjoyed a reputation as a distinctive, upscale yet edgy, neighborhood that is home to galleries, boutiques, non-profits, and progressive causes. . . . While it still holds much of this recognition, the city has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past 15 years, . . . [it] no longer enjoys its position of prominence as a premier destination.

“While Dupont Circle has remained steadfast in its identity, it has not benefited from significant development or redevelopment during this time of transformation. However two significant new projects: (1) the completion of

Two new residential buildings, The Hepburn and The Ampeer, and (2) plans to build a new park over the down ramp on Connecticut Avenue, set the stage for a new effort to build on these investments and create momentum. The new projects and the creation of a BID are significant steps toward Dupont Circle regaining its position of prominence.”

And as for the priorities they envision, their mission statement lays out a comprehensive plan.

In an article published exactly 10 years ago, we reported on the work of Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets (HDCMS)  and its energetic community betterment programs; those have continued apace, with new initiatives added in the ensuing years. The question now, in light of the impending establishment of the BID, which we asked Michael Kain, what role will there be for HDCMS?

Kain was emphatic that he sees, “ideally that [HDCMS] continue doing what they are doing and also to help the BID” accomplish some of its tasks through contractual arrangements.

One concern noted by The InTowner that might derail this expectation is what likely will be the need for “belt tightening” which many budget watchers see coming with cutbacks in federal grants and fund transfers to the District. While there has been much support for the city-wide BID program by the members of the city council, led by its finance and revenue committee chairman, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, the reality is that the up-to-now DSLBD budgets which have made possible regular grants to the BIDs to carry on their work may well dry up in light of critical human services needs that will require large infusions DC funds to offset feared reductions in federal funding.

In response to this concern about whether HDCMS would be able to “continue doing what they are doing,” Kain acknowledged that this could be a problem and that in his view the BID could help by increasing contracting arrangements.