Jazz music, local culture and a few blooming flowers are about to hit Union Station, bringing community and energy to this historic train station.
Titled “Jazz in Bloom,” the project features a series of concerts that will showcase jazz artists from around D.C. Upcoming concerts at Union Station will take place April 26 and April 27, and D.C. has plans to host more throughout the rest of the spring.
The Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment (OCTFME), a Washington, D.C. governmental organization that supports public radio, television and other media, launched the project as part of the plan of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to rejuvenate downtown D.C.
The series launched April 12 with a performance by Elijah Jamal Balbed, a local jazz saxophonist and winner of the 2020 DCJazzPrix competition.
“Jazz in Bloom” follows other local revitalization projects aimed at rejuvenating downtown D.C., including the Washington Union Station Expansion Project — a $1 million budget increase going toward modernizing Union Station during the 2023 fiscal year — and the Tourism Recovery Tax Emergency Amendment Act of 2022, which increased taxes that D.C. tourists pay to make up for lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramona Yun, a public relations specialist at OCTFME, said this is the first time a local concert series aimed at revitalization is taking place in downtown D.C. The planning process for the concerts began in February 2023, with contributions from OCTFME, the Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM), the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and a team at Union Station, according to Yun.
Yun said the Union Station host location will make concerts visible to visitors who pass through the area on their way to and from downtown D.C.
“Jazz in Bloom will re-ignite music displays in what many see as the portal to downtown DC, Union Station and help those visiting to see some of the talent DC has to offer,” Yun wrote to The Hoya.
The goal of “Jazz in Bloom” is to bring more people into the District while also promoting local artists and businesses, according to LaToya Foster, the OCTFME director and D.C. film commissioner.
“We will celebrate our city’s rich cultural heritage while reinvigorating downtown with pop-up concerts, giving music lovers the opportunity to support local businesses and enjoy the city’s vibrant social scene to the tune of the best jazz line-up around,” Foster said in an April 12 press release.
Bowser, who outlined several budget increases related to her revitalization plan during the April 12 “Jazz in Bloom” unveiling, said she aims to draw more people to downtown D.C. with the initiatives.
“Our downtown is the economic engine that allows us to invest in our schools, our safety net, our public safety teams and so much more,” Bowser said in the press release. “We know that the comeback of downtown relies on our ability to bring more people downtown.”
Bowser’s planned budget increases include raising the Housing in Downtown abatement from $6.8 million to $41 million in the 2028 fiscal year. The plan also supports a $3 million increase in funding for the Great Streets and Small Business Fund, which gives grants to local businesses, and an additional $1.5 million for businesses that take part in Creative and Open Space Modernization (COSM), a tax rebate that seeks to facilitate the creation of businesses in D.C. in the field of technology.
Keith Anderson, the interim deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said he hopes Bowser’s initiatives will help downtown D.C. reach pre-pandemic levels of community engagement.
“Downtown DC is home to 35% of our businesses, employs close to 240,000 workers and generated nearly $1.15 billion in annual revenue pre-pandemic,” Anderson said in the press release. “We know how important our downtown is and we are excited to continue invest in its revitalization, particularly investments in programs like the DC Family Fun Destinations grant that will bring residents and visitors back Downtown.”
“Jazz in Bloom” demonstrates D.C.’s community-centered focus, according to Bowser.
“We have plans and programs to bring more residents downtown, more workers downtown, and more visitors downtown — that includes international and domestic tourists as well as visitors from across DC and around the region,” Bowser said in the press release. “Our plans and investments reflect what we know to be true: people are the lifeblood of DC.”
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