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ULI Advisory Services Panel: Central Business District

The COVID-19 public health emergency has severely disrupted the District’s Central Business District and has created intense pressure on the retail, hospitality, and arts and entertainment sectors and caused widespread business closures. Decreased employment and revenue resulting from COVID-19 have further exacerbated the existing challenges of high office vacancy rates and limited vibrancy stemming from few residential opportunities in the area.   

In November 2020, the DC Office of Planning (OP) and DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) partnered with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Foundation to host a virtual Advisory Services Panel (vASP) with professional experts to explore strategies that would enhance an equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency in the Central Business District (CBD). Over 2.5 days, the expert panel led by ULI Global Chairman Marilyn Taylor met with nearly 50 stakeholders in the District to understand the unique opportunities and challenges of an equitable recovery for the Central Business District’s businesses, workers, and residents.  

In April 2021, ULI published a report with the recommendations from the expert panel, encouraging the District to:  

  • Diversify the Downtown Economy  
  • Build Equity, Ownership, and Asset Value 
  • Support and Elevate Small Businesses  
  • Advance Workforce Training with Downtown Focus 
  • Create an Inclusive and Vibrant Identity for Downtown 

OP and DMPED created a Briefing Book for the expert panel to distill the key challenges in the CBD – both longstanding challenges and emerging challenges stemming from COVID-19 – and highlight trends, existing District and partner efforts, and current challenges and potential opportunities within key focus areas. The Briefing Book provides important and additional context for the recommendations from the ULI panel.