Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Efforts to ensure a safe, clean environment around the Washington Nationals” new ballpark got a kick-start yesterday when the new Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District officially began operating.

Before a throng of political and business leaders in an office building overlooking the new stadium in Southeast, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty signed an executive order allowing the business improvement district, or BID, to begin sprucing up the ballpark area, which is already becoming a hotbed for commercial development along the Anacostia River waterfront.

Business leaders said they were willing to agree to pay thousands of dollars in taxes to fund the BID, which is modeled after similar groups in the city. The money will fund basic cleaning and security efforts as well as marketing and coordination of transportation and parking.

“Taking into consideration that this would be an active construction zone for another decade or two, we determined that a separate BID unique to our area would help us deal with issues specific to the rapidly developing business, residential and recreational neighborhood,” said Chris Smith, a BID board member and chief executive officer of William C. Smith and Co., which is developing several projects near the ballpark.

The Capitol Riverfront BID is the eighth organization of its kind in the District. The first one, the Downtown D.C. BID, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week.



To fund the BID, businesses will tax themselves annually at a rate of 9 cents for every $100 of assessed value on most commercial buildings, 4 cents for every $100 on industrial buildings and $96 per residential unit. Hotels will be taxed at a rate of $72 per room. Commercial buildings with more than 50,000 square feet will be taxed at a rate of 12 cents for every square foot.

The BID began collecting the taxes in September and estimated that it will raise $1.54 million the first year.

“If you”re a business owner … this is exactly what you need, to have a business improvement district looking out for those ‘clean and safe” issues,” Mr. Fenty said. “The government is going to do its job, but the private sector brings that energy that the government can only hope to facilitate.”

The BID comprises about 100 blocks in Southeast bordered by Interstate 395 to the north, the Anacostia River to the south, 15th Street to the southeast and South Capitol Street to the west.

Officials said they anticipate the construction of 12 million to 15 million square feet of office space, 9,000 residential units, 1,200 hotel rooms and more than 800,000 square feet of retail space in the BID area in the next 20 years. Planned projects include the Yards, a massive redevelopment of the former Southeast Federal Center, and new office buildings next to the ballpark on Half and N streets Southeast.

“We think this is going to be a world-class destination for the region as well as the city,” said Michael Stevens, president of the Capitol Riverfront BID and former executive of the D.C. Economic Partnership.

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