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Mayor Bowser Launches Pop-Up Permit Program to Activate Vacant Spaces and Bring More People to Downtown DC

Monday, April 22, 2024
Mayor’s FY25 Budget Includes Significant Investments to Support the Continued Transformation of Downtown

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser launched a new Pop-Up Permitting (PUPs) pilot program that will make it easier for entrepreneurs to transform vacant storefronts in Downtown DC. The PUPs program, developed and administered by the Department of Buildings (DOB), will enable customers to secure a streamlined Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for temporary use of a previously vacant building without going through the traditional permitting process. 

“A vibrant and dynamic Downtown benefits our entire city,” said Mayor Bowser. “Pop-ups not only help fill empty spaces – they represent an opportunity for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses by tapping into new audiences and for our creatives to activate low-cost, flexible spaces.”  

The permit pilot will support the transformation of vacant spaces for up to one year into vibrant new uses that require minimal to no construction. The process will include prequalification, review by DOB, and a DOB inspection. During the pilot, the initial review timeframe will be completed in 15 business days or less. For more information, visit dob.dc.gov/pop-up-permits
 
“DOB is at the center of the District’s growth as a catalyst for economic development, maintaining a safe built environment and delivering vital services to residents, businesses, and visitors, which are top priorities of the Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure,” said DOB Director Brian Hanlon. “Through our new accelerated Pop-Up Permits process, we are collaborating with creators and the business community to bring vacant properties back into safe and productive uses that benefit the community.” 

Mayor Bowser’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget includes significant investments in the continued transformation of Downtown DC, including: 

  • $2.5 million to support pop-up and short-term retail in vacant commercial spaces Downtown 
  • $5 million for the Vitality Fund, which provides grants to businesses in high-growth sectors 
  • $5.25 million to support World Pride 2025 
  • $5 million to create a new Downtown Arts Hub, a flexible, multi-use space for theatre, dance, music, and visual arts organizations 
  • $3 million for DMPED’s Festival Fund, to continue making it easier for organizations to host festivals and to support the attraction of art fairs and go-go music festivals Downtown 
  • $2.6 million to activate the Gallery Place Festival Plaza, Dupont Crown Park, and I Street Greenway 
  • $26 million to implement the Business and Entrepreneurship Support to Thrive (BEST) Act that will streamline business licensing 

The PUPs program was announced at a currently vacant storefront in the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District that will be transformed as part of Capital Fringe, an annual community-driven arts festival that celebrates cultural democracy and access to art and artistic expression for all. This year, Capital Fringe will take place from July 9 through July 21.

“Since its founding in 2005, Capital Fringe has transformed vacant properties into small theatres, welcoming over 400,000 audience members and generating $2.7 million in artist ticket revenue. There is a transformative power of breathing life into unused spaces and we commend the mayor’s plan to enhance our city's vibrancy by creating an accessible permitting pathway that will enable artists to create spaces for live performances or whatever they dare to dream up,” said Julianne Brienza, Founding Director of Capital Fringe.

Mayor Bowser also announced that this year’s Art All Night, DC’s annual celebration of art and artists, will take place on Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28. Featuring activations in all eight wards, Art All Night highlights a diverse range of artists and creatives from across DC. For more information on Art All Night activations, visit dcartallnight.org.  
 

Mayor Bowser X: @MayorBowser
Mayor Bowser Instagram: @Mayor_Bowser
Mayor Bowser Facebook: facebook.com/MayorMurielBowser
Mayor Bowser YouTube: https://www.bit.ly/eomvideos