It's now part of the city's lore that when John F. Kennedy took his inuagural day ride in 1961 between the Capitol and the White House, he was appalled by the shabby, run-down look of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation, a semi-public agency was created by Congress in 1972, two years before the advent of home rule, to spruce up the nation's Main Street and spur commercial development east of 15th Street.
The PADC took a hand in creating Western Plaza, renovating the Old Post Office Building and the historic Willard Hotel, and developing the Sears and Market Square projects.
The transformation of Pennsylvania Avenue was part of an extraordinary facelift fueled by an unprecedented boom in office building construction and a mushrooming of downtown cafes, restaurants and shops.
The D.C. government for the most part served as a handmaiden to developers for much of that construction, providing assistance in obtaining building permits, alley closings and zoning variances. The city set up a one-stop center for developers to obtain the necessary permits licenses and other approvals.
But the District also has done a fair amount of building on its own, including the Washington Convention Center and the nearly completed municipal center at 14th and U Streets NW.
And the District for the first time in seven years obtained a federal Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) recently for a shopping center on Rhode Island Ave..
A new partnership between business and local government surfaced in the past decade. Before that, members of the Greater Washington Board of Trade and other titans of commerce arrogantly bypassed local government to cut deals with congressional leaders.
John Hechinger, the businessman and Democratic activist who disapproved of the Board of Trade's past practices, said recently that times have changed. "Today the business community recognizes there is a local government with which it has to deal," said Hechinger, who recently joined the Board of Trade.
Another major impact of home rule has been the emergence of a black professional middle class that has shared in lucrative city contracts during Barry's administration.
For years, blacks were excluded from many of the contracts parceled out by the city. The city currently sets aside 35 percent of its contracts each year for certified black businesses.
Elijah B. Rogers, former city administrator and now a vice president with Alexander Grant & Co., a large accounting firm, said that Barry's policies "gave some hope to black professionals around the country" that they could profit in the District.
"People started looking at Washington in terms of a Mecca," he said. ". . . If you've got the requisite skills and energy you can do things in Washington, D.C."