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Opportunity Zones in Washington, DC

Mayor Bowser Nominates Opportunity Zones in DC

Created in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones is a new federal program that provides tax incentives for investments in new businesses and commercial projects in low-income communities. On April 2018, Mayor Bowser nominated 25 census tracts to be Opportunity Zones. The U.S. Department of Treasury certified these tracts on May 18, 2018. 

Status as of February 2019
Treasury released proposed implementation regulations on October 19, 2018 and the Internal Revenue Service held a public hearing on these regulations on February 14, 2019. Treasury has said it will release additional guidance covering reporting requirements, among other topics.

On December 12, 2018, the White House established a 13-agency council that will streamline, coordinate, and target existing federal programs to economically distressed areas, including Opportunity Zones.

How OZ Can Work for DC Businesses and Entrepreneurs
While significant regulatory questions remain, OZ has the potential to create new investment opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs located in designated zones. On February 26, 2019, the DC Chamber of Commerce and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) held a discussion with local businesses and OZ experts about how OZ could work for businesses. We will post the video recording of the workshop in the coming weeks. Click here to download the “Opportunity Zones 101” presentation prepared by the Milken Institute.

Desired Outcomes of Opportunity Zone Investment in DC

  • Deliver new amenities, such as community-serving retail and fresh food grocers
  • Increase affordable and workforce housing
  • Capitalize DC small businesses
  • Create jobs for DC residents and pathways to the middle class

Tools Available to Support Projects in Delivering These Outcomes

DC Opportunity Zone Resources

  • View an interactive map of designated census tracts.
  • Download a pdf map of designated census tracts.
  • Download the excel spreadsheet of designated census tracts.

If you are interested in investing in or attracting investment to DC's Opportunity Zones, sign up here to receive updates.

Overview of DC’s Nominated Opportunity Zones
These tracts demonstrate both robust need for investment (that can create commercial/retail activity and jobs) and significant investment opportunities, such as real estate projects and commercial corridors.

  • Average unemployment rate: 22.2%, compared to 18.7% for all eligible tracts and 17.4% for non-selected tracts
  • Average percentage of population below the poverty line: 32.2%, compared to 27.6% for all eligible tracts and 26.0% for non-selected tracts
  • 72.0% are located in Wards 7 or 8, compared to 49.5% of all eligible tracts and 42% of non-selected tracts
  • Average commercial density: 20.2%, compared to 16.3% of all eligible tracts and 15.0% of non-selected tracts.

How Tracts Were Selected
Our priority in selecting census tracts was to bring new investment to communities most in need of jobs, commercial activity and amenities by leveraging actionable investment opportunities. Our approach to identifying Opportunity Zones had several components, described below.

  1. First Step: Map Options

Determined eligibility: As a starting point, we mapped the statutory indicators (poverty and family income) to determine eligible census tracts. The District of Columbia has 97 eligible Census Tracts, based on the federal definition of low-income tract. While the program does allow for certain contiguous tracts to be designated if they meet certain requirements, we did not consider these tracts due to the number of eligible tracts and the need in those tracts.

Removed outliers: We removed clear outliers, such as Census Tracts that have an unusually high poverty rate due to the presence of universities. We also removed areas that have received a great deal of investment or are already higher-priced markets, such at Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, and Logan Circle.

Identified options: We then layered on unemployment, commercial land, and District development priorities to ensure that selected tracts aligned with District priorities of reducing employment disparities and benefiting existing residents, and to estimate investment potential in each tract. From there we identified 18 census tracts that could potentially be good options for OZ designation because of their need for investment, absorption potential, and alignment with strategic priorities.

    2. Gather Public Input

Survey: In partnership with the LAB @ DC, we created a survey that offered a straightforward way for residents and other stakeholders to weigh in on Opportunity Zone priorities. To make it easy for people with limited familiarity with Census tracts to engage, we identified three clusters of Census tracts that reflected existing economic development priorities. Survey respondents could rank the three options and provide freeform feedback on the base 18 tracts or others.

  1. East of the River: exhibited a higher than average need for investment/commercial and retail amenities
  2. Retail Corridors: contained retail corridors and are distributed across the city; align with Great Streets program objectives.
  3. Creative Industries and Manufacturing: contained large amounts of industrial/commercial land; aligned with the Ward 5 Works study and efforts.

Results: 385 respondents ranked the options and 95 provided written comments. Of the three options, the East of the River option received the most support, with 202 respondents ranking it as number 1, with 103 ranking retail corridors as the top option and 87 choosing the manufacturing option.

ANC and Council Engagement: After the survey closed on March 12, we sought additional input from ANCs and Council Members until April 10. During that period we engaged via email, conference calls and an information session.

    3. Analyze Data

We then analyzed additional data: recent investments, investment absorption potential, socioeconomic changes, and other factors at the Census tract level. Other factors considered:

Complementary incentives and investment opportunities: We examined existing incentives that could be paired with Opportunity Zones -- such as DC’s Supermarket Tax Credit and the Great Streets grant program – that could complement Opportunity Zone investments to bring amenities needed by the community. We also examined the location of development projects and other actionable investment opportunities that could help produce needed amenities.

Levers: We also examined avenues for maximizing community benefits from Opportunity Zone investments, such as First Source and CBE requirements (via District projects) and the PUD process. The presence of a District development projects introduces many of these levers

    4. Determine DC’s 25 Opportunity Zone Tracts

Based on the feedback and analysis, we made the following adjustments to determine the final 25 tracts:

  • Prioritized tracts with the following characteristics:
    • located in Wards 7 and 8
    • has high need for employment
    • contains actionable investment opportunities that would bring desired amenities and jobs
    • contains concrete opportunities to maximize benefits for existing residents (through complementary incentives and projects)
    • has significant public support
  • Eliminated tracts already experiencing high commercial investment flows and socioeconomic changes, unless they contained significant opportunity to bring needed amenities and maximize benefits to existing residents.


Census Tract





Brightwood Park



Howard University, LeDroit Park, Pleasant Plains, Park View



Buzzard Point



Hill East



Congress Heights



Barry Farm, Poplar Point



Fort Stanton



Historic Anacostia






Naylor Gardens, Fairfax Village



Hillcrest, Randle Highlands



Twining, Dupont Park



Central Northeast



Lincoln Heights






Northeast Boundary, Grant Park



Carver Langston









Kenilworth, Eastland Gardens



Mayfair, Parkside






Shepherd Park, Takoma



Congress Heights





Resources on the Opportunity Zones Program


Enterprise: Opportunity Zones
CDFI Fund: Opportunity Zone Resources
Economic Innovation Group: Opportunity Zones
Opportunity Zones: Maximizing Return on Public Investment (Urban Institute)
Proposed Guiding Principles for Opportunity Zones to Fuel and Inclusive Economy and Drive Social Impact (Beeck Center at Georgetown University)
Opportunity Zones Incubator (Kresge Foundation, Calvert Impact Capital)
IRS:OZ Frequently Asked Questions
IRS: Press Release on Proposed Regulations
Department of Treasury Press Release on Proposed Regulations