Downtown Momentum Awards Honorees Recognized
What a fabulous evening at the DowntownDC BID’s Momentum Awards ceremony, held on Wednesday, December 12, at the very elegant Carnegie Library (801 K Street)! About 130 guests filled the building’s ornate and spacious Literary Hall to mingle, network and salute 11 amazing people, places and projects that brought innovation and excitement to the Downtown community over the past year. The awards were given in eight categories, ranging from Downtown Person of the Year to Landmark Development Project, and included a Special Award given to a Downtown hero.
This year’s theme was “So much more,” and “each awardee,” according to Steven Jumper, chairman of the BID Board of Directors and director of corporate policy at WGL Holdings (101 Constitution Avenue), “has contributed so much more to enhance the Downtown experience” and make the area fun, safe, diverse and exploratory for all.
José Andrés, the celebrity chef and owner at Think Food Group (717 D Street), received the Person of the Year Award for applying personal commitment that assisted in Downtown’s revitalization. In the 1990s, the Spanish native opened Jaleo (480 7th Street), Downtown’s first destination restaurant in decades and his first restaurant in America. Unable to attend the ceremony because he was in Puerto Rico opening a new restaurant called Mi Casa, Andrés said by video that his company will bring more restaurants to D.C., adding to the six he has created here over the years.
Speaking on Andrés’ behalf, Rob Wilder, Think Food Group’s chief executive officer, also told the Momentum Awards attendees, “You ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of making D.C. a world-class food town, a hospitality town. We’re just getting started.” Think Food Group employees 800-plus workers in Downtown.
Joining in the revelry were interim at-large Councilmember Anita Bonds; Jonathon Kass, director of special initiatives for DC Councilmember Tommy Wells; David Zipper, director of business development and strategy at the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development; Michael Stevens, executive director of the Capitol Riverfront BID; and Kristen Barden, executive director of the Adams Morgan Partnership.
The other Momentum Awards honorees whose achievements further position the Downtown community as a leader in national and international ingenuity include:
Downtown Experience - National Building Museum’s (401 F Street) Mini-Golf Exhibit
The museum delivered an interactive, indoor exhibition that encouraged people of all ages to visit Downtown for a unique, fun and entertaining experience. Chase Rynd, the museum’s executive director, shared good news with the guests assembled at the awards ceremony. “For those of you who did not join the 27,000-plus people who played last summer—not to worry,” he said. “It’s [the Mini-Golf Exhibit] coming back, bigger and better.”
Downtown Detail – Del Frisco’s Grille (1201 Pennsylvania Avenue) Sidewalk Café
The restaurant created a unique and inviting outside dining experience, which features a huge patio bar invariably described as “an island.” Bridget Kelly, the restaurant’s general manager, thanked the restaurant’s Dallas-based construction and design team for creating the structure, which has huge umbrellas with built in lights and heaters, installed awnings replete with a mist system to keep up to 106 diners cool during a heat wave, and a flat screen TV.
Downtown Partnership/Program – National Cherry Blossom Festival Centennial Celebration/National Cherry Blossom Festival, National Park Service, Events DC (801 Mount Vernon Place)
The Centennial Celebration was presented by the National Cherry Blossom Festival with assistance from the National Park Service and Events DC, all of whom partnered to make last spring’s celebration of Tokyo’s gift of 3,000 trees to D.C. an unprecedented five-week extravaganza. Kristin Rohr, chair of the National Cherry Blossom Festival Board of Directors; Bob Vogel, the NPS superintendent; and Greg O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC, accepted the awards. O’Dell said the Festival’s “economic impact on hotels and restaurants is unparalleled to any other event that takes place in the city.”
Downtown Partnership/Program – Field Asset Management Application/JMT Technology and Esri
This unique tool developed by JMT Technology Group and Esri for the DowntownDC BID allows for more accurate condition reporting in the public space realm and better accounting of asset and GIS inventory. Both Tim Abdella, senior associate with JMT Technology Group, and Anthony Puzzo, senior account executive with Esri, thanked the BID for the honor, which they said is seldom bestowed upon technology firms. Said Abdella: “This solution allows the BID to build a better Downtown. I live in D.C .and work in D.C., and I want to make D.C. the best place in the world. This little solution we developed just gets us one step closer.” Puzzo agreed, adding, “GIS is a way to tell stories and collect data a little bit better.”
Private Sector – Clyde’s Restaurant Group
In addition to injecting capital into the Downtown area, Clyde’s Restaurant Group brings additional life and vitality to the nighttime economy with the recent opening of The Hamilton (600 14th Street), which combines a restaurant and state-of-the-art entertainment venue called Live. The enduring success of its Clyde’s at Gallery Place (707 7th Street) and Old Ebbitt Grill (675 15th Street) restaurants continue to delight visitors, workers and residents alike.
Tom Meyer, president of Clyde’s Restaurant Group, and David Moran, general manager at the Hamilton, recalled how Downtown was pretty much deserted and dismal in the 1990s. Today, Old Ebbitt Grill, established in 1856, is the nation’s fifth biggest restaurant in terms of gross annual revenues, according to Meyer, and The Hamilton fills the first-class-music-venue gap in Downtown. In addition, said Moran, Saturday, December 8, was the company’s busiest time ever at the Old Ebbitt Grill, The Hamilton and Clyde’s at Gallery Place. In one day, the restaurants received 60,000 guests and had all 600 of its employees working. “People are visiting from everywhere in the world, and we should be so proud,” he said.
Landmark Development Project – Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership (514 10th Street)
The new center opened earlier this year, adding a world-class education component to the Ford’s Theatre Society’s growing education programming and serving as an important destination for visitors. The $25 million building includes a museum, exhibit and retail space and a stunning, 34-foot aluminum tower of books about Lincoln located in the central lobby atrium. Paul Tetrault, the director of Ford’s Theatre, recalled how patrons had to be escorted to their cars by off-duty police officers about 10 years ago because Downtown was dangerous. Today, the 10th Street Lincoln campus is bustling with visitors and tourists. This latest project, said Tetrault, took 10 years to develop and was well worth the effort. He thanked DC Mayor Vincent Gray and former Mayor Adrian Fenty for helping fund the center, and acknowledged Douglas Jemal, a major Downtown property owner and president of Douglas Development Corporation (702 H Street), for his support over the years.
Special Award – Leo Johnson
This award doesn’t fit the BID’s traditional Momentum Awards categories, but it was presented to Johnson, a long-time security guard who has been called a hero. He demonstrated a selfless act of courage when he helped to avert a major terrorist attack that prevented a lone gunman from harming others in the Family Research Council building where he works. Johnson was wounded in the incident but lived to tell his story. He was unable to personally accept his award because of family emergencies.
Before closing the effervescent annual awards ceremony, Richard Bradley, the BID’s executive director, noted that Downtown DC has come a long way thanks to the collaborative efforts of many. And while the area has undergone a remarkable transformation, so much more is coming—from another Georgetown University satellite campus to the streetcar—that will complete the area’s massive revitalization that began when the BID was created in 1997.
Madame Tussauds (1025 F Street), The Washington Examiner and car2go sponsored this year’s Momentum Awards ceremony, the BID’s 12th celebration of stellar contributions to Downtown.