News & Politics

95 Percent of Downtown DC Office Workers Worked From Home This Summer

A new report shows just how much the pandemic has affected the downtown core's economy.

Downtown in April 2020. Photograph by Elan Irving/iStock.
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

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Only 5 percent of office workers in downtown DC were in their workplaces at the end of July, according to a new report from the DowntownDC BID. Economic activity in downtown DC, it found, was 12 percent of what it was the year before.

What does startling drop-off mean for businesses in downtown? According to the report:

• Restaurant sales are 20 to 40 percent of what they were a year ago

• Sales at destination stores were 30 to 50 percent of what they were in 2019

• While DC has seen some restaurant openings, those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Quite a few shops and restaurants have closed in downtown since the beginning of the year, including big names like Momofuku, Fado Irish Pub, and Uniqlo.

• Entertainment revenue has dropped to zero with Capital One Arena, seven of downtown’s eight museums, and theater vanishing

• Hotel occupancy was 8 percent in June. That was actually an improvement over April, when it was 3 percent. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center will remain closed through at least the end of this year

• The brightest sector in an otherwise bleak report was housing downtown. Condo prices rose from $617 per square foot in 2019 to $663 per square foot in the first half of 2020. Apartment rents and vacancy fell, which the report takes care to note is “due to the significant new supply coming online (not mass departures to the suburbs)”

The report says the BID expects office occupancy to increase to 20 to 50 percent by the end of the year, but that it’s “very likely that the DowntownDC will continue at a low level of economic activity for the next few months.”

You can read the full report here.

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Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.

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