Downtown Ghost Towns

Thank goodness we didn’t buy that hot dog stand on 17th and Pennsylvania in downtown Washington!

A key problem is federal government employees are still largely at home. President Biden vowed in March that “the vast majority of federal workers will once again work in person.” Months later, it’s not even close to that. According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, nearly 40 percent said they work fully remotely or at home three or more days a week. Another 17 percent say they are at home one or two days a week. The DowntownDC Business Improvement District’s tracking indicates fewer than a quarter of federal workers are back in the office. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has been imploring the White House to change this. Allowing each agency to set its own rules was a mistake. Mr. Biden needs to set a clear policy of at least three days a week on-site for all federal workers who aren’t already back more than that.

They are the linchpin for downtown. When they aren’t around, lawyers, consultants, lobbyists and other workers also see little reason to return. While many big marquee law and other firms that have long dominated downtown D.C. have policies stating their workers should be in the office three days a week, few are enforcing it.

The fallout is evident. Walking along K Street Northwest from 14th Street to 20th — prime real estate near the White House — reveals 21retail spaces for rent and 10 office spaces for lease. At “happy hour” on a recent Friday, many bars along this stretch had plenty of available seats. This desolate scene would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Washington Post


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