It’s late morning on a Friday, and Patty Brosmer is wearing a pair of long, black formal glovesthe kind that stop just short of the elbow. They are a little fancy for her tailored black blazer and pressed khaki slacks. They definitely stand out in her surroundings: a double-wide trailer parked in the corner of the Union Station parking garage.
Brosmer is the executive director of the fledgling Capitol Hill Business Improvement District (BID). The trailer, on the garage’s first level, is the BID’s headquarters, and Brosmer is sporting the gloves in an attempt to keep her hands warm. The trailer has no heat or electricity, and she has work to do. “If it weren’t for the gloves,” she says, “I’d be outta here.”
Organizations created to promote business districts usually try to have more prestigious addresses. The Downtown BID, for example, has a suite of offices at 1250 H St. NW, and the Golden Triangle BID is housed in a high-rise office building on Connecticut Avenue, just off K Street NW.
But both of those BIDs can afford swank digs. The Downtown BID encompasses more than 100 blocks and includes some of the District’s largest office buildings. As a result, it has an annual budget of $7 million. The Golden Triangle BID, centered south of Dupont Circle, contains 28 blocks of a dense business district and has a budget of $2.8 million.
Brosmer’s group, which covers scattered clusters of businesses extending east from Union Station to Barney Circle, has to make do with a budget of $500,000.
Once the Capitol Hill BID pays for street cleaners and public-safety patrols, it has about $10,000 to spend on office space, says Brosmer. So David Ball, president of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp., suggested that the group go for a double-wide.
Union Station agreed to provide free space for the trailer, along with an electric hookup as an in-kind service. The BID pays only to rent the trailer itself, which runs about $500 a month, says Brosmer.
Anyone who’s traveled in a Winnebago will tell you that trailer living can be just as comfy as a brick-and-mortar space. The BID’s double-wide is spacious enough to house a waiting area, a bathroom, two offices, and a small conference room. The trailer is almost fully furnished; the wood-paneled walls in the waiting area are still bare, but Brosmer plans to decorate them with photos of Washington taken by local photographer Jake McGuire. In her own office, she’s thrown a small Oriental rug on the floor in front of her desk.
Amtrak, which is providing the electricity, told Brosmer that it needs to run a dedicated power line to the trailer. But Amtrak workers haven’t had a chance to do so yet. Brosmer says the power is scheduled to go on sometime this week.
In the meantime, Brosmer and her assistant have mainly been working from home. She has been busy contracting cleaning crews, picking out the colors for their uniforms (blue and gold), and organizing the BID’s first board meeting, which took place at the more spacious Heritage Foundation offices nearby.
At her desk, Brosmer picks up the phone and hits a few buttons, but nothing lights up. “My motto these days,” she says, “is, ‘So much to do, so little electricity.’” CP