Businesses may get tax relief during construction

The city's streetscape projects are aimed at improving dozens of neighborhoods across the District. But the massive construction work often hurts local businesses caught behind jersey walls and construction cones. Now the city may fast-track a new incentive to provide some relief.

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Business owners reported revenue drops of up to 30 percent during construction on H Street. (Photo: TBD Staff)

"Anything that improves the area is good, but the question is how do you keep the businesses when you do a streetscape?" asked Lynn Skynear, who owns a small business.

Responding to owners worried about a drop in business, three councilmembers introduced a bill that would provide tax relief for businesses that suffer during streetscape construction. It would waive penalties and interest if property or city taxes are paid late.

"We wanted to find a way to support those businesses and I think it demonstrates that we want to keep these businesses in the District of Columbia,” said Ward 5 representative Harry Thomas.

“These businesses are suffering during construction. Some of them are not gonna make it,” said Jim Graham of Ward 1.

Streetscape projects are rebuilding busy corridors in Adams Morgan, along Georgia Avenue and elsewhere.

Concerned business owners point to H Street Northeast, where some businesses reported revenue dropped by 30-percent.

“These are ma and pa businesses. Ma and pa does more employing than anyone in the nation, but the first to go is ma and pa,” said Skynear.

Last year the city set aside money to compensate the hardest-hit businesses, but most of that was axed with budget cuts. The proposed tax incentive could be just what some owners need to weather the storm.

Councilmembers are hopeful the bill will be debated and passed into law by this summer.

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