Housing Complex

Downtown to get Eco-fied

Green building activity downtown.

Hey, it's Earth Week! Which means everybody's rolling out their environmental initiatives and talking up their successes (Mayor Vince Gray is even holding his weekly press briefing outside tomorrow in honor of the occasion). Add another to the list: The Downtown Business Improvement District, which will announce plans on Thursday to create an "ecodistrict" across the 68 million square feet of office space, 6,000 residences, and more than a dozen cultural institutions.

"In so doing, the BID is making a commitment to organize major property owners within its area to take collective action to reduce the BID area’s carbon footprint and consumption of resources and, at the same time, increase market share and profitability," advance release copy reads.

In the ensuing bullet points, the BID talks about becoming a clearinghouse for information about sustainability, creating a network of property managers, "generating interest" among downtown property owners in purchasing green power, and working harder to improve parks and transportation options. The plan comes from a conference held last September around ecodistricts that took stock of where the District stood, environment-wise, and where it ought to go.

The other purpose, of course, is marketing: Tenants and residents are attracted to places they feel are clean, green, and comfy. "Declaring the DowntownDC BID area an EcoDistrict will engage more stakeholders, provide better measurements of success and boost marketing efforts," the release reads.

At the moment, the plan looks pretty aspirational, with lots of uses of the words "encourage," "partner," "facilitate," and "action-oriented working groups." That's in contrast to the National Capital Planning Commission's Southwest Ecodistrict initiative, which is probably a longer process, but also with potentially greater returns: It's easier when you only have to deal with a handful of propertyowners, the largest of which is the federal government. Unlike the feds, the Downtown BID can't force anybody to do anything, or fundamentally reshape their domain (though admittedly, downtown needs it less than L'Enfant Plaza).