City Cast

How to Make Downtown Livable

Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Kaela Cote-Stemmermann
Posted on June 5
Pedestrians and vehicles downtown

Downtown D.C. could use some upgrades. (BeyondDC/Flickr)

Downtown D.C. is known as a place to work, not live or hang out. In a new ranking of downtown vitality scores, D.C. ranks almost last. Mayor Bowser has made it her life’s mission to revitalize downtown, and wants to add about 15,000 residents to downtown in the next five years.

But, how do we actually repurpose the area to make it feel like a neighborhood we’d want to live in? Washington Biz Journal Tristan Navera has been covering the revitalization and chatted with City Cast DC about what’s actually needed to make it livable. Here are the highlights.

  1. More public outdoor space: Downtown has greenspace, but most of it is off limits, or not appealing. Playgrounds and parks are needed to provide safe outdoor spaces for families and events to use.
  2. Ease up on zoning laws: D.C. has lots of old zoning restrictions that make it hard to open retail and other businesses downtown. Specifically, Tristan suggests revamping one that prevents light manufacturing, meaning a lot of food production (think Krispy Kreme’s donut line production) and creative spaces are unable to land downtown.
  3. Pedestrian-friendly infrastructure: This doesn’t mean just more sidewalks, this means making it actually pleasant to walk around downtown. The city is playing with the idea of funneling traffic towards a few larger streets and leaving others for buses or pedestrians only.
  4. Retail and third spaces: Adding more shopping and dining draws people in and gets them to spend time downtown. People need places that aren’t home and aren’t work to hang out, like cafes, libraries, galleries, and gyms.
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