DowntownDC BID Hosts Swedish Visitors

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

By DowntownDC

As the city’s oldest and largest business improvement district, the DowntownDC BID is called on periodically to assist visiting delegations from cities around the world. Earlier this month, we welcomed eight members of the Swedish parliament, who were in the U.S. on a 10-day study visit to examine city planning in DC and New York. Sweden has one of the world’s lowest poverty rates and has succeeded in creating a balance between social equity and economic success. The visiting delegation comprised half the members of the Parliament of Sweden’s Committee on Civil Affairs, charged, among other things, with city planning, particularly housing. They were joined by two staffers and two Embassy of Sweden employees.

Members of the BID’s Infrastructure and Sustainability department shared information with them about the DowntownDC ecoDistrict and local transportation programs, including Capital Bikeshare, the DC Circulator and Streetcar.

Heavy rain kept the delegation from touring Terrell Place (575 7th Street), the 522,000-square-foot building that recently became DC’s first trophy office building to receive LEED-Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance Platinum certification. The designation is the nation’s top program for designing, constructing and operating high performance green buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). However, Garrett Chang of Cassidy Turley, the Terrell Place general manager, gave a presentation which described how the Terrell Place team worked methodically day-to-day to ensure the mixed-use building achieved platinum LEED-EB certification.

The BID’s Economic Development department reviewed the strength of Downtown’s mixed-use economy summarized in our annual State of Downtown publication. In addition, the Swedish delegation learned about Downtown’s revitalization that required a close partnership between the DC government, the private sector and the DowntownDC BID. The city’s net economic development investment of $505 million has been followed by $12 billion of private sector investment, generating 65,000 jobs and $525 million in annual taxes. There was a brief discussion of tax increment financing (TIF) which the city uses to encourage development.

Following an information-packed briefing at the DowntownDC BID office, the delegation visited the Capitol Riverfront BID, where Ted Skirbunt, the director of real estate research, provided a succinct overview of existing, under construction and planned development in the area.  Skirbunt led a walking tour that enabled the delegation to see firsthand various projects, including the Capitol Quarter Townhome development, which is a part of the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg HOPE VI redevelopment. The Capitol Quarter development includes market rate townhomes as well as workforce and affordable units. The visitors learned that DC’s public financing tool commonly known as a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) was essential in arranging the funds to pay for park construction as well as other infrastructure improvements within the Capitol Riverfront BID area.

While in Capitol Riverfront—one of the city’s emerging areas that can absorb the growth needed to sustain DC’s economic momentum and fiscal stability—the Swedish representatives also toured the Yards Park waterfront recreation area, boardwalk and outdoor performance space as well as sites under construction within The Yards. The Yards is a 42-acre, mixed-use riverfront development which will include more than 2,800 residential units. The construction site of the Canal Park was also included in the tour. When completed, it will be a model of environmental sustainability that captures, retains, and reuses stormwater from neighboring buildings for the park’s irrigation system and water features. 

Prior to visiting the DowntownDC BID, the political leaders also went on a NoMA (North of Massachusetts Avenue) BID area tour, led by Skanska USA Commercial Development, the US subsidiary of the Swedish-based Skanska construction firm. In January, Skanska received a DowntownDC BID Momentum Award for completing the $85 million office, church and retail building located at 733 10th Street (at the intersection of 10th and G streets). The award recognized Skanska for its commitment to Downtown development by being the only DowntownDC BID area office project to break ground over two years ending in March 2011.

Skanska’s announcement of this project in the fall of 2009 and the groundbreaking in March 2010 signaled the end of the “development freeze” following the September 2008 financial crisis. The company’s project was also previously recognized for its importance when it appeared on the cover of the DowntownDC BID’s 2010 State of Downtown report. So, you see, we love the Swedes!