Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 25 2016

How One Destination Is Delivering More Outside The Convention District

Jeanna Hofmeister

Convention and leisure travel are more intrinsically connected than many meeting planners and destination marketers might believe. It’s no surprise that attendees frequently extend their stays or turn their conference trips into vacations. And naturally, a positive all-around conference experience can boost registration for future events. But surprisingly, according to the recent Decision To Attend Study, your attendees’ experiences outside the conference have the greatest potential to turn a one-time traveler into a repeat leisure tourist. That’s why savvy destination developers are doing more than just shining attention on convention districts and event facilities; they’re also working hard to shape the neighborhoods that surround them. A good example is Events DC, an organization that’s fueling an urban evolution and has created a renewed energy across the nation’s capital, from the city’s vibrant core to its diverse neighborhoods.

In fact, there’s hardly a conversation about Washington, DC (outside of politics and the election, of course) that doesn’t involve the renaissance of the District’s historic neighborhoods. Three standouts surround not just the city’s key convention space, but existing and future venues that will set the city apart when it comes to destination experiences.



0.7 miles from the Convention Center
Growing neighborhood for foodies and retail shoppers alike

Shaw feels intimate, much like a small town, despite the fact that it’s adjacent to the 2.3 million square foot Walter E. Washington Convention Center. More than just a meeting facility, over time, the Center has become an anchor for the historically significant neighborhood. From farmers’ markets and trendy restaurants, to hop bars and cool galleries all within walking distance, that new vitality is easily approachable after conference programs end. A host of new retail tenants connected to the exterior of the Convention Center are set to open this summer and will make the transition seamless from session to relaxation. 

“Leasing out the Walter E. Washington Convention Center’s retail spaces will further invigorate the Shaw neighborhood – and act as a prime example of how small businesses drive the growth of a city,” said Max Brown, chairman of the Board of Directors for Events DC.  Additionally, the city is creating a new convention and entertainment district to better connect downtown to this distinctive neighborhood.

Both hip and historic, one of my favorite Shaw neighborhood assets has to be the Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square. This gorgeous building is an interesting complement to the ultra-modern Convention Center, located just across the street. With awe-inspiring architecture, ornate rooms, and a beautiful exterior plaza, this venue was the perfect choice a few years back when I hosted a winemaker’s dinner in the city, as it can easily transform for intimate or intermediate sized events.  


Capitol Hill/Hill East

3.7 miles from the Convention Center
1.2 miles from RFK Stadium-Armory
Historic neighborhood and home to some of the nation’s top restaurants

The big story for the Capitol Hill/Hill East neighborhood is at the intersection of the past and the future - most notably in the redevelopment of the RFK Stadium-Armory Campus. The 190-acre space, formerly home to the Washington Redskins and currently home to D.C. United, is being reimagined to include attractions, green space and amenities that will invite both residents and visitors to play together. Development plans, while not final, may include a sports and entertainment complex, a cultural or science center, farmers’ market, urban beach, running trails, an aquatic complex and water taxi access. This area and the proposed amenities it will offer will create a new sense of neighborhood that’s been missing in this area.


Congress Heights

6.2 miles from the Convention Center

0.5 miles from Gateway DC
Vibrant cultural district located on the Anacostia River

Right in the heart of Congress Heights, Gateway DC, is an innovative and unique state-of-the art park and pavilion on the St. Elizabeths East campus. Key to the rebirth of this neighborhood, the pavilion provides a venue for casual dining, a farmers’ market hosted by Whole Foods, and other weekend and after-hours, community, cultural and arts events like the recent Broccoli City Festival that promoted health and sustainability with music. Adding to the excitement for Congress Heights has been the announcement of an Entertainment & Sports Arena that will become the new home to the WNBA Washington Mystics and a practice facility for the NBA Washington Wizards.

“The addition of Gateway DC to our portfolio will not only act as a catalyst of growth for DC’s communities east of the Anacostia River and a complement to the future Entertainment and Sports Arena plans – but will ultimately enhance the diversity of Events DC’s portfolio and provide event organizers with greater opportunities to create even more unique experiences and event programming for residents and visitors alike,” says Brown.

Events DC Brings It All Together

Events DC is more than just venues, meetings, sports matches or cultural events - they forge all of those things together to keep Washington, DC’s economic engine running strong while providing positive community benefits for their neighborhoods and their residents to thrive. 

This article is brought to you by Events DC. Events DC is the face of conventions, sports, entertainment and cultural events within our nation’s capital.  As the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, Events DC leverages the beauty, history and diversity of the most powerful city in the world to attract and promote an extensive variety of events, resulting in amazing experiences for residents and visitors alike, and generating economic and community benefits for the city. Find out more at http://www.eventsdc.com/.


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