Downtown D.C. retailers have seen marked progress in their efforts to rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 slump. A boost in tourism has provided existing businesses the support they need while motivating new business owners and established restaurateurs alike to set up shop.  In the face of a slow office rebound, some experts reimagine the landscape of downtown.

Increasing foot traffic

A rise in tourism has been a refreshing development for downtown businesses. With many restrictions on travel lifted and a new concourse in Reagan National Airport greeting more visitors, D.C.‘s hospitality industry has experienced some much-needed relief while retailers and restaurants are seeing increased business from foot traffic.


As office-focused areas took a hit in the pandemic, residential areas flourished.  Efforts to convert unused office space in Downtown D.C. to residential developments are underway to kick-start the renewal of downtown.  Where offices might be slow to repopulate, multifamily residential developments would bring more tangible relief to downtown.  

A tax abatement tool targeted at the Central Business District was announced in early May by Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio. The ‘Housing in Downtown Act’ aims to offer abatements of some $2.5 million per year (at 3% annual increases) to build more housing. The District hopes to create 800 new units through office-to-residential conversions.

Our new signed deals

Famed chef Peter Chang opened his first restaurant in the District – Chang Chang, in Dupont Circle – leading a return to downtown D.C. The 200-seater restaurant is expected to attract a variety of visitors – locals and tourists and will have a positive spillover effect on other businesses in the vicinity when it opens in the fall.

Our leasing and brokerage team has signed a number of deals in the Downtown D.C. area including a New Hampshire Avenue location of the innovative plant-based eatery Planta and the stylish Astoria’s Kitchen on K Street, which serves modern takes on classic North African and European dishes. A location of the luxury jewelry retailer Mervis Diamonds will be opening in Downtown D.C. as well. Additionally, we have signed several restaurant franchise locations including Panera, Chipotle, and Taco Bell Cantina.

Grant programs

In early May, District officials announced a $5.4m grant program to incentivise small to midsize businesses to move to the city or expand their presence there in an effort to increase occupancy rates and bring more people back to the city center. Grant funding of $50,000 has been made available for capital improvements, equipment, or expansion for retailers, $100,000 for similar expenses for manufacturers, $600,000 for projects that improve distressed or emerging neighborhoods, and $200,000 for technology advances for businesses in the District.

Remember what you love about D.C.?

Reminding us all of what we love most about D.C. – an online initiative called Return to D.C. was launched by 11 Business Improvement Districts in mid-May.

Return to D.C. is reminding people what they loved about working in D.C. and has toolkits for returning workers and employers as well as social content created by locals and up-to-date information on events, specials, and other interesting things going on downtown. 

Rappaport has retail spaces available should you wish to join the return to downtown – explore there here – available spaces in Washington D.C. We will also be hosting events for brokers interested in this area – contact us if you’d like to be considered.

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