While politics are probably only going to get uglier in the 2015 Capitol Hill versus White House showdown, the rest of the city is looking alright. The face lift many neighborhoods in the city have seen in recent years is set to continue next year to accommodate all those new faces.
For one thing, it doesn’t look like DC’s population growth is going to slow down a bit. The city has already added almost 100,000 residents from its low of 572,059 in 2000. According to the latest US Census data, by July of 2014, we hit 658,893. While still down from the 802,000 high in 1950, the World Population Review estimates that the city will continue growing to hit 686,000 in 2020.
And with the national economy picking up, there’s going to be more money going around in general. That said, because we’re still just getting over the recession, and probably a dozen other excuses, many big projects are just getting going. There will be tons of new construction happening this year, that’s for sure. Hurray—more traffic!!
There’s really only one large visible project dismounting in 2015—the brand new Smithsonian African American History Museum. In theory, it’s the last one on The Mall. Designed by Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup, it looks like it’ll be a stunning post-modern addition to DC’s… how should I say this… outdated look?
There is a long list of projects getting underway. The most visible is the Capitol Building getting a nice scaffolding to cover up the facade. The Capitol Dome Restoration Project will take care of the 1,000-plus cracks and deficiencies in the 150-year old cast-iron construction. While the interior work will go through 2016, we should get our exterior view of the dome back by this time next year. But don’t hold your breath.
We can also think of this as a trade off. Sure, we lost the Legislative Branch (some would argue this happened ages ago), but we got the Supreme Court back in 2014! So we’ll spend 2015 with 2 functioning branches of government—aesthetically speaking.
And with plenty of large and super-sized projects just getting started, crane operators aren’t going to be any less needed. To greet and accommodate all the city’s new residents (whether temporary or permanent—I’m not here to judge), housing and infrastructure is in high demand. And while Phase 1 of the Silver Line has gone into its fully functioning mode, Phase 2 isn’t even close to being done… so keep your hard hat on. Together, the project is even considered one of America’s top 5 infrastructure ventures.
There are a few other noteworthy mega-projects in the area. The MGM Grand casino and resort at National Harbor worth $925 million broke ground as unceremoniously as any temple to wagers could be. It’ll accompany the new neighborhood, a brand new “outlet” mall (though it’s prices suggest it’s only outlet in name) and the Ferris wheel.
There’s also a $2 billion project you may have heard of that’ll consume the old wharf. I’ll miss the floating ground and the way that your shoes would smell like crab for weeks after a visit, but it’s time to redo the neighborhood. (Don’t worry—the vendors and their “secret extra-large crabs” that they only show to “special customers” will still be there).
The whole complex is slated to fill 24 acres of land and 27 of water (whatever that’s supposed to mean) with 15 new buildings with 1400 residences, a concert hall, a pier, 3 hotels, a conference center and over 100 stores and restaurants. This is probably the most ambitious project in DC.
And did I mention that Trump is going to remodel the Old Post Office P
avilion and turn it into a hotel? While no one “likes” the name Trump on anything (I can’t even seriously consider wearing his clownish ties), he’s probably doing the building a service by saving it from certain decrepitude and decay. I say, have at it Haas.
And all of the above is in addition to tons of other construction projects across the District. NoMa has become a neighborhood with its own grocery stores—though one seems to be perpetually shut down for food safety issues(?). The Navy Yard has also become a neighborhood with fully functioning services, restaurants and a seasonal trapeze school. Columbia Heights is fully gentrified, and I would feel safe walking a pram through Petworth—assuming I were to have a pram. And the general safety of the H Street and Armory area is only increasing.
There are tons of new families moving in. However, there are also tons of families being pushed out and there is a whole lot of work to be done. As neighborhoods gentrify, long-time residents may be pushed out, incentivized by big sales prices and high property taxes. Many of the not-so-hot neighborhoods are not getting anywhere near the kinds of new public services that the new yuppy-villes are. So while the highly touted areas are probably getting safer, there’s usually a mirrored image somewhere else in town.
All in all, it looks like 2015 will see a few big projects settled, but mostly new projects starting. The face of downtown may look a bit more gentrified and wealthy, but rising tides doesn’t raise all ships. That said, many of the investments that the city and developers are making will be game changers for the area—both culturally and functionally. There’s a whole lot of work to be done—to be sure—but 2015 will be a year to rebuild some area neighborhoods that need some serious TLC. So, let the games begin!