Stores

How one BID hopes to help revive retail in one of Washington, DC’s busiest business districts

The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District started a program that matches local businesses with empty storefronts.
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The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District

· 3 min read

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The pandemic made one of Washington, DC’s busiest business districts look like a ghost town.

The Golden Triangle, which runs from the White House to the south end of Dupont Circle, is heavy on offices—covering 34 million square feet of space. However, as buildings remain empty—and people continue to work from their kitchen tables—so do many of their ground floors.

  • Around 120 storefronts in the area are vacant as of this week, up from about 55 prior to the pandemic, according to Leona Agouridis, executive director of The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District (BID).

But the nonprofit has been trying to turn the tide with a retail-led revival.

All that glitters

The Golden Triangle BID introduced a program last June that matches local businesses with building owners who are trying to fill empty storefronts. Called Grow Golden, entrepreneurs need only apply.

  • Well, they also need to have been in biz for at least three years and be local to the DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia area.

The BID, working with landlords, reviews each applicant to make sure it’s a fit.

"You’ve got to have the right space for the right retailer,” Agouridis told Retail Brew. “If you have a 5,000-square-foot restaurant space and a 500-foot candy store, that’s just not a match.”

  • So far, Grow Golden has brought seven new shops into the fold.

Seize the day: Rahama Wright was one of the first applicants selected to be a part of Grow Golden, opening up a pop-up shop last August that sells jewelry, home goods, and more from 30 women-owned brands, including her own, Shea Yeleen.

“Part of the reason why I was attracted to it is because it removed barriers to entry. I didn’t have to find a property manager to find that location,” she said. “They already had a list of locations and property managers that wanted to be a part of the program.”

Another perk of acceptance: Free rent, usually for the first three months. After that, businesses are typically charged from 8%–10% of their gross sales, although it varies by how each agreement is worked out, Agouridis noted.

  • For Wright, what was initially going to be a three-month lease to test the water has since been extended through February. She then plans to renew on a month-to-month basis.

That said, Wright said she and many other small businesses are still feeling the effects of the pandemic since many offices haven’t reopened. “We’re seeing as variants keep popping up, [that] we still have a ways to go.”

The big picture: So does Grow Golden in order to fully realize its vision and help change the “very corporate” retail landscape of Downtown DC. It’s long overdue, Agouridis said, but she’s hopeful. “It’s a chance to give it another dimension that it didn’t have,” she explained. “Hopefully some of the retailers are going to stay long-term.”—KM

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