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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Attracting Convention Goers to Shaw Businesses Without Breaking the Bank

We could, and should, do a lot more to attract convention-goers to businesses in Shaw. Two things come immediately to mind, neither of which require significant investment. First, I think we should improve the wayfinding experience. For example, there is currently no signage, information kiosk or neighborhood map at the intersection of 9th and L Streets -- an important intersection for convention center foot traffic given the convention center's entrance/exit onto L Street between 7th and 9th Streets -- indicating the presence of retail north on 9th Street. Wouldn't it be great to install a kiosk with eye-catching signage that holds neighborhood retail maps, cultural tourism maps and the like for convention-goers to take?

Second, we should improve the appearance of nearby vacant properties. These vacant properties need not be community liabilities but could instead be community assets. Marriott's row of vacant buildings north of L Street (which are awaiting rehab for the two small convention hotels make the street), for example, act as a major deterrent to pedestrians heading north on 9th Street, as they give off the impression that the commercial corridor is not open for business and is unsafe. The buildings could be adorned with public art -- such as a mural on the south facade and sculptures on the 9th Street upper facades -- that would turn them into eye-pleasing assets.

Our wonderful restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, and bars could surely benefit from additional convention foot traffic. Do you have any ideas for ways to attract convention goer business to our commercial corridors?


uncle jessie said...

Sure. The Washington Convention Center Authority (WCCA) should include Shaw/DC businesses inside during conventions. Write it into the contract - you want Starbucks? Fine, but you're also going to get local businesses as well.

In the same way that we push Ben's Chili Bowl half-smokes at Nat's games inside National Stadium, there should be Azi's coffee, Chatman's cupcakes/pie and Longview Gallery art inside the front doors. Give people a local choice to Starbucks coffee and the pre-made bagel/sandwich counter. People typically enjoy exploring local flavors while at conventions as it adds to the experience, and we should give it to them.

WCCA should also allow surrounding business to advertise inside the convention center during conventions, and to include materials inside convention packets. Most covention go-ers only ever come in through the front-doors or bus drop-off on M, and never have a chance at discovering surrounding businesses. I'm sure businesses would jump at the chance to include their adverts inside the official convention bag, and could incentivize folks to get out and explore - 25% off with a convention badge! Etc.

WCCA should re-route convention bus traffic farther up 9th St. so people get a chance to see the neighborhood some on their way in. Make the buses do a lap around first so folks see that there is stuff north of L street.

Though from what I've seen WCCA is either too disfunctional or doesn't give a rat's ass about the surrounding business community. Just seeing the way they handled filling and building out the spaces on the outside of the convention center tells me that.

So while they may give lip service to wanting to help, I doubt they'll do anything. And Jack Evans seems to be the same - lot's of talk, no action to promote small businesses around the convention center.

Shaw Rez said...

Great points as always, uncle J.