A Sweeping Start
Safe and Clean Streets Are Improvement Plan’s First Priority
Just a few months into its creation, the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District is pushing ahead with its plans to create cleaner and safer neighborhood streets.
“I’m very grateful for the community for pulling together and helping with this. I am absolutely convinced it is going to be a great thing for Capitol Hill,” said George Didden, president and treasurer of the group. “Not only in terms of making it cleaner and safer, but sort of unifying us as a little town within the city.”
The BID allows Hill businesses to tax themselves to pay for services in addition to those provided by the city, such as landscaping and litter control or marketing campaigns.
Local residents began the push to create a BID on Capitol Hill in the late 1990s, and the effort won approval from the D.C. City Council and Mayor Anthony Williams (D) in December 2002. Three other districts — the Georgetown, Golden Triangle and Downtown areas — have created business agreements with the city.
The Hill BID roughly encompasses the area between South Capitol and Fifth streets, between Massachusetts Avenue Northeast and E Street Southeast. It also includes businesses along Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast from the Capitol to 15th Street, as well as those on Seventh, Eighth, 11th and 12th streets Southeast. Union Station, Station Place and Eastern Market are also part of the district.
There are 562 properties located within the BID’s boundaries, and about 400 to 450 property owners. In addition, the BID includes nearly 700 commercial tenants who rent or lease space in the area.
The group will hold its first annual meeting March 24 to organize and select its 21-member board of directors. The board will comprise 14 property owners and seven tenant representatives, as well as the president of the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals, who will serve as an ex-officio member.
“We’ve tried to have a pretty good geographic representation for the board of directors,” said Didden, who also serves as chairman and chief executive officer of National Capitol Bank.
In the meantime, BID officials are in the midst of their search for providers of security and sanitation services.
“Our focus should be getting people out on the streets — safety people and clean people — to make this BID geography a cleaner and a safer place, and a more welcoming place,” Didden said. “It is already quite welcoming, and it is actually very safe, but it is a perception thing, for tourists especially, who worry when they come to the Capitol.”
The group released two requests for proposals, seeking firms to provide sanitation services including street sweeping and graffiti removal, and security services, including “way-finding” and concierge services.
“In our proposals we’re requiring that whoever we hire focus on the two ZIP code areas for staffing the teams first,” said Executive Director Patty Brosmer, referring to the 20002 and 20003 ZIP codes included in the BID area.
Brosmer added that the BID will seek to work with assistance programs to employ or retrain local homeless residents. The cleaning and security programs should be in place by April and May, respectively.
D.C. City Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) said she is supportive of the BID’s plans to “spruce things up a little bit.”
“Everything is always more attractive to investors who might be thinking of opening a restaurant or other kind of small business if things look clean and attractive,” she said.
The BID expects to collect $495,000 this year in funds that are paid to the District and then collected by the BID.
In addition, BID members such as the Union Station Redevelopment Corp., which are not taxable, make in-kind donations including office space.
USRC President David Ball said the group plans to provide storage space for equipment such as street sweepers or other items the BID may purchase.
The BID is also creating memorandums of understanding with the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Public Works “so we have a clear understanding of what their responsibility will continue to be,” Didden said.
The contracts are required by the statute creating the BID, and other business districts in the city have similar agreements.
The group’s new Web site is www.capitolhillbid.org.