DC Mayor pushes to help downtown bounce back from the pandemic

Mayor Muriel Bowser is pushing to help Downtown D.C. bounce back from the pandemic.

Mayor Bowser says her administration has seen a recent uptick in traffic downtown, but also warns that it may not return to pre-pandemic levels.

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Data released by the Mayor’s Office during her budget proposal Wednesday indicates restaurant spending is down, and properties are struggling to fill commercial real estate spaces.

The data shows customer spending in restaurants decreased by 20-percent from pre-pandemic levels. It also reveals that 14.3% of commercial properties are now vacant, which is up 3% from before the pandemic.

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Business owners Fox 5 spoke with say this shows that neighborhood residents are supporting restaurants and businesses, but commuters will need to come back into the area to make an impactful change.

"It helps us because a lot of times they are here at work they take a lunch break and come to get service, or before they go home they get service," said Kathy Luu, who owns a business in DuPont Circle.

The head of a key business development group in DuPont Circle also agrees with that point. 

"The federal government sends a signal to the office market that people can return, that the office market is returning, and the office market supports the daytime traffic, which, in turn, helps all the retailers," said Bill McLeod, the Executive Director of DuPont Circle Main Street.

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To help with the issue, Mayor Bowser says she is working with the Biden Administration to get federal workers back in the office.

"We work very hard with the administration to let them know the conditions in the city and that people should be back at work," said Bowser.

She also says that bringing federal workers back to the office will send a message to other businesses that they should return to in-person work as well.


In a statement to Fox 5, the Biden Administration pointed out that the vast majority of *public facing* workers will be back in office by April, but did not offer clarity on those who aren’t public facing. 

This comes as, there’s a growing bipartisan movement in Congress to force federal workers to return. Lawmakers are also pushing to make agency plans about returning to work more transparent.