Anacostia Business Improvement District Gets to Work

Nearly five years after preliminary discussions and planning began, evidence of the Anacostia Business Improvement District (BID) can be seen and felt on the commercial corridors of Good Hope Road and lower Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. During repeated storms this past winter, snow and ice vanished from the sidewalks thanks to the BID. On a recent weekday Dwayne Stewart, 38, and Ricky McDonald, 21, wearing fluorescent neon vests emblazoned with the logo of the Anacostia BID and working with Career Path DC’s Clean Team, were busy planting flowers and caring for a tree box.

A Mayor’s Order in April 2012 designated the Anacostia Business Improvement District Corporation, comprised of 30 square blocks. It is bounded on the west by all lots bordering Howard Road, between Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and the intersection with Anacostia Drive; on the north by all lots bordering Good Hope Road between the Anacostia River and the intersection with 18th Street; on the east by all lots bordering Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue between S Street and the intersection with Magnolia Street; and on the south by Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and the intersection with Magnolia Street.

By the fall of 2012 the initial organizers had elected the first board of directors, and in March 2013 the Office of Tax and Revenue performed the first assessment. “Our funding is from assessing the commercial properties,” says Ed Grandis, executive director of the BID. “There are about 168 commercial parcels within our service area. We have a collection rate of about 75 percent, which is excellent for a new BID.”

The mission of the Anacostia BID is to supplement services already offered by the city and address needs prevalent in Anacostia such as landscaping, beautification, and trash removal. With implementation of the Anacostia BID, hopes are that new programming will revitalize the retail district and energize commercial property owners and tenants to invest in the community such as through facade improvements. The presence of the BID presents another mechanism to market and promote the neighborhood to local residents and to visitors from other parts of the city or region. The BID looks to increase existing sales, create jobs, and increase the occupancy rates in commercial properties throughout the BID area by attracting new tenants whether they be small businesses or national tenants.

Anacostia BID’s Clean Team

Before becoming the executive director of Career Path DC, an organization which provides “transitional employment,” Charlie Whitaker was well-known in Anacostia and its environs. In 2009 Whitaker worked with the United Planning Organization to establish the Blue Team, which performed “general street maintenance” activities. After leaving United Planning, Whitaker started Career Path DC in 2010 and has since provided employment opportunities for hundreds of returning citizens.

The three-person Clean Team in the Anacostia BID joins crews maintaining areas of Congress Heights, Deanwood, and a stretch of Minnesota Avenue from Pennsylvania Avenue to Benning Road. A $100,000 Commercial Clean Grant from the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development has provided funds for the team to remain through September 30.

“The Clean Team in Anacostia is important for many reasons,” says Whitaker. “Our presence doesn’t just increase the appearance of an area; it also helps with public safety. We are a professional and visible face that people can turn to if there’s an emergency.” Another simple reason the Clean Team is important, Whitaker says, is that it provides a venue for modeling new behaviors. “When you see the guys cleaning up the street every day, residents begin to take pride in their neighborhood and don’t throw down so much trash.”

For more information on the Anacostia BID visit www.anacostiabid.org.Ed Grandis will hold weekly office hours at NURISH Food & Drink, located inside the Anacostia Arts Center at 1231 Good Hope Road, every Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.-12 noon. For more information on Career Path DC visit www.careerpathdc.org.