WASHINGTON, DC-It’s getting back to business as usual in the District, even in the aftermath of two horrendous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, VA on Sept. 11. To get back to some semblance of order, yet focus on challenges that exist because of how the region was forever changed, Mayor Anthony Williams convened civic and business leaders to talk about economic issues facing the city.

The city was effectively shut down on Sept. 11 after a plane crashed into the Pentagon in nearby Arlington, VA. Ronald Reagan National Airport was also closed and has not yet reopened. Williams talked openly with 50 other business leaders at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington about how this has had an amazing ripple effect.

According to the District, before the attack:

  • Tourism was up-with a record 75% occupancy rate in the city’s hotels for 2000
  • Office vacancy rates were down at 3.3% as 2000 ended
  • Unemployment was down-with 3,700 more jobs than the same time last year

    But since the terrorist attack:

  • Of the more than 100 hotels in the city, average occupancy is down more than 50%
  • Of 3,000 restaurants, many are cutting jobs and cutting orders for food and supplies
  • And of the 260,000 who work in the city’s tourism industry, 50,000 are at risk to lose their jobs

    Williams also made special mention of the closing of National Airport. Overall, he said tourism brings the city $4 billion annually, and many of those tourists get to Washington by flying to National. Directly, 1,500 of the airport’s 10,000 employees are District residents, and $12 million of the nearly $100 million generated annually by the airport goes to the District.

    To address some of these concerns, Mayor Williams said he would send the District Council a bill requesting a $1 million package to promote tourism and investment in Washington. He said the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp., of which Bill Hanbury is president, would be making a matching investment.

    Chris Bender, spokesman in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, told GlobeSt.com the office of Deputy Mayor Eric Price is also back to pushing business growth in the city. High atop that agenda, Bender said, is Mayor Williams’s housing initiative. Back in the spring, Mayor Williams announced plans to protect existing affordable housing. A bigger piece of that plan is to convert vacant and dilapidated buildings into news housing, and promote new housing for people of all incomes throughout all parts of the city. Given the high-density and development of most parts of the city, much of the housing constructed is multifamily projects, primarily town homes and condominiums.

    Just a week before the attacks, the District said it sold the Mather Building in downtown to local condo developer PN Hoffman for $2 million. The 78,400-sf property had been vacant since 1990. PN Hoffman will invest $14.1 million to redevelop the historic building into 40 condos, 12 of which will be considered affordable housing. The affordable units will be sold for $111, 000 to $165,000. The remaining units will be sold for $200,000 to $1 million.

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