Monday, September 24, 2007

News Flash: Convention Center area needs more development

It seems like something from the Dept. of the Obvious, but an article in today's Washington Post presents clearly the argument for an increase and focus on development around the Washington Convention Center. I wonder if Jack Evans, Adrian Fenty and the rest of District leadership are paying attention.

The article quotes various conventioneers remarking on the contrasts between the area sorrounding the convention centers in other major cities versus D.C. Not surprisingly, the article finds that the lack of a major hotel hurts the ability to lure large conventions, but that "a headquarters hotel is only part of the equation in turning the District into a destination for large conventions."

Now, perhaps there is a larger point I am missing here, but why is this case still being made years after the convention center has opened? Shouldn't we be past this point by now? If the impetus behind moving the convention center to Shaw wasn't to spur development in an under-utlized and under-developed area, what on earth was the purpose?

The piece points out what many area residents have been saying for years:

"If you go and see a beautiful city with a lot of cool things to do, a lot of times you will want to come back during a more leisurely visit when you don't have a lot of work," David White, 35, a delegate from Charleston, S.C., said last week. "D.C., it's a great town with a lot to offer, but I don't know if the convention center promotes that as well as it could."

To be fair, this article does come on the heels of the recent announcement that the long-proposed and nearly dead headquarters hotel was back online. And with plans for the redevelopment of the O St. Market and Kelsey Gardens the area sorrounding the convention center is showing signs of turning around. Let's hope it continues. But the failure of the city to effectively promote and facilitate development in the area (including Jack Evans' frustrating comments about the near-demise of the convention center hotel) and to effectively deal with the Shiloh properties situation is beyond aggravating. This article could have been written four years ago, and without a significant focus on the part of the District government in encouraging development near the convention center, it could easily be written again.

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