The success of creating and transforming downtown DC neighborhoods has been due in part to collaboration between the public and private sectors and cooperation among property owners. Oftentimes one of these elements limits the full potential of bringing “out of the box” ideas into the built environment. This panel, moderated by Gabe Klein, author of “Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun” explored ways that the regulatory boundaries have been bridged.
Bryan Moll, Principal at the JBG Companies began discussing two successful built projects in DC and some incentives that were offered to attract unique retailers, such as discounted rent in exchange for organizing programmed events twice a month for the first couple years, which instantly enlivens the new development and creates an instant community. This is the trend: people wanting to have fun experiences with people you like.
Two Business Improvement District (BID) panelists: Angie Fox, President/CEO of the Crystal City BID and Rich Bradley, Senior Advisor of the DowntownDC BID Corporation discussed the ways that BIDs bridge the gap between the slow paced, resistant public sector regulations and the bold, fast paced, ever changing ideas of the private sector. In Crystal City, Angie said Artomatic-a multi-week multimedia arts event held in the DC area since 1999 only considered relocating outside of the district into Arlington, Virginia, where Crystal City is located, because of the BID. She also mentioned getting a fine from Arlington County when the BID put up a 9-story banner to advertise Downtown Abbey. Arlington County slowly warmed up to the BID over time however and allowed the BID greater flexibility in things like installing short term artwork. Rich mentioned is a major challenge of the BIDs: Leadership. Because if you’re a leader, people feel protected and are willing to come to the table. Rich recalled when the first farmer’s market opened in 1988 in DC, when DC was branded at Dull, Dirty and Dangerous. The vendor was arrested. Now every neighborhood in 2016 wants a farmer’s market in their neighborhood. Another word mentioned about BIDs is Disruption. BIDs create change and act to disrupt what is the norm.
Looking ahead to what will make the DC region successful, Rich mentioned two major challenges: the metro and the Union Station rebuild, which would mean a world without cars and creating the viability of a mega region.
The word “collaborition” which is collaboration and competition was coined by someone and appropriately used to describe how best to create innovative places and economies. This is a word that supports public agencies, private investors and the community but also pushes them to create something highly innovative.
Then there are things that already have real estate value, like transportation hubs and parks. A park premium is a place premium-land is more valuable around parks.
Everyone wants to know the secret to pushing the regulatory boundaries and the panel agreed that sometimes public agencies just need to say “yes”. As well, some not-so-secret-secrets are to build trust, hire the right people and prove that you do things safely.
Gabe Klein, Author (Start-Up City: Inspiring Private and Public Entrepreneurship, Getting Projects Done, and Having Fun)
Rich Bradley, Senior Advisor, DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) Corporation
Angie Fox, President/CEO, Crystal City BID
Bryan Moll, Principal, The JBG Companies
Recap Written by Lindsay Burleigh
Click here for an audio recording of the panel.