Capital Region CATALYZE

Fresh Take ft. John Falcicchio

August 06, 2021 Greater Washington Partnership Season 1 Episode 14
Capital Region CATALYZE
Fresh Take ft. John Falcicchio
Show Notes Transcript

This interview featured John Falcicchio, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Washington, DC. JB and John discussed reopening, inclusive recovery, and equitable economic development in the District and the Capital Region. As Deputy Mayor, John oversees the District’s portfolio of real estate development projects that drive economic development in communities and deliver affordable housing, jobs, and amenities to residents.

Hosted by JB Holston.  Produced by Jenna Klym, Justin Matheson-Turner, Christian Rodriguez, and Nina Sharma. Edited by Christian Rodriguez. 

Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.

About our guest:

John Falcicchio serves as the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development in Washington, D.C. Mr. Falcicchio has also served as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff since the start of her Administration after volunteering as a campaign advisor and director of Mayor-elect Bowser’s transition. Mr. Falcicchio previously served as a Senior Vice President of DKC, a New York based public relations firm; as a Regional Political Director for the Democratic National Committee during the re-election of President Obama; and as a long-time aide to former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

As Deputy Mayor, Mr. Falcicchio oversees the District’s portfolio of real estate development projects that drive economic development in communities and deliver affordable housing, jobs and amenities to residents. Those projects include the transformative developments at the St Elizabeth’s East Campus, the Parks at Walter Reed and Hill East as well as dozens of other projects across all eight Wards.

John Falcicchio  0:00  
So we don't want folks to reimagine their office building and their retail while we reimagine the public space and those not happen in concert. So we've been trying to really think about how we create more placemaking so that people are drawn back to downtown

Nina Sharma  0:21  
Welcome to fresh take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region. These one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities, and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region.

JB Holston  0:41  
I am joined by Deputy Mayor John for Planning and Economic Development, John, Falcicchio. John, tell me if I pronounce your last name correctly. 

John Falcicchio  0:50  
I usually when people say how do you pronounce your name? I say John, but you got Falcicchio, Falcicchio right. 

JB Holston  0:56  
Okay, great. Yeah, I meant the John part. That was actually the part i was checking on. It's great to have you with us today. Thanks very much. This is our regular series called Fresh take where we talk to leaders in the region around the nation on issues relevant for the growth of this great region. And we're delighted to have John on today, John, I'm just gonna tell him a little bit about your background, and then we'll jump in. Johnny is Deputy Mary for mayor for Planning and Economic Development. He served as the mayor's Chief of Staff since the start of her administration here in the district. After volunteering his campaign advisor and director of her transition. He previously served as a senior vice president of DKC, and New York based public relations firm as a regional political director for the Democratic National Committee during the re election of President Obama, and as a longtime aide to former mayor Adrian Fenty, as deputy mayor. And Mr. Powell Tokyo's portfolio includes real estate development, driving economic development and communities and delivering affordable housing, jobs and amenities to residents. And there are innumerable transformational projects that I know you've been involved in, including, thank you for doing this, getting the council to agree to the comprehensive plan today. So congratulations on that news.

John Falcicchio  2:09  
Very kind of a team effort. But yes, Council passed a comprehensive plan, which is a great step forward for us, and really a way for us to focus the city about the future, which is so important in challenging times.

JB Holston  2:24  
Yeah, great. Well, we'll have a chance to dive in on that. But I thought we'd start John, by just talking a little bit about your background, if you don't mind. Just, you know, what brought you to this line of work? And how did you get to where you are? Because everyone has an interesting story. When we asked that question.

John Falcicchio  2:40  
I think part of it was probably watching a little bit too much West Wing. Growing up, I grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey, my parents were both public educators. And my dad used to get us involved in local campaigns, local politics, and it was almost like a hobby for my brothers. And my sister and I. And when I decided what I wanted to do, I wanted to come to Washington, DC to go to college. So I ended up at Catholic University, so very proud, along with Catholic University. And then I really wanted to get involved in politics and government. And I got involved in some national campaigns and some of the federal politics, but really fell in love with DC, politics and government as a way to really see the impact. And that's what I'm excited about being in the position I'm in now, really, to be able to help Mayor Bowser make a lasting impact on Washington, DC.

JB Holston  3:37  
Great. Well, thanks for that, and maybe talk for a minute about your portfolio, John, because it's quite broad. I know. It includes economic development, but it's, it's broader than that maybe talk a little bit about what all is in that portfolio.

John Falcicchio  3:49  
Yeah, so the Deputy Mayor for planning an economic development, my predecessor, Brian Kenner, I still have a sign on the wall that he put up, that said that our job was to make sure that we continue to create jobs, that we build affordable housing, and that we generate tax revenue. So if you think about those three items, if you stay focused on how does everything you're doing each day in advance one of those three items, and a lot of times it's a mult multiple of those items at the same time. But how do you advance those items, and if you stay focused on that, then you're gonna do a good job in this position. And we've got a great team. We talked about the comprehensive plan. Andrew Trueblood is a stellar planning director has really guided us through a really massive engagement of residents and stakeholders to get the comprehensive plan to where it is today. Being sent or being passed by the council and sent forward from there. We also really try to figure out how we can help them err with with what she's put forth as kind of our guiding principles. So we call it DC hope. So health, opportunity, prosperity. equity, and really equity, although it comes last in that order, it's really runs across all of those. And so what we try to do is figure out how we can find those opportunities to make our city more inclusive. And we do that by the jobs that we try to create, and the companies that we try to attract or retain. And so that's really, it's a broad portfolio because we have that opportunity to attract and retain companies to grow jobs to grow our tax revenue. But then we also have the real estate arm thrown out a wall is our real estate director. And we've done a lot of great solicitations that many people think of VC and say, wow, it's developed so much over the last few years over the last few decades. But there's so much more to go when you think about the recenter when we think about Heelys, and then I won't even get started on PowerPoint, because there's so much that can happen at a site like PowerPoint. Yeah,

JB Holston  5:59  
that's great. Well, thank you. Thank you for that. Let's let's talk a little bit about recovery. And, and maybe take it in order sort of, we've been jointly doing a lot of work in the partnership about reopening, we looked at testing a whole bunch of different things, work with some of your colleagues on how we can all step that up faster during the pandemic response. Now, there's a lot of focus on recovery, a lot of concern about about where we're going to go and then and those as the path toward inclusive growth, if we step through them. I know the district was, has been careful about the pace of reopening but but looks like that's really accelerated recently. Talk a little bit about you know, how you've been taking those decisions and where we are on that path?

John Falcicchio  6:42  
Yeah, so it's actually good that you start there, because really, it's about the response first. So our approach has always been gradual, and disciplined. You said, careful, I always say gradual and discipline, because we wanted our residents and our businesses know what direction we were going. And you know, a lot of folks wanted us to be open faster. And I definitely understand that. But we had to look at our own health metrics, our own vaccination rates, to really determine what was in the best interest of the city as a whole. And so I'm really proud that Mayor Bowser, and trust me, I got plenty of the calls. Sure, tweets and all that about, come on, guys, what are you waiting for to reopen everybody else's. And what we saw was that just waiting until we got further into the vaccination process, once it was accessible to everyone, we saw that those rates of vaccinations started to creep up to a place that we felt like, you know, it's still going to take a lot of work to get to where President Biden has laid out to 70%. But we're really on the pathway to get there. So that was the response, we needed to make sure that was underway. And then the recovery, I really, I mean, our team has been phenomenal. So we, through some funding from the federal government through local dollars, our reserves are really strong heading into the pandemic, we did relief that really pound for pound is really unmatched in the reader nation $155 million this past year, in grants to our businesses, those took many forms. The biggest one was the bridge fund, where we really looked at how we support our hotels, or restaurants, our retail, and then our event venues. And we really, Mayor Bowser actually came up with the name of the bridge fund, because she said at the end of 2020, that we really need to just help them hold on until we get to that vaccine, till we get to the vaccine is more fully deployed. Because in December, remember we had a vaccines, but it was a trickle. And so our team Sebata Lloyd Koch is our business development director. She actually her grants team didn't grow at all, they usually do about 15 to $30 million in grants a year. And just in COVID, grants alone did 155 million in this year. So really what our focus on was making sure that we made every opportunity available with the resources that we had, I'll be limited, but I again, pound for pound against the region against the nation really high. And then also we wanted to highlight the federal programs that businesses could apply for. And that is something we spent a lot of time doing. You mentioned before we started the session, I'll be in Ward eight, this afternoon, showcasing more to businesses, but then also really urging them to take advantage of the federal programs that are out there for

JB Holston  9:37  
right. Let's let's talk about the next few months for for those businesses and in particular for smaller for smaller businesses. You know, we've seen a lot of data about the number of small businesses that have either gone vacant, had to go on hiatus or you know, shut down and of course, those are disproportionately owned oftentimes by underrepresented groups or women. And what what, beyond just applying for the federal funding or applying for the short term funding? Are there things that the city is looking to do or that industry more broadly can do to kind of get more of them back faster. And then I want to talk a little bit about commercial real estate real estate prospects?

John Falcicchio  10:15  
Absolutely. So one of the things Mayor Bowser has been really focused on is how we spend the federal resources that we received recently. So as you know, we got shortchanged in the Cares Act that got made up for $755 million. And we got our portion as a state of the federal America exceeding the federal American rescue plan. So that means we have $2.2 billion. So we get to make sort of once in a generation or one stuff, lifetime investments in our small businesses. So one, Mayor Bowser presents her budget on May 27, she wants to be absolutely clear to our partners on the council. This is not the time to raise any taxes or fees, there's no need to do it, we have this federal resource. So one, the reason I say that is number one is because what we have to do is tell our business community that they're the conditions in which they have to operate as trying as they bid, the ones that we can dictate aren't going to change. Right. So that is first and foremost. And then what we're looking at with small businesses is how do we help them with tools like revolving loan funds, that allow them to really be, we'd be the one excuse me, the district coming government be the one to take on the risk in order to lend to small businesses that again, so they get through this time period, where access to capital may be trying, because grant programs are probably going to fade out, and they have the ability to borrow at low costs. That idea, though, is something that I still have to win over at the council. And so that's some of the work that we're going to do over the next couple of weeks to support our small businesses, one, make sure that the conditions stay the same, right, that they shouldn't have any burdens placed on them. And to that we find new opportunities for them to get access to capital, especially for women owned businesses, and businesses owned by people of color.

JB Holston  12:08  
That's great. Well, this is a topic that comes up a lot. John, for our members, many of whom, of course, are much larger employers and not not all of whom are necessarily just in the district, etc. But by I can't I can't overstate how concerned they are about the health of the small businesses around their offices as they return. So you know, anything we can be doing to help amplify that message. I know you get a lot of support from these folks,

John Falcicchio  12:35  
 If I could jump in just one other thing, too, I would say to folks, if you're watching this today, and you're watching this from home, you're not doing it right, we need you to come back to the office. Right. So hopefully, everybody who's watching has had the opportunity to get vaccinated. If you haven't, I want you to wait till you're fully vaccinated. But it's safe to come back to the office. And we have planned for months, we've asked businesses to make their return to work plans, now's the time to implement them. That's what's gonna really be the determining factor, whether that small business next year office survives.

JB Holston  13:06  
Yeah. Well, when I'm in our office, we're taking. I love those maps. Those are great. Thank you. Well, that's great. You can your eyes are better than my John. If you can see what those maps Yeah, no, that's great. Yeah, reflects the reason. But no, we're happily back. And we got a number of our folks back and increasing everyday.

John Falcicchio  13:23  
and listen, we know not everybody's gonna come back on the same day. Right. So we've had little incentives, we actually have this neat little idea that our team thought up, which is free coffee on Monday mornings 

JB Holston  13:33  
That made the rounds here very quickly, I will tell you,

John Falcicchio  13:35  
Absolutely. Everybody has a case of the Mondays I have it. Mayor Bowser never does, but I have it. And that's just a great opportunity for at 11am 10 local coffee shops around central business district folks can go get a cup of coffee for free. And then our hope is maybe they buy, you know, croissant or Danish or something to support that will go business as well. Of course, we're paying for the coffee, but it's free for you.

JB Holston  13:59  
That's great. You know, in addition to financial capital, I think one of the things that the pandemic pointed out is how critical other kinds of capital are for small businesses to thrive in the world of work, the new world of work that we're coming to things like digitization, 5g, etc. Any plans on those fronts?

John Falcicchio  14:16  
Yeah, it is something actually the mayor is keenly focused on how we build out our broadband infrastructure, enabling 5g, what we've actually talked to the companies in this space is we really want to start east of the river. And so if you have the opportunity to put in the fiber, use the river if you want to work through, you know, the process, it's a really multi step process. So one, we're trying to figure out how to collapse that a little bit better and coordinate amongst our agencies. But then to if you start east, we're excited for what that would mean for our residents there but also attracting businesses if that fiber is laid, and that 5g infrastructure is put in place We think it's a great way to really connect with, you know, our biggest employer use of the river is the Department of Homeland Security. And so we want to figure out how to get contractors who want to do business who interact with the department to locate piece of the river to also digitization two, we did a program, this was our business development team called the Resilience Fund. And we actually work with small businesses to figure out do you need, it was just a $10,000 grant. So quick grant program that we did $10,000. Maybe they used it to update their website, for, you know, for restaurants, maybe they put in contact ordering system, contactless ordering system, or payment system. And so those little grants are really important to help businesses come up with that capital in order to digitize. So we'll look to emulate that in the future as well. Yeah,

JB Holston  15:52  
that's great. Thank you. You know, one other topic that comes up around the question of reopening and recovery courses, schools, the sooner we can get them fully back, the easier it is for everyone to get back to work. And I know that you know, that path has been fraught around the country. Lots of good and valid reasons. How are you folks thinking about that for the fall?

John Falcicchio  16:15  
Yeah, so Mayor Biwser has been clear, our students should be back in the classroom in the fall, there are probably some very limited cases where students have actually learned better outside of the classroom in the virtual setting. And so we'll have a process that students can go families and students can go through if they want to try to exercise that option. However, the best place for students to learn is inside the classroom. It's hard to look at a screen all day You know it yourself, and really, to engage, especially when we're on the screen with multiple people, and trying to absorb content that's really can be complicated and challenging for students. So getting students back in the classroom, it's important. One thing I'd say too, is, you know, our universities are a huge part of our economy, both for the students that they draw, but also just sort of that vibrancy in our city. And so one of the things that we're really proud of is that our universities have stepped up and put in place a vaccine mandate, which we think is really important for us to get everybody back safely. Come the fall semester.

JB Holston  17:21  
Yep. Yeah, we would we concur. A lot of the organization's as you know, are also talking about whether or not there should be something like a passport or some kind of validation. I know, it's another fraud issue. That's that's difficult to attack on too fragmented basis.

John Falcicchio  17:34  
Yeah, I think the the opportunity for a passport system is really an opportunity for the federal government. If they were to put one in place, I think it has the potential. I have seen some consumer driven opportunities, like with clear, convey that, you know, speeding through TSA, doing sort of like vaccine only flights and things like that experimenting with that. I do think that there is an opportunity right now to sort of monetize health verticals, right. So if you're a business and you say all of our staff is vaccinated, all of our staff will wear a mask during your visit, I think people are going to look to those businesses and maybe pick them because they offer that almost as an advantage.

JB Holston  18:17  
Yeah. John, let's talk a little bit about sort of post immediate recovery and the return to commercial real estate in the prospects for that in the region. You know, it does look like the consensus is that most businesses, least those that can will be hybrid, for the long term that, you know, we'll have a couple of days a week, pick a number, where folks are not going to necessarily be commuting into work, etc. How are you? How are you folks thinking about about that at this point? And what's the talk a little bit about the impact for the district if we move more toward that model for those workers that can do it?

John Falcicchio  18:51  
Yeah, so we worked with some of our partners in the private sectors, federal city council, some of our bids, to really engage with some of our consulting companies in the region and looked at a sector analysis, those that studied, like the federal workforce, so there's 100 370,000 federal workers in the region, 197,000 of them come to the district each and every day pre pandemic. We need those workers to come back because they spend between 30 and $40 a day in our local economy. So we need them to come back. So we've been advocating with the federal government to at least put a plan in place for when workers would return. We think that's important. And I think that, you know, there are you mentioned schools, there's also childcare hurdles, we want to make sure that childcare centers have the ability to open. We're putting out our health guidance for child care centers as we go into this next stage of the pandemic response. It's important that they open in order to make sure that that resource is there for families, but for us, it's really about getting more customers, more consumers downtown. The only way we do that is having people Come back to the office. So we don't know yet what the split is going to be. Listen, some have said that Washington DC is a town of student council presidents, their earnest, they work hard. So we think a lot of people will come back to the office in ways that they might not in other cities. But really, we're in a town that's built on relationships. And in order to have those relationships, a lot of it has to be done in person, those relationships are kind of the currency of Washington, DC. So it's important for people to come back. And what we offer is a chance to be close to that proximity to the federal government. So when we think about how we fill up our office space, we think about the feds, both the federal government and those who work with the federal government meds and EDS. We think those are the opportunities for us to fill up office space, and make sure office utilization is something that helps us support small businesses. Yeah.

JB Holston  20:57  
Thanks. It's helpful. Let's talk we can a little bit about the innovation economy. And you know, that the relationship of the growth of that economy or that part of the economy, to the district, Northern Virginia courses kind of been on fire around that for for some period of time. How do you think about the opportunities for the district to, to really grow? The the, you know, I'll break it into two parts, the sort of fast growth, let's talk about the fast growth, you know, high profile, high opportunity, innovation kinds of companies first?

John Falcicchio  21:30  
Yeah, so I think there is, what we have the ability to do is, you know, it's hard for us, I think, to compete with the Dulles corridor and to 70, right, I don't think that we can ever be those corridors. But what we do offer is the opportunity for those high growth industries to actually have their policy folks, and maybe even some of their C suite here, because really, you know, the expression that when it comes to you're either, you know, at the table, you're on the menu, right, so those businesses really need to be here, especially when they're an emerging business, we've got one, I can't say it just yet, that's going to be on 16th. Street, we're really excited to have him here, because it's really an industry that is an industry of the future. So we're excited to have them kind of, we'll be able to talk about that more as we get closer to the fall. But they're going to have their headquarters here, their engineering folks will be on the west coast. But what's really important is that they're here because their presence is close to you want to be close to your regulator or your customer. That's what the federal government is for a lot of these high growth industries. And then we're going to also look at how we do place meaning making with innovation districts, I already mentioned where they get the St. Elizabeth campus, which is right across the street from Department of Homeland Security. The Golden Triangle bid is talking about having an innovation district, which we're really excited to explore that with them. And then I pointed out Walter Reed as well, which is another place for innovation, where we have Children's Hospital, which has a large presence, it's going to have its research presence there in partnership with Johnson and Johnson, which will have a J Labs, which will be an incubator for how we actually create companies that are looking to start up in that healthcare that health tech, biotech space.

JB Holston  23:16  
Yeah. Are two of our partners, you mentioned, Ed, include the presidents of Georgetown, and Howard, and certainly a lot of the conversation with those folks are about growing a place based local innovation, set of opportunities that, you know, the Innovation Campus is wonderful across the way but something close is absolutely.

John Falcicchio  23:38  
And those opportunities exist. What is really exciting is we've got focused attention for how we create that better normal and that innovation placemaking, that's going to be so important to draw people back into the district.

JB Holston  23:54  
We've talked, we at the partnership, we've got a big focus on what we're calling inclusive growth, John, and it's, you know, sort of picking both terms intentionally inclusion for all the reasons that you were mentioning, and then grow through the obvious for the obvious reasons. And it does, it does seem that if we can figure out how to provide the intersection of those two as opportunity for those who have not had that opportunity, that is a huge differential opportunity for the region. You know, we're, I'm sure you've seen the data that we've been doing a lot of work with McKinsey, which will say there's billions left on the table in the economy every year because of those inequities. But if you think about the sort of those innovation, economy opportunities, and Ward seven and more data, in particular, what does that intersection look like? How do we how do we how do we how do we create that opportunity as a pathway, or for people who live there?

John Falcicchio  24:44  
Yeah, I think one of the biggest challenges for the region is our lack of venture capital. So what we're thinking about is how we actually create access to capital in other ways. So we took a run at an inclusive innovation A fun couple of years ago, it didn't go too well, because we couldn't invest directly in companies, we couldn't take any position. Right. So we actually went back to the council, we worked with them again to actually change the law, so that our our dollars could actually be invested as an equity stake in those companies. And we've actually just put out the solicitation for our inclusive innovation equity fund in order for us to do that. So I think that access to capital is the big kind of linchpin for what businesses that are startups award seven and eight really need. We also, I don't know if you heard when the mayor once testified about statehood, there was we don't have an airport, we don't have a car dealership, we don't have manufacturing. Well, DC actually does have manufacturing. So one of the things we've invested in at dem pet is local manufacturing. So sparkling cook came to me and said, I want to put up a million dollars to see who comes to us to create local manufacturing jobs. And we had a number of great proposals, and we just funded those right now. One of them is a owned by a black woman who's going to create a beauty product manufacturing center, right, in Ward seven, we need to find ways to give people access to capital that traditionally have been turned away.

JB Holston  26:20  
Yeah, we've been working on a couple of initiatives. And of course, we'll sync up on this, John when we can but one is, since we have a lot of big financial institutions, as partners in the partnership, looking at the CDFI and MDI industry and seeing what we can do it can we as a region kind of become the, you know, the lead, yeah, category, strong commitment from from our partners to figure out how we can how we can help do that. And the fund idea has come up to, you know, a number of partnerships like this one in other parts of the country have created funds. There's a fun for New York City, for example, about $160 million fund that was created about 15 years ago, that had been highly successful. And so the partnership has started to explore that. In fact, that's an exploration that we're doing the Georgetown. So it'll be good to see if there are ways we can be accelerating together for charities,

John Falcicchio  27:10  
and Georgetown's already been doing some great work in this space. So if there's ways we can partner on that, I'd love to continue that conversation.

JB Holston  27:18  
Yeah, we'll do that. We'll take everyone in this audience has time and you and I will figure it out. And then they can then they can pick us about the capitals. Gosh, versus versus Boston? Well, that's great. That's helpful. Um, let me shift gears a little bit. Talk about transportation, Union Station in purchases. How are you folks thinking about about that project? Obviously, it's, it's an important part of the ecosystem, the transportation ecosystem for

John Falcicchio  27:44  
the region? No, absolutely. And it actually, I mean, gives us the opportunity to connect to the whole eastern seaboard in a way that few really appreciate. So we are really at the heart of the Washington de Boston corridor, the Sella corridor. And I think we are working with the Union Station redevelopment Corporation, with the federal rail administration, US Department of Transportation, really to make sure that we can realize the potential of Union Station, there's an opportunity to create a great amount of development that really links in with the neighborhood around it, in order to make sure that it sees a transportation hub. But it's also part of that placemaking economic vibrancy adds to the economic vibrancy, but making a place that's kind of unique. folks don't realize that Union Station gets as many visitors as our airports combined. At one time it rival the number of visitors to the Las Vegas Strip. I will say that's a great statistic. It probably is not as crazy as what happens on the Las Vegas Strip day to day. But nonetheless, there's a lot of visitors that come through Union Station, and we can actually capture some of those visitors right there if we really realize the development potential for the rest of the Union Station site. For folks who are thinking about where the heck are you talking? If you were on an SL and you were heading to New York, right, as you pull out of the station, there's some air rights that really could be developed and create like I said, some vibrancy link better with a neighborhood and really create a placemaking. That's special. Like what you saw what happened in New York? With Penn Station?

JB Holston  29:32  
Yeah, yeah. What when they were hearing about is it kind of in the new world of work in a more hybrid model, there may be an opportunity to look at some of the traditional commercial real estate and open it up for a multiplicity of uses that are a little bit different. You know, a lot of the companies are just short term looking to provide a lot more of entities, for example, to their employees, daycare, things like that, but we are hearing a lot about, you know, conversations about Gee, can you take a building that was historically just commercial real estate and kind of rethink it in turn? have various kinds of things that may go on there, or is that something you're hearing as well, John?

John Falcicchio  30:05  
Yeah, absolutely. So we actually have been talking to a lot of our stakeholders. And we really do. I mentioned the bids a couple times today, we really do rely on the bids to talk to those property owners and make sure that everybody loves to use the term reimagine. So we don't want folks to reimagine their office building and their retail while we reimagine the public space, and those not happen in concert. So we've been trying to really think about how we create more placemaking so that people are drawn back to downtown, not just to go to the office, like you're alluding to, but also to have like an experience, right, that you could have those amenities like childcare, but maybe you have some of the other things are looking for, and what we're doing as a government, you know, Mayor Bowser has really pushed us to look east of the river. Because we think of the recenter. And what it did for 14, can you how do we do that use of the river. But what we do is we actually do surveys with our employees, when their agency is going to move to find out what amenities they're looking for. I think your members are probably doing the same. And I think there is an opportunity to really link the public space in front of these properties, with those great amenities are being added. So it's something I want to work with your members on for sure.

JB Holston  31:17  
Great. You mentioned east of the river a couple of times, of course, it's a it's a it's a great opportunity in many ways. But what's the what would you say this, if you could wave a magic wand? What one thing would you do to accelerate the opportunity out there?

John Falcicchio  31:31  
Well, I don't usually get a magic wand so that

JB Holston  31:36  
you get a meeting, you get a zoom call,

John Falcicchio  31:39  
it's usually a lot of work. But I think the you know, the thing that we're looking to do is if you look at sort of head branch, which is Pennsylvania Avenue, branch Avenue, there's a shopping center there, if you look at the density of housing around that shopping center, you basically have to go out about over a mile, maybe two miles to get the same density of residents that you would in Dupont Circle. So when people look to Dupont Circle, they say, Well, why do they have a couple different food access points. And Penn branch, we're having trouble, or actually, they've had great success recently, filling their retail space, because there's not a customer base. So that's why it's so important for us to create more economic vibrancy east of the river by moving our offices there just to create that daytime traffic, more demand for those amenities. And that's how we'll drop manatees east of the river. So for me, I don't know that that's a specific answer to the magic wand. But I do think that our hurdle is actually creating that sort of density. And we can do it without displacement, we want to do it in a way that actually adds to the experience that the residents have the quality of life that the residents have, who live there now. And we think that bringing more of our office there, bring other Office users east of the river actually provides an opportunity to enhance the quality of life for the residents who were there now.

JB Holston  33:02  
Yeah. You mentioned statehood. Let's just talk a little bit about that. What what what would change in terms of you know, what you do, right, or what the administration does, if we were to become a state? What would be the big changes for for the work?

John Falcicchio  33:20  
Yeah, I mean, I think it would be a lot easier for us to interact with the federal government. I, we are really blessed to have Eleanor Holmes Norton, as our congressional delegate, and the amount of work she gets done without a vote is really impressive. However, to really move kind of the federal agencies the way you need to, it's important to have two senators and a representative in the house. And so that would be really key for us. And then when we think about, like, funding for Metro. Well, right now, our congressional delegation does a great job at advocating for that, that dedicated funding is really important to the success of Metro. But instead of the region having just four senators, if DC had to as well, you'd have six advocating for the district and the region to get what it deserves. And so for us, that's what really see, we also see it on a day to day. I'm at the Wilson building right now, if you look outside my window, you can see that the sidewalks are controlled by the National Park Service. The street is actually controlled by the district. And then if you look at the other side of the street, the sidewalk again, and freedom Plaza is controlled by the National Park Service. That coordination is something that I think would get a little bit more streamlined if we had DC statehood. And so that's why I'm glad you brought it up because if I didn't bring it up in the session, Mayor Bowser and Emily Perry would come find me.

JB Holston  34:50  
Well, certainly, if it's the year of infrastructure, perhaps it'll be the year of statehood.

John Falcicchio  34:55  
Amen. Amen.

JB Holston  34:58  
John, if you look back at the last year You know, we all, you all of this went on much longer and was much deeper as much more difficult than I think anybody anticipated. But what did you learn as a leader by virtue of what we had to go through over the last year?

John Falcicchio  35:12  
Yeah, well, I know I've mentioned our team a couple of times, I really think it's been amazing. It's kind of what we were able to pull together and get done. You know, none of us had been through a global pandemic, before. And so when I say to folks, you know, we're kind of making it up as we go to, it sounds like it diminishes it. But what I'm really saying is, there's actually a lot of creative people who are really dedicated to make sure that the district's succeeds. And this one this year was so trying, because not only did we have a pandemic, we had a very public conversation about racial equity. And we also had a leader who is in the White House who is outright belligerent towards the District of Columbia. And so mer bows are stood tall through all that. So I think that I like to say that, you know, we're up for any challenge that's thrown our way. But we don't need any more to prove it. Right. So really, for us, the team has just been tremendous. And I think that we really can come together I give the example of this is really kind of a simple thing. But you know, we have advisory neighborhood commissions in DC. And when this concept of St. Mary's came to be, we actually said, even though we're in emergency, let's actually go to the agencies get their approval so that they approve each Sheree. And we have by the community. And we actually got chased away from the by the agencies, and they said, We don't want to approve everyone, we wanted to do everything you can, in order to support that small business, right. And our agencies actually made the approval process seamless for restaurant tours. And so what we need to do is take that same spirit of cooperation, and that sort of sense of community and carry it beyond the pandemic. So I'm excited that we were able to get that done. But I'm really think that the challenge for all of us is to see how we carry it beyond that.

JB Holston  37:08  
Yeah. That's a nice little segue to the back to the Comprehensive Plan, which is somewhat where we started. But talk to folks about what what will change now that that's that that's passed? How should what should folks look forward to as different?

John Falcicchio  37:22  
Yeah, so one of the things that was really challenging when we came into office is Mayor Bowser wanted us to advance housing. So we have this goal 36,000 new units of housing 12,000 of which need to be affordable, and by 2025. But one of the things that scared the development community was PUD challenges. So what we did with this comprehensive plan was we actually tighten the language about who has standing when it comes to PDS and how the community when we say the community that the community actually benefits from that process. So that was really important to do. And it gives certainty to to both the Zoning Commission but also to the Court of Appeals, that projects should be able to advance. And so there were also some definitions and things like that, which had to be kind of streamlined and made clear, so that the court knew the mayor, the council's intent, before it went to the Zoning Commission. And then ultimately, hopefully, it doesn't have to go to the court of appeals. But when it does, the intent is clear. And so that was really what was important about the top plan, in addition to the future land use map. So there's new opportunities for height and density, along corridors that really could use a sprucing up, like the New York Avenue Northeast Corridor, that really is an opportunity now with this new comp plan for us to create housing for us to create a more vibrant corridor that really is kind of the gateway into the district for many who drive from north of the city into DC. So the Comprehensive Plan is a great tool. But we still need to go through zoning process, nothing changes immediately today when it comes to zoning. So we have to go through a process. But we're excited that it's it's been a little bit too long in the making. But we're excited to move forward with it now.

JB Holston  39:11  
That's great. Thanks for that. You mentioned just to talk about some of the quarters, you know, affordable housing sustainability, resilience, greater density in certain areas where it's, it's possible to do is clearly part of the way to get there. This may all be in the comprehensive plan, and if so forgive me, but how tightly defined is that for those areas for those quarters that could become more dense? Is does a comprehensive plan to speak to the area or does it really talk to the volumes etc?

John Falcicchio  39:41  
Yeah, so the comprehensive plan actually speaks to updates the future land use map, then in order to realize the new height, potential height and density of that potential sites really needs to go before the Zoning Commission. So there's still a process there's still an opportunity for community input, which is critically important. To make sure that it matches the community knew your Avenue Northeast is a good example of where we see a lot of potential. But also, if you've been to Friendship Heights lately, we need to really think about how we move forward with that. I know councilmember che wants us to do what we call a small area plan, which further really gets the emphasis on the engagement out what should happen there. But I think that with the comprehensive plan behind us that again, the biggest thing that it gave our development community is certainty about what happens over the next few years. The next update won't be until it gets 25 or 26. Go read the Council of the council passed today in order to confirm that, but gives us some certainty for those projects to get underway.

JB Holston  40:49  
Right. That's great. Well, John, if another magic wand question, then we'll we'll let you get back to it. And thank you again for your time today. But we're talking to a lot of companies from around the world who are who are actively thinking about HQ two kinds of decisions. And the fact that the federal government is a different federal government is causing many of them to think more faster and harder about this this general area, as we're making our pitches to, you know, to those to those companies, what you mentioned a couple of these things. But you know, how do you how would you characterize the attractiveness of the region, not just the district, but the region? For companies that are thinking about this area?

John Falcicchio  41:35  
Well, listen, we haven't mentioned that yet. But, you know, this region is one of the most highly educated in the country and really the world. So if you're looking for a talent pool, DC, this region is a great place to locate. That is one thing that I know, businesses, like you said, from around the world are looking for, where's the talent pool? Well, you don't have to import it, because it's already here. So if you bring your company here, you'll find you'll find the talent pool. Our universities are also second to none. Mayor Bowser likes to say that DC is Boston without the cold. We have those research institutions, right. Without the cold and snow. We have those research universities here. We're gaining even more of them. The presence that John Hopkins is going to have right down the street from us on Contini Avenue, what Virginia Tech is doing in Northern Virginia, investments that they made at the University of Maryland, we really have an ecosystem here that can allow businesses to grow and grow right here. So the talent pool is here. And the research and innovation opportunities are also here. And that is before we even get to your customer and your regulator, the federal government is here as well. And like we talked about earlier, DC is a city where an region where relationships are a currency in and of themselves. And so you want to be here in order to make sure that your presence is known, and that you have an opportunity to work with the federal government.

JB Holston  43:08  
Yeah. One thing we're finding in these conversations is that the next generation of their workers, feels like they're going to have a lot more flexibility in terms of determining where they're going to work. And so are really looking for things like commitments to inclusion and diversity and equity on the part of not just the company, but the region. And so one of the things we're certainly seeing is, look, this region is fundamentally very diverse, and has been on the inclusion and equity path for a long time. So, you know, there's a lot of advantage for that next generation looking to be supported in mission driven organizations, but around that mission generally.

John Falcicchio  43:46  
No, absolutely. We are inclusive and diversity. We talk a lot about DC values. I think those align with a lot of the kind of employers that you're talking about. And we also, one thing that we're really keen on to is how we treat our environment and what our contribution is to it. DC is a leader in that and I know the rest of the region is right along with us on it.

JB Holston  44:11  
Yeah. Well, my guest has been John Tukey. Tokyo. He's the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the District of Columbia. John has been terrific having the conversation with you today. Thanks so much for the time.

John Falcicchio  44:21  
Absolutely. Thank you and I look forward to seeing everybody in person again soon.

JB Holston  44:26  
Yeah, we'll look forward to doing that as well. Thanks, John.

Nina Sharma  44:33  
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb, Justin Matheson Turner, Christian Rodriguez and Nina Sharma. If you liked what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington

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