Greater Greater Washington

By 2040, DC's population could be close to 900,000

The latest future population projections forecast that by 2040 the District of Columbia will have a population of 883,600. That would far eclipse the historic high of 802,178, from the 1950 census.


Projected population increase from 2010 to 2040, in thousands. Image by COG.

Despite that growth, DC would still rank as only the 4th most populous jurisdiction in the region, behind Fairfax, Montgomery, and Prince George's. But the next 26 years could narrow that gap considerably. Demographers project that only Fairfax will add more people than DC. Prince George's will add fewer than half as many.

The forecasts come from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), which is sort of a United Nations for local governments in the DC region.

COG's forecast report has a treasure trove of fascinating demographic info, not only about population, but also jobs and households. For example, by 2040 COG's demographers expect DC to have over 1 million jobs.

Of course, these are only projections. Nobody can predict the future with 100% accuracy. COG's forecasts often fail to predict the biggest peaks during booms and lowest dips during busts. But all in all they've historically been reasonably accurate.

So get ready for more neighbors.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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They looks reasonably accurate for the region, terrible for DC and the smaller jurisdictions.

DC project 1 pct actual 7
PG projected 27 actual 18
Loudoun project 100 actual 200?

and so on.

by charlie on Apr 17, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

Actually, it looks like the COGs forecasts have been awful.

Assuming a annual growth rate of 1.7 % for 30 years is pretty optimistic. DC, which had been adding population for the first time in 50 years, didn't get above 1% growth until the year after the Great Recession hit.

Also, for comparison to more established urban areas with historically greater drawing power, NYC is up to .9 % annual growth (last year) and that the best they've seen since the early 90s immigration rush that broke all sorts of population growth records by topping them out at 1.8% a year for 3 years. Assuming 1.7% growth for 30 straight years is almost comically optimistic

by Logan on Apr 17, 2014 12:16 pm • linkreport

For what it's worth, the actual historic high was about 900,000 in 1946, based on annual population estimates.

http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&list=H-Urban&month=1112&week=e&msg=iwmfUTyjVR%2BXecfqlPIxvA

by Richard Layman on Apr 17, 2014 12:25 pm • linkreport

and the 1950 Comp. Plan--during the segregated era--figured DC would have 1 million residents by 1980.

by Richard Layman on Apr 17, 2014 12:26 pm • linkreport

@Logan, as has been discussed here DC is benefitting from springing back from an low in the 90s (barry era).

Whether that springback turns into a long term trend, however, is questionable.

by charlie on Apr 17, 2014 12:27 pm • linkreport

The total regional growth projected is less than 1%, which seems reasonable. Assuming thats correct, where do folks see MORE growth happening, if less will take place in DC/ArlCo/Alex?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 12:31 pm • linkreport

Charlie,

I get that, and as I said DC was adding population before the greater recession, but it is more than clear that DCs enormous population growth was driven by the Great Recession, and is falling steadily now. A perpetual yoy growth of 1.7 percent would break every urban population growth record ever established.

by Logan on Apr 17, 2014 12:37 pm • linkreport

"But all in all they've historically been reasonably accurate."

That's not true as to population growth forecasts. COG's 1990-2010 forecasts underestimated the metro area's growth by a third. That's huge when considering accommodative planning for schools, roads, public transport, etc, and helps explain why the metro area has the country's worst traffic.

It also overestimated employment growth by over a third.

by Burd on Apr 17, 2014 12:38 pm • linkreport

"but it is more than clear that DCs enormous population growth was driven by the Great Recession, "

There have been previous periods when federal employment grew, and when the metro area pop grew, but DC did not grow, or in fact declined. Why did this change? Why is DC percentage growth outpacing most suburban counties?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 12:47 pm • linkreport

First of all, Loudoun County is kicking DCs but in the population growth department.

Second, the Great Recession hit the post college demographic worst of all. There were simply no jobs for recent college graduates for nearly 3 years...except for in DC. All the demographics show the bulk of the new residents in DC were in the 25 year old range. That demo tends to want the urban experience, being able to walk to a handful of bars and have easy access to public transportation. That's why it changed, and dramatically so as the Great Recession drew 70000 new residents to the city since July 2008.

by Logan on Apr 17, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

1. Loudoun did. Fairfax, MoCo, etc did not. I call that cherry picking.

"That demo tends to want the urban experience, "

in the 1970s and 1980s did the number of recent college grade in the metro area decline? I think its simply not correct that that age group has favored the urban experience in such high numbers. I know when I was a 20something, in Baltimore, probably barely half of my peers chose an urban experience, and almost all moved out as soon as they were even close to having a child.

And AFAICT the new jobs created here during the region were open to folks of all ages - and many were filled by non-youngsters.

I continue to be baffled by the notion that high UE elsewhere has contributed to growth in metro DC independent of the number of jobs here. Are there unemployed college grads moving here? AFAICT unemployed college grads generally do not move to expensive metro areas (unless their parents live there in which case they live at home.)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity; as I said, they are relatively accurate for the region -- and by extension the huge jurisdictions (FFX, moco). Not so much for DC and PG, and terrible for the smaller ones.

And yes, unemployed college grads move here if there have rich parents. So do unemployed law grads which is how I ended up. My last two bartenders have both been lawyers. clearly not the same market.

by charlie on Apr 17, 2014 1:28 pm • linkreport

You were drawing a comparison to urban versus suburban and exurban growth. I picked the most rural County in the metro area as the most obvious rebuttal to the idea that the there is a new paradigm in DC population growth.

Decline? No, but there weren't the vast numbers of them coming to DC, and in fact DC wasn't the job center then that it is now.

Look at Arlington. From 1990 to 2009, Arlington (Ballston, Clarendon) was where the freshly minted post collegiate went, and do so in great numbers while foresaking DC. They were single, childless and wanted the bar scene and proximity to the city.

You may be confused by the notion but it is true. Google "DC population growth millennials" and the first few pages are links to Wapo, City Paper articles on the specific details of the recent arrivals. Search the GGW archives for "millenials" and you will see countless stories and threads discussing how the 20-34 set are responsible for most of the population growth.

And of course unemployed college grads were/are moving here. You go where the jobs are, just as folks have always done. I moved to NYC in the 90s after college with no job or parental support. The difference was, DC was the only place in the nation where there were jobs.

by Logan on Apr 17, 2014 1:38 pm • linkreport

The difference was, DC was the only place in the nation where there were jobs.

Not a bad anecdote, but it's not as if this trend isn't also happening in other cities around the US that aren't the US Capital.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/14/sf-housing/
Point #2 in this article shows data from lots of other cities (SF, NYC, Boston, Atlanta, and Seattle) that all show a basically similar pattern: population inside the city limits peaks shortly after WWII, declines and hits a nadir in the 80s-90s, and has been growing since.

This isn't to argue against the idea that much of the growth within the city has been driven by the city serving as a strong market in an otherwise weak economy, but a) the trend pre-dates that exact timeframe, and b) the trend is broader than just DC.

by Alex B. on Apr 17, 2014 1:48 pm • linkreport

"You were drawing a comparison to urban versus suburban and exurban growth. I picked the most rural County in the metro area as the most obvious rebuttal to the idea that the there is a new paradigm in DC population growth. "

but its far from a rebuttal. number one, its driven by a similar issue - the buildout of the inner suburbs - which means most regional growth much occur either in the exurban counties that still have vacant land in quantity, or in more urban places suitable for densification. That in large measure IS the new paradigm. Second, even in LoCo there is growing demand for more walkable developments, with an appearance different from traditional suburbia.

"Decline? No, but there weren't the vast numbers of them coming to DC, and in fact DC wasn't the job center then that it is now."

Actually I am pretty sure DC had a larger share of regional employment then. And if they were increasing in numbers (at all) why was DC declining?

"Look at Arlington. From 1990 to 2009, Arlington (Ballston, Clarendon) was where the freshly minted post collegiate went, and do so in great numbers while foresaking DC. They were single, childless and wanted the bar scene and proximity to the city."

Clarendon didnt take off till after 2000. In the early 1990s it was still largely low rise with lots of VietNamese
restaurants. Ballston was mostly office buildings (even more so than now.)

In any case, I am old enough to remember the world before 1990. That the paradigm began to change before 2000 is not news to me, and it does not contradict that there is a new paradigm.

"You may be confused by the notion but it is true. Google "DC population growth millennials" and the first few pages are links to Wapo, City Paper articles on the specific details of the recent arrivals. Search the GGW archives for "millenials" and you will see countless stories and threads discussing how the 20-34 set are responsible for most of the population growth."

that millenials are associated with the trend begs the question of whether its an age effect, or a cohort effect. I think its clear that this cohort is more drawn to urban living than previous cohorts at the same age.

"And of course unemployed college grads were/are moving here. You go where the jobs are, just as folks have always done. I moved to NYC in the 90s after college with no job or parental support."

how did you pay your rent? Why havent we heard more stories of unemployed young college grads living on their own in DC? DCs UE rate went up, but AFAICT that was mostly in the minority population.

And why hasnt DC's growth rate declined, as the rate of federal employment growth has declined, and as the national UE rate has declined?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 1:52 pm • linkreport

declined more dramatically than it has, that is (its below its peak, but still historically high)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 1:53 pm • linkreport

"My last two bartenders have both been lawyers. clearly not the same market."

Then they were not UE. They got jobs. They could move here becaues there were jobs here.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 1:55 pm • linkreport

@ AWalkerInTheCity; first, I had a lot of friends in Clarendon and as far as Ballston in the early 90s. Second, my point is the lawyer/bartenders MOVED here for job prospects, not a job offer. And it is called under-employment for a reason.

@AlexB; not arguing the trend is broader than DC but the bump in DC was far higher because of the decline in the Barry era. And yes, for 4-5 years DC was the only game in town for non-science grads.

by charlie on Apr 17, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

I lived with friends in a group house for a month. Yes, living with roommates or in a group house is unheard if in DC apparently.

I see you caught yourself. Population growth is falling, we clearly differ on what constitutes dramatically. A consequitive 2 year 5.1% year over year decline in the growth rate the past 2 years is pretty dramatic, and will continue in the coming years now that DC is no longer job central for the nation, and new college grads have other places to go.

by Logan on Apr 17, 2014 2:09 pm • linkreport

Logan -- I would disagree with you somewhat. Population growth isn't either-or. The dynamics that support continued population growth in DC are different from those that support continued population growth in suburban and exurban counties. They exist simultaneously.

What is different is that the pro-urban dynamic is gaining growth.

That being said many factors influence whether or not DC will continue to gain population at significant rates. I hope that it will. I have some concerns that we haven't quite reached critical mass.

by Richard Layman on Apr 17, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

"I lived with friends in a group house for a month. Yes, living with roommates or in a group house is unheard if in DC apparently. "

I never said that. I personally know a few young people living with roommates. They all pay rent. Im sure some friends will let you crash for a month or two till you find a job - but thats too short a period to account for the growth we have seen. And it obviously cannot contribute to effective demand for rental units - 3 workers with 1 UE friend can't pay any more than 3 workers without the UE friend - yet we have seen major increases in such demand.

"I see you caught yourself. Population growth is falling, we clearly differ on what constitutes dramatically. A consequitive 2 year 5.1% year over year decline in the growth rate the past 2 years is pretty dramatic,"

If we are going to take second derivates, then the increase in population growth, from decline, to positive was infinite. certainly much more dramatic than a 5$ decline in the growth rate ;)

" and will continue in the coming years"

Well, there's a forecast. I very much doubt it will decrease much and it certainly won't go back to decline. I guess the key determinant is if, when rents decline with lower demand, who moves into those units - existing DC residents (former roommates getting their own units, etc) or folks coming in from the suburbs.

But as long as the DC metro area is growing at 1% give or take, DC will have a source of growth - its simply too hard to get growth that high in the middle suburbs, and the outer suburbs are too problematic for too many people.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

The whole notion that the DC area has been some beacon of economic hope in a sea of poor regional economies is a myth. It's just that its high-paying jobs have attracted people, like the overabundance of legal, overpaid federal contractors, and B.S. policy jobs. That's why the metro area has maintained the highest median household income.

The metro area did not, however, have the lowest unemployment rate over the last few decades or the highest job growth rate...not even close. And the DC area's job growth now lags behind all other big metro areas except Phila. and Detroit.

by Burd on Apr 17, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

I would say the more problematic forecast is 287k more people in FFX. We get 90k in Tysons, per the tysons plan. Where do the others go? Assuming average household size stays in the same in legacy units, its got to go densification in Reston, Herndon, Annandale, Dunn Loring, and the Rte 1 corridor. Basically every single county plan for densification has to work out, and mostly on the high side. There is also currently political pushback (at least in Annandale) to the relatively lax code enforcement that has allowed very high numbers of residents per unit (Tom Coumaris should be happy) in older low rise apt complexes, and in illegal group homes. Should number of residents ever decline in those places, it will take even more new units to meet that forecast.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

BTW, when I said living on their own, I did not mean to exclude roommates. I meant not living with their parents. From the POV of a parent of a college grad, living in a distant city with roommates is not much different than living in an efficiency apt.

So where are the stories of UE young college grads living with age peer roommates?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 17, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

Basically every single county plan for densification has to work out, and mostly on the high side.

Just as an FYI, if you click through to some of Dan's links in the original article about how the COG cooperative forecasts are created, you'll see why this is.

Hint: it's not a surprise that the forecast is linked to the planning.

by Alex B. on Apr 17, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

@ Burd: And the DC area's job growth now lags behind all other big metro areas except Phila. and Detroit.

That's because we didn't loose jobs. The rest of the country is recovering. We can't as much.

@Walker:I would say the more problematic forecast is 287k more people in FFX. We get 90k in Tysons, per the tysons plan. Where do the others go?

South County. From Bailey's Crossroads to Ft Belvoir and Lorton.

So, start building those freaking Yellow Line and Columbia Pike streetcar extensions already!

by Jasper on Apr 17, 2014 3:36 pm • linkreport

"DC would still rank as only the 4th most populous jurisdiction in the region"

And only the 50th most populous in the country among states and territories!

by Bossi on Apr 17, 2014 4:17 pm • linkreport

@Jasper

The notion that the DC area was not hit by the recession is also another myth. BLS says there were multiple months of negative job growth in the DC area in 2009 and 2010.

by Burd on Apr 17, 2014 5:00 pm • linkreport

And only the 50th most populous in the country among states and territories!

But it's the largest federal district in the country so all is good; we need to downsize!

by MLD on Apr 17, 2014 5:12 pm • linkreport

DC's population to reach 900,000 by 2040! Better scrap the Height Act now!! Paging Harriet Tregoning! Oh, wait, she's hidden away somewhere in HUD and no one has heard of her since.

by Jack on Apr 17, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

Walker- I don't like density from group houses. It's not the best arrangement for the people or the community (unless they have some sort of desire to be a group). I think it's better for each person to at least have the opportunity to have their own unit in 1/4 the space of a 4-person group at about 1/4 the price or rent.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 18, 2014 12:40 am • linkreport

Totally disagree, Tom. I've tried all different configurations and dollar for dollar the group house is almost always the most comfortable option in central DC. I'm not saying there shouldn't be opportunities to live in little studios for peopel that want that but they are terrible for entertaining (having a party or throwing a dinner etc) and often dont come with a back yard which is a major plus for many people.

by BTA on Apr 18, 2014 9:16 am • linkreport

Tom

I absolutely totally agree with you that the zoning code should not weight things toward group houses by banning dividig houses into multiple units. IOW I agree 100% with your proposed policy change, and if I ever find myself a citizen of the District, I will sign your petition.

Again, what I am questioning is whether that change will actually lead to significantly increased population density. To the extent that single unit homes in the more desirable areas (I am skeptical that townhouses in Carver Langston or Anacostia will be divided up into 500 sq ft condos in any significant numbers) are inhabited currently by roommate groups, or by families with children, the potential population increase from dividing them is limited.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 18, 2014 9:25 am • linkreport

Most people would rather have their own place, however small, than live in a group house. If anyplace my neighborhood should be group house heaven next to 14th's perpetual spring break but we have 1 group house out of 50 houses (next to me).

5 houses are grandfathered in 3 unit houses and the other 44 are one or two person occupied. On Swann behind me there isn't a single group house out of the 50 and even more houses are single occupant.

My block is typical of residential blocks from Capitol Hill to Glover Park, Wards 1, 2 and 6, 37% of DC. I don't know the exact number of rowhouse lots in these 3 wards but it's certainly above 10K. The difference between 2 housing units and 8 housing units on each average lot would be 60K additional housing units in these 3 wards. 60,000. Even adding 1 additional allowable unit per lot would increase potential housing by 10K units and in this expensive an area the potential is used pretty fast.

The rowhouses in these areas can be expanded by-right to about 4K sq'. But the density zoning only allows 2 units, sometimes 4 in the rarer R-5. The new rehabs in my block are 2 units each of just under 2Ksq' for @$1.4M each. That's the law. And that's just as much exclusionary zoning as the most restrictive suburbs with their unreasonable lot minimum sizes.

And it's what forces low density on DC because that's the majority of the lots in this large central part of the city. Certainly more than the 10K new units we marvel at having built city-wide in the past few years.

A person who can only afford $1K/mo rent should be able to live in these areas without finding a group house. They should have the choice of a smaller unit than what our exclusionary zoning mandates without having to go to the very expensive commercial blocks and get a micro-unit in a semi-hotel.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 18, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

"The difference between 2 housing units and 8 housing units on each average lot would be 60K additional housing units in these 3 wards. 60,000."

Assuming A. every current owner chooses do the divide and flip process B. Every house gets cut into 8 units - I think at some point you will move down the demand curve for 500 Sq ft units, and economics will lead some flippers to focus on, say, 1000 Sq ft units. C. every house not already 4k sq feet is popped up to be big enough, and that there is no pushback due to that D. That the increase in density is not somewhat offset by these being smaller units - even in your neighborhood some of the 2k sq ft units seem to have couples, and I think in other places they often either get groups of roommates or families with at least one child. E. that the increase in density does not lead to pushback from neighbors who find parking has become more difficult (note ALL of these new residents will be RPP eligible)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 18, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

I'm skeptical. DC is landlocked and mostly built out. Where are the housing units going to go? Saying that all those people fit in DC in 1946 is not a useful comparison. That was a time of war. Homeowners would live in one room of the house and rent out every other bedroom. You certainly don't see that anymore. If anything the trend is going in the opposite direction, with smaller households buying larger houses.

by massysett on Apr 18, 2014 12:05 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris
Most people would rather have their own place, however small, than live in a group house. If anyplace my neighborhood should be group house heaven next to 14th's perpetual spring break but we have 1 group house out of 50 houses (next to me).
5 houses are grandfathered in 3 unit houses and the other 44 are one or two person occupied. On Swann behind me there isn't a single group house out of the 50 and even more houses are single occupant.

I agree that most people would rather have their own place.

However, how big are the houses on your block? This is 14th & S, right? I would think they are mostly 1200-1800sqft. That's not exactly big enough for a big group house. And the lots are how big? Seems like they are 1400 square feet. So at 60% lot occupancy and 3 stories you are really only expanding to 2500-3000 square feet. So you can't actually expand to these 4,000 square foot houses you claim in your math.

And how would you and your neighbors react if every house on the block doubled in size?

by MLD on Apr 18, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

@massysett

I'm skeptical too, mostly b/c population projections are usually wrong. We don't really know how fast DC is growing, if at all...all we have is Census estimates, which were completely wrong 10 yrs ago.

But DC does have plenty of undeveloped areas...SW Waterfront, Hill East, Poplar Point, McMillan Reservoir, among others. Downtown will also get more residential units, especially as demand for office space declines, and office bldgs convert like in downtown Manhattan.

by Burd on Apr 18, 2014 12:18 pm • linkreport

Everyone should be skeptical of the 2040 projections, as that is a long way out.

However, they issue projections in 5 year increments: they have them for 2015, 2020, etc. The closer you get to the present, the more accurate you're likely to be.

Here's the draft for all jurisdictions at the different time intervals:

http://www.mwcog.org/uploads/committee-documents/a11ZWV5b20140312144245.pdf

It projects DC's population:

2015: 660k
2020: 715k
2025: 764k

And so on. Given the 2013 population estimate from the Census bureau put DC at 646k, 660k isn't unreasonable.

The closer-in projections are also based on more near-term planning and real estate development. The projections are based on land use plans, assuming a timeframe for that development and estimating the number of people it will support.

by Alex B. on Apr 18, 2014 12:31 pm • linkreport

Tom, which block of Swann are you talking about? A friend of mine lived in a group rowhouse between 14th and 15th, and he had other neighbors that were definitely group houses and apartments.

@Burd: half of those have limited/no Metro access. That's been the clearest driver of demand and property values and development desirability in the city, especially for newer arrivals. If we can extend good, frequent transit to those areas, then let's definitely start developing them. But if not, it's a wasted effort.

by LowHeadways on Apr 18, 2014 12:34 pm • linkreport

Burd

demand for office space is going to decline further? (it would have to to lead to major residential conversions downtown, which is currently a fairly strong office market) Is that cause everyone will telecommute?

Are telecommuters okay with 500 Sq ft units? Can we shrink home size AND office space at the same time?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 18, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

Agreed, the shorter term projects have a higher chance of being accurate.

I'm not convinced that the bump up in DC's rate is cyclical. The last trends reported was that more babies were being born, and while domestic migration was way down international migration was up.

Agreed with Jasper that FFX should be more focused on extending Yellow line than Tysons denisification.

by charlie on Apr 18, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

@ Burd:The notion that the DC area was not hit by the recession is also another myth.

Everybody was hit. But DC much less so than other parts of the country (Detroit) because the Feds never shrink that much. In fact, due to budget cuts contractors are hurting in our area while the rest of the country is starting to rebound.

Nevertheless, the DC area just felt the influence of the rest of the country. That's all. Nothing much changed here.

by Jasper on Apr 18, 2014 12:42 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper

"Everybody was hit"

Yeah, that was my point from the beginning.

"But DC much less so than other parts of the country (Detroit)"

Obviously DC was is no Detroit, which had suffered from population decline and collapse of manufacturing sector long before the recession.

But the DC area lost jobs, contrary to your statement that it did not, and was/is not the strongest economy in the nation--not even in the top 10.

@AWalkerInTheCity

DC's office vacancy rate rose a 2nd qtr in a row...now over 10%...slightly higher than pre-recession and against nat'l trend. And there's increasing competition from the new submarkets and suburban markets.

@LowHeadways

"half of those have limited/no Metro access"

My only point is that DC is not "built out." Plus all 4 of those areas I mentioned have access to public transportation.

by Burd on Apr 18, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

Burd

yes, its already increased but I think not to anything close to lower manhattan levels, and thats without rent cuts IIUC. As for the competition, Tysons doesnt really compete for downtown tenants, AFAICT. Navy Yard hasnt picked up any notable downtown tenants. NoMa is getting some, and Rosslyn and Crystal City buildings will certainly attempt to - but in each of those cases, more office use will displace potential residential use.

Bottom line, I do not think downtown office conversions (given the current height limit) will generate large numbers of residential units.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 18, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

"Tysons doesnt really compete for downtown tenants, AFAICT. Navy Yard hasnt picked up any notable downtown tenants."

Many big employers have moved from downtown to the cheaper submarkets, incl. NoMa, Tysons, Rosslyn, etc. And developers are scrapping plans for several planned office buildings and opting for residential units across the region.

"Navy Yard hasnt picked up any notable downtown tenants. "

I'd call BAE Systems, Booz Allen, Lockheed, and Alion notable, among others.

"...I do not think downtown office conversions (given the current height limit) will generate large numbers of residential units. "

Not sure what the Height Act has to do with office conversions. It's about market supply/demand. We've seen some residential conversions in the past, e.g., Mather Studios, Mark on M, etc. then there's the Old Post Office, and 1522 K just confirmed it's converting to a hotel. NCPC also has plans to convert underused govt buildings in its SW ecodistrict.

by Burd on Apr 18, 2014 3:40 pm • linkreport


"Many big employers have moved from downtown to the cheaper submarkets, incl. NoMa, Tysons, Rosslyn,"

I have heard about firms move to Tysons from Arlco, and Intelsat from upper NW. Which firms have moved there from downtown? I agree NoMa is the one submarket that has actually picked up tenants from downtown - I guess historically Rosslyn has, but not sure of any lately.

"And developers are scrapping plans for several planned office buildings and opting for residential units across the region." thats true, but its not conversion.

"Navy Yard hasnt picked up any notable downtown tenants. "

"I'd call BAE Systems, Booz Allen, Lockheed, and Alion notable, among others."

They were downtown? That surprises me, as they are all defense contractors, and I thought they had simply followed NavSea.

"Not sure what the Height Act has to do with office conversions. It's about market supply/demand."

Precisely.

"We've seen some residential conversions in the past, e.g., Mather Studios, Mark on M, etc. then there's the Old Post Office, and 1522 K just confirmed it's converting to a hotel."

mather and the post office are much older buildings, which are not nearly as common in DC as in some older downtowns. not familiar with Mark on M. granted 1522, though a hotel is a typical use in an office district, thats not what I was thinking of in terms of residential conversions, though I guess its technically residential.

"NCPC also has plans to convert underused govt buildings in its SW ecodistrict"

Thats more an initiative to enliven a very dead area of govt buildings, than it is a response to a surplus of downtown office space (and its only marginally "downtown")

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 18, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

But yes, SW ecodistrict is another source of potential housing to include in any build out analysis. I think OP included it in theirs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 18, 2014 4:01 pm • linkreport

The relevance of the height limit, in addition to constraining supply downtown, is that extra height could be granted conditionally on adding residential to a project.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 18, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

There may be a group house on Swann toward 15th I'm unaware of. Still, that's 1 out of 50 just like my block. That's not an compelling way to increase density.

There may be many smaller lot houses in R4 where the maximum potential area is more like 3000 sq' than 4000. But even there the density laws at 2 units keep out 3 additional units of the normal market size today (600sq'). In most cases it's more.

I wouldn't expect density limits to be dropped completely all at once. But even adding one additional potential unit per rowhouse could over time add as many new units as all the new buildings have the past few years. And in DC the market will convert those units fairly fast depending on how much the limit is increased.

I can say from experience in many cases that neighbors do usually get upset about increased height and lot coverage on neighboring houses. Really upset. But those rules are in place whether more units are allowed or not.

I've never heard of people being upset only about additional units without additional height or lot coverage. Maybe the market at increased allowable density would cause those buildings to enlarge faster but that would also prove it's effectiveness.

We have housing codes on what the minimum size of units can be. The much tighter restriction in zoning is simply to keep those areas more exclusive. But in DC our density laws are just absurd for an urban core.

Eventually Americans are going to have to come to terms with less wasteful housing expectations.

by Tom Coumaris on Apr 18, 2014 4:58 pm • linkreport

Tom what you're not factoring in is that a lot of people would rather pay $700 a month to share a big house a mile away from 14th st than $1000 for a cramped room right on it. So you're right, but if you go up a few neighborhoods you will find U St, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Mt. Pleasant and Petworth are bursting with group houses.

by BTA on Apr 18, 2014 5:10 pm • linkreport

Projections like these rarely are accurate--it's difficult to know how populations will grow or redistribute. Not worth arguing.

by Rich on Apr 18, 2014 8:34 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

"Which firms have moved there [Arl Co] from downtown?"

Corporate Executive Board, among others.

" thats true, but its not conversion."

Didn't say it was...it just highlights my original point that the demand for office space in DC has declined.

"Precisely."

Then why blame the Height Act on lack of conversions?

"Thats more an initiative to enliven a very dead area of govt buildings, than it is a response to a surplus of downtown office space"

GSA made it very clear it has surplus office space in SW of which it has already begun to dispose.

by Burd on Apr 21, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

CEB - about 100k sq ft, about a year and a half ago. Okay

Not conversions - I was not contesting that there is weakness in the office market. I was contesting that this will lead to large scale office to residential conversions, that will asborb much of the demand for residential (and conversion to hotels doesnt really adress that either)

Precisely - you misread my precisely. You mentioned supply and demand, and the height act impacts supply. Including of office buildings. While the office market is weak, rents in downtown DC remain fairly high, due in part to the supply limiting aspects of the height act.

SW eco district - while GSA has surplus office space there, IIUC one of their motives for residential conversion (rather than selling office space to the private sector, etc) was a conscious attempt to enliven the area.

IIUC there are owners of vacant older office space downtown who are choosing to rehab, or rebuild, rather than convert.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 21, 2014 1:40 pm • linkreport

CEB's building was >600k square feet and they moved in 2008.

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2004/10/25/daily12.html

Before that there were 5 or 6 offices all around K Street/Farragut Square.

by MLD on Apr 21, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

"one of [GSA's] motives for residential conversion...was a conscious attempt to enliven the area"

Apples and oranges. GSA didn't plan the SW Ecodistrict. But GSA long had plans to begin to liquidate underused federal properties in SW. That just so happened to fit right in w/ the more recent NCPC/DCOP SW Ecodistrict plan. The point is that there is surplus office space b/c of a diminished federal govt footprint in SW.

"IIUC there are owners of vacant older office space downtown who are choosing to rehab, or rebuild, rather than convert."

Evidently. But, the rate of new office space downtown has slowed a lot since the recession, even while vacancies remain high.

by Burd on Apr 21, 2014 5:33 pm • linkreport

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