Mayor Vince Gray‘s budget proposal, released this morning, appears to contain two contradictory trends for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development: The office’s funding would get a substantial boost, while the number of projects it will complete is expected to decline steadily over the next few years.

DMPED, under the mayor’s proposal, would see a 9.1 percent increase in funding from fiscal year 2013, and its number of full-time-equivalent employees would increase from 61 to 84. (The jump in city funding for DMPED is even bigger when you take into account that federal resources for the office are dropping by 9.6 percent; DMPED funding from the D.C. general fund would increase 17.3 percent.) At the same time, the number of DMPED development project closings is projected to drop from nine in fiscal year 2013 to five in 2014 to just two in 2015.

What accounts for these seemingly conflicting trends? According to mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, there are two factors.

First, the balance between DMPED’s two central functions—-real estate development and business development—-is shifting. “Historically, it’s been focused on real estate development,” Ribeiro says. “One of the things we’re doing is increasing its capacity to do business development: tech, eds and meds [education and medical institutions], all the stuff that [business development chief] David Zipper’s been doing.”

One reason for this shift is that the city is running out of space for development. “Eventually the real estate will run out,” Ribeiro says. “We have to work on our business retention and business nurturing.”

The second factor is that the city is currently undertaking a small number of very big projects like St. Elizabeths in Ward 8 and Walter Reed in Ward 4 that will take more than a few years to complete. As a result, there won’t be as many projects finished in the coming years, even if there are still more than 50 cranes in the air.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery