Jumat, 02 November 2012

A More Accessible Georgetown, and Other BID Ideas

For a guy who has spent his career hopscotching between the public and private sectors, heading up the Georgetown Business Improvement District could be the ideal job. Joe Sternlieb, a Northwest DC resident and former vice president for acquisitions with EastBanc, the DC-based developer, started his new job as CEO of the Georgetown BID in mid-October. It’s his second round of employment with one of the city’s BIDs; Sternlieb spent ten years as part of the Downtown BID at a time when that area was just beginning to bloom. Before that, he spent time as a staff director for the DC City Council and worked on social justice issues.

Reporters and others focused on the city’s development scene might know Sternlieb as one of the chattiest and most accessible folks in the business. Here, he talked to DCMud about his new gig.

DCMud: Why did you decide to work for the Georgetown BID?

Joe Sternlieb: I’ve never had more fun than when I was working with the BIDs and I thought it could be a really fun and interesting opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in last 20-some years. And it’s in a new and interesting environment, quite different from the Downtown BID.

DCMud: How is it so different?

Sternlieb: When I started working for the Downtown BID, there were something like 40-50 surface parking lots, few restaurants, and very few people living there. We were trying to give definition to a place while development was occurring from private sector. [In contrast], Georgetown is really well-defined and developed: it’s got a vibrant retail and restaurant presence, and all these other physical attributes, from the C&O Canal and the waterfront to historic neighborhoods. The task here is how to make it appear and be a really accessible place.

DCMud: What do you mean, “accessible”?

Sternlieb: A lot of people perceive it as difficult to get to. There are lots of ways to change that. [For example], there’s a huge number of underground parking spaces in Georgetown that are closed on the weekend; demand isn’t high because there’s street parking. But the latter creates a lot of congestion. So I’d like to look at how to improve congestion parking. I also think we need a lot more bike racks, cabbie stations, and Circulator service. I think of transportation the same way DDOT does: considering all options, including cars, buses, bikeshare, pedestrians—it’s all a single system.

DCMud: Georgetown used to be the place to go in DC, but there are so many dynamic neighborhoods now. How do you plan to compete?

Sternlieb: We’ll need to work harder to remind people that Georgetown is here. We’re working with local merchants to think about ways to attract people back to Georgetown; we have opportunities to do open markets and special events, and we’re also working closely with home furnishings and design retailers to create a real urban design district.

The new park along the river is such a terrific resource—do you have plans for it?

Sternlieb: Because that park is owned by the National Park Service, things like vendors selling food can’t happen there. We haven’t yet come up with a program for concerts, movies, etc. to occur there, but that’s not to say we can’t. It’s on our radar screen and we’ll be spending time with the Park Service to figure out how to better integrate the neighborhood and the park.

DCMud: How do you define your job, and the role of the BID?

Sternlieb: BIDs can help facilitate programs, projects, and solutions to problems that individuals might not be able to tackle on their own. It’s a middle space between the private, governmental, and residential sector. For example, the regional bus map that WMATA uses was developed out of the Downtown BID. I see us doing things like that here—some demonstration projects, sometimes convening a bunch of people to look at something and try to develop a better plan.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

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