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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 01/26/2011

Ward 6 received most development assistance, D.C. study shows

By Mike DeBonis and Jonathan O'Connell


Ward 6 received by far the most economic development assistance from the District government in the last fiscal year, followed by Ward 2, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis done by the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. The report is prompting D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown to call for greater investment in historically underdeveloped parts of the city.

The report [PDF], which D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi is set to present to his colleagues at a breakfast meeting this morning, was ordered as past of last year's budget legislation. It totals government incentives of more than $75,000 handed to for-profit and non-profit entities via debt financing, grants, tax breaks and other methods.

Totaled up, the amount of assistance is staggering: $326 million in fiscal 2010 alone, consisting of both outlays and foregone revenue. And legislation enacted in that period will cost the city about $804 million over the next 14 years.

Ward 6 received by far the most help -- $128.5 million in 2010 expenses, with an additional $385.7 million in the coming years. Ward 2, which includes the bulk of downtown Washington, came in second, with $58 million in fiscal 2010 assistance and another $137 million coming.

Ward 3, the city's most affluent, received very little aid -- only $1.1 million in 2010 and another $21 million in the ensuing years. But the poorest areas of the city, Wards 7 and 8, also received relatively little assistance -- getting about $50 million combined in 2010, with another $60 million by 2024.


Brown, who added language requiring the study to the 2011 city budget, said the findings showed that the city needs to expand investments in other neighborhoods. "I think what people want to know now is how do we make the same type of investments in Skyland, Poplar Point, Fort Lincoln and Georgia Avenue," he said.

Wards 6 and 2 benefited from being home to two of the city's biggest construction projects, the Nationals ballpark and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, for which the city issued bonds that it is still paying off.

In 2010, the city spent $32.1 million paying off the ballpark debt and $33.8 million paying off convention center debt. Ward 6 is also home to much of the city's new development, in neighborhoods like NoMa, Capital Riverfront, Southwest and Mount Vernon Triangle, much of which required public investment.

The ward's council member, Tommy Wells (D), said the expenditures reflect the expansion of downtown investment outside the traditional District core. "It really is part of the center city plan," he said "There's not much growth left in Ward 2." In future years, he said, Ward 6 will become a greater generator of tax revenue for the city thanks to the investment, making it an "economic engine that allows us to do the things we want to do."

In Ward 2, the District is still paying for incentives including those for Madame Tussauds wax museum and a new scoreboard for the Verizon Center.

Brown and Mayor Vincent Gray are both from Ward 7, east of the Anacostia River, and Brown said the two would be on the same page bringing incentives east.

"Working with a mayor who I have all the confidence in, we will make investments in areas that need it the most," he said.

By Mike DeBonis and Jonathan O'Connell  | January 26, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Natwar Gandhi, The District  
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