Staff Editorial: Main Streets groups can help boost local shops

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The annual French Market is among the events sponsored by the Georgetown BID. (Susann Shin/The Current/April 2017)

As more and more residents favor online purchases and trendy new retail areas snap up many of the remaining customers, various Northwest commercial districts need an extra boost to stay competitive. Those range from established destinations like Georgetown to emerging locations such as upper 14th Street and lower Georgia Avenue.

All three of those areas received D.C. Council funding for new Main Streets groups, nonprofits that work with the District’s Department of Small and Local Business Development to boost the appeal of a particular commercial area. A Main Streets group’s efforts can include organizing and sponsoring community events; beautifying streets and storefronts; working directly with business owners on their issues; and conducting neighborhood branding or other marketing campaigns.

The program has proved itself in areas as varied as Shaw, Dupont Circle, Tenleytown and Van Ness. Georgetown’s proposed Main Streets group will need to avoid duplicating the neighborhood’s self-taxing business improvement district, which works with a broader variety of commercial interests but which has a far greater budget.

We learned last week that the Georgetown Business Association will apply to run the Main Streets program in the neighborhood under the auspices of a new nonprofit, starting with a $175,000 city grant. In each of the three locations, one or more groups may apply, demonstrating their ability to become self-sustaining and effective. Applications are due on Aug. 4, and by Sept. 8, the agency will announce which group — if any — will receive the grant money in each area. We hope that this process will result in valuable benefits for Northwest small businesses.