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Pop-ups program aims to breathe new life into DC’s vacant storefronts

D.C. leaders announced a new program to accelerate approval for pop-up businesses at a currently vacant storefront in Northwest that will soon be transformed into a pop-up as part of Capital Fringe, an annual arts festival.

No one likes the look of a vacant storefront, which is why D.C. is working to fill those spaces by luring pop-up businesses, making it easier for them to set up shop more quickly.

City leaders Monday unveiled a new aimed at removing red tape for entrepreneurs who want to transform vacant storefronts, specifically in the downtown area.

“We are laser-focused on being a catalyst for economic development,” said Brian Hanlon, director of the D.C. Department of Buildings, which is carrying out the program.

It allows business owners to get a streamlined certificate of occupancy for temporary use of a vacant building for up to one year.

Through the pop-up program, business owners don’t have to go through the traditional permitting process.

“The activation of vacant space with exciting and creative pop-up opportunities brings life and additional vibrancy to the District,” Hanlon said. “We’ll continue to innovate and seek ways to streamline processes to make stuff like this happen.”

The process will include prequalification and an inspection by the department of buildings, which officials said would take 15 days or less.

“The goal is to accelerate the permitting timeline for activation of vacant spaces while still ensuring safety,” Hanlon said. “Businesses need to maximize the time that they are open to customers, and that, of course, means minimizing the friction that it takes to get there.”

For now, the streamlined permits are being offered only in the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District and the DowntownDC Business Improvement District.

The Golden Triangle BID is a 44-square-block neighborhood that stretches from Dupont Circle to Pennsylvania Avenue, while the DowntownDC BID is a 140-block area from Massachusetts Avenue Northwest on the north to Constitution Avenue Northwest on the south and from Louisiana Avenue Northwest on the east to 16th Street on the west.

Officials announced the new program at a currently vacant storefront in Northwest on Connecticut Avenue near L Street that will soon be transformed into a pop-up as part of Capital Fringe, an annual arts festival.

Capital Fringe will take place from July 9-21.

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