"If decay is to give way to progress, Washington will have to organize and consolidate its strength to do the job... To share the burden, an organization of civic leaders and businessmen is needed... An organization of community leaders may well spell the difference between piecemeal improvements and urban redevelopment on a grand scale."
-Philip L. Graham, February 1952
The Federal City Council has a proud 59 year history of significant contributions that enhance the nation's capital and the region in which it is located. On January 27, 1952, readers of the Washington Post opened their newspapers to find the first in a series of 18 articles decrying the state of affairs in the Nation's Capital. Most of the articles were written by reporter Chalmers Roberts, but the impetus behind them was Philip L. Graham, the Post's publisher. The series-- titled "Progress or Decay? Washington Must Choose!"-- was Graham's wake-up call to his fellow Washingtonians about the deterioration of the city. The problems highlighted by the Post included the degradation of Pennsylvania Avenue, the underutilization of the Potomac and Anacostia waterfronts, lagging economic growth, and strained race relations.
Graham first proposed the idea of the Federal City Council in the final article of his "Progress and Decay" series. He called for a new local 'citizens committee' modeled on Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a business organization founded in Pittsburgh in 1943. The group's main goal, noted Graham, "will be to support intelligent efforts to improve traffic, parking, housing, and to meet other related problems which impede the city's progress." The name itself, Federal City Council, was carefully selected by a committee of leaders who wanted to convey the notion that members of the group were experienced in both private business and federal affairs. The FCC officially registered with the City's recorder of deeds in September of the same year. The Council's original National Advisory Board, established in 1958, included nationally renowned bankers, publishers, retired Cabinet members, diplomats and developers.
In the decades that followed, the FC2 became involved in – and had a positive impact on – issues such as DC government finances, public safety, and school reform:
The Council's inaugural undertaking in 1954 involved spearheading Southwest redevelopment, a sprawling urban renewal project that had been pushed aside by federal agencies for many years. In 1981, the FCC created the non-profit Union Station Redevelopment Corporation to jumpstart a critical public-private partnership designed to restore the historic railroad station and breathe new economic life into it by adding three levels of retail and restaurants. Today, Union Station once again provides a grand gateway to the Nation’s Capital. D.C. residents, tourists and rail passengers together spend more than $115 million annually in the historic landmark’s shops and restaurants. Other projects undertaken by the FC2 included planning for the Metro system, the construction of the Washington Convention Center, the siting of what is today the Verizon Center, efforts to combat drug abuse in the 1970's, education reform and the siting/planning/funding of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.
The Federal City Council is proud of its role founding the following critical District of Columbia organizations:
- Economic Club of Washington (ECW). In 1986, members of the FC2 founded and incubated the ECW The ECW offers prominent business and government leaders a forum to share their views on the most important economic issues of the day. Through the energetic leadership of its past and current chairs, the ECW has grown to over 500 members, and its monthly lunches and dinners are well attended by enthusiastic members.
- Washington DC Police Foundation. In 2000, Federal City Council members launched the Washington DC Police Foundation to supplement the efforts of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to improve neighborhood safety across the city. The Foundation's assistance to the MPD comes in many forms, ranging from direct financial grants, to in-kind donated goods and services, to issue advocacy.
- Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC). Through a dedicated seat on the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) Board, the FC2 has a unique responsibility to be a steward for local interests in the station and its environs. The FC2 is supporting Amtrak’s Union Station Master Plan to make the station a world-class regional transportation hub with the capacity and vision to support the region’s long-term needs. The plan is a roadmap to address the long term challenges facing Union Station, including the collaboration between Amtrak, Akridge and federal partners, by modernizing the station while maximizing the commercial, development, transit, and community potential of the building which is a unique local asset.