The Southwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., has always been something of a social experiment in progress. In the years after the Civil War, the neighborhood was a highly segregated dumping ground for the city’s poorest residents, divided fairly evenly between a mix of Scottish, Irish, German, and Eastern European immigrants and freed black slaves. Though conditions had improved by the early 1900s, especially along the Southwest waterfront, they slid for the next four decades, until federal authorities eager to expand the physical boundaries of federal Washington evicted tens of thousands of residents in order to raze a mostly 19th-century neighborhood and erect a gleaming new utopia in its place. They had the future in mind.
In recent years, apartment and office towers have sprouted up around Greater Washington, in inner-city neighborhoods and suburban town centers alike. According to a new report from LOCUS, a smart growth advocacy group, these “walkable urban” places are actually driving the region’s growth.
People want “walkable urban” places like this, and developers are responding. Photo by the author.
The report won’t be released until a conference on the future of DC-area real estate next week, but the Wall Street Journal has a preview:
Since 2009, these walkable locations in the Washington area have seen 42% of new apartment development, up dramatically from 19% between 2000 and 2008, and 12% during the 1990s. A similar change was seen for offices, as 59% of the space delivered since 2009 was in these areas, up from 49% between 2000 and 2008 and 38% in the 1990s. …
To [Christopher] Leinberger, a developer himself, the shift for apartments and offices is a function of the market: Developers are getting higher rents in denser areas, leading to rising values compared with typical suburban-style development. “That’s the market telling you, dramatically, build more of this stuff,” Mr. Leinberger said. “There’s pent-up demand for walkable urban.”
Leinberger identifies include 43 “walkable urban” places, which are both “regionally significant” and meet a set of criteria for walkability. The places span everything from Columbia Heights in the District to inner suburbs like downtown Silver Spring and even satellite cities like downtown Frederick. As The Atlantic Cities notes, these “walkable urban” places take up less than 1% of the land in Greater Washington but already have a third of the region’s jobs.
On Wednesday night, developers stopped by ANC 6C’s Planning, Zoning and Environment committee meeting to brief them on a couple big plans for the 600 block of H Street NE (map).
Kevin Roberts, representing developer Jair Lynch, presented new plans for the south side of the block. The company acquired a series of properties spanning from 601 to 645 H Street NE for $51.1 million last year. Currently, two five-story brick buildings sandwich a one-story former grocery store along this stretch.