Washington DC Real Estate
District of Columbia
|Top left: Georgetown University; top right: U.S. Capitol; middle: Washington Monument; bottom left: African American Civil War Memorial; bottom right: National Shrine|
|Motto: Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All)|
Location of Washington, D.C. in the United States and in relation to the states of Maryland and Virginia.
|Federal district||District of Columbia|
|- Mayor||Adrian Fenty (D)|
|- D.C. Council||Chairman: Vincent Gray (D)|
|- City||68.3 sq mi (177.0 km2)|
|- Land||61.4 sq mi (159.0 km2)|
|– Water||6.9 sq mi (18.0 km2)|
|Elevation||0–409 ft (0–125 m)|
|- Density||9,639.0/sq mi (3,722.2/km2)|
|– Metro||5.3 million|
|Time zone||EST (UTC-5)|
|- Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
Article One of the United States Constitution provides for a federal district, distinct from the states, to serve as the permanent national capital. The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are located in the District, as are many of the nation’s monuments and museums. Washington, D.C., hosts 174 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). The headquarters of other institutions such as trade unions, lobbying groups, and professional associations are also located in the District.
The United States Congress has supreme authority over Washington, D.C.; residents of the city therefore have less self-governance than residents of the states. The District has a non-voting at-large Congressional delegate, but no senators. D.C. residents could not vote in presidential elections until the ratification of the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1961.
Washington, D.C., is a planned city. The design for the City of Washington was largely the work of Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant, a French-born architect, engineer, and city planner who first arrived in the colonies as a military engineer with Major General Lafayette during the American Revolutionary War. In 1791, President Washington commissioned L’Enfant to plan the layout of the new capital city. L’Enfant’s plan was modeled in the Baroque style, which incorporated broad avenues radiating out from rectangles and circles, providing for open space and landscaping. In March 1792, President Washington dismissed L’Enfant due to his insistence on micromanaging the city’s planning, which had resulted in conflicts with the three commissioners appointed by Washington to supervise the capital’s construction. Andrew Ellicott, who had worked with L’Enfant surveying the city, was then commissioned to complete the plans. Though Ellicott made revisions to the original plans, including changes to some street patterns, L’Enfant is still credited with the overall design of the city. The City of Washington was bounded by what is now Florida Avenue to the north, Rock Creek to the west, and the Anacostia River to the east.
By the start of the 20th century, L’Enfant’s vision of a capital with open parks and grand national monuments had become marred by slums and randomly placed buildings, including a railroad station on the National Mall. In 1900, Congress formed a joint committee, headed by Senator James McMillan, charged with beautifying Washington’s ceremonial core. What became known as the McMillan Plan was finalized in 1901. It included the re-landscaping of the Capitol grounds and the Mall, constructing new Federal buildings and monuments, clearing slums, and establishing a new citywide park system. Architects recruited by the committee kept the city’s original layout, and their work is thought to be the grand completion of L’Enfant’s intended design.
After the construction of the twelve-story Cairo Apartment Building in 1899, Congress passedthe Heights of Buildings Act, which declared that no building could be taller than the Capitol. The Act was amended in 1910 to restrict building height to the width of the adjacent street plus 20 feet (6.1 m). Today the skyline remains low and sprawling, in keeping with Thomas Jefferson’s wishes to make Washington an “American Paris” with “low and convenient” buildings on “light and airy” streets. As a result, the Washington Monument remains the District’s tallest structure. However, Washington’s height restriction has been assailed as a primary reason why the city has limited affordable housing and traffic problems as a result of urban. sprawl. To escape the District’s height restriction, taller buildings close to downtown are often constructed across the Potomac River in Rosslyn, Virginia.
The District is divided into four quadrants of unequal area: Northwest (NW), Northeast (NE), Southeast (SE), and Southwest (SW). The axes bounding the quadrants radiate from the U.S. Capitol building. All road names include the quadrant abbreviation to indicate their location. In most of the city, the streets are set out in a grid pattern with east–west streets named with letters (e.g., C Street SW) and north–south streets with numbers (e.g., 4th Street NW). The avenues radiating from the traffic circles are primarily named after states; all 50 states are represented, as well as Puerto Rico and the District itself. Some Washington streets are particularly noteworthy, such as Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects the White House with the U.S. Capitol, and K Street, which houses the offices of many lobbying groups. Washington hosts 174 foreign embassies, 58 of which are located on a section of Massachusetts Avenue informally known as Embassy Row.
In 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the District’s population at 591,833 residents, continuing a trend of population growth in the city since the 2000 Census, which recorded 572,059 residents. During the workweek, however, the number of commuters from the suburbs into the city swells the District’s population by an estimated 71.8% in 2005, to a daytime population of over one million people. The Washington Metropolitan Area, which includes the surrounding counties in Maryland and Virginia, is the eighth-largest in the United States with more than five million residents. When combined with Baltimore and its suburbs, the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area has a population exceeding eight million residents, the fourth-largest in the country.
In 2007, the population distribution was 55.6% black, 36.3% white, 8.3% Hispanic (of any race), 5% other (including Native Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders), 3.1% Asian, and 1.6% mixed (two or more races). There were also an estimated 74,000 foreign immigrants living in Washington, D.C. in 2007. Major sources of immigration include El Salvador, Vietnam, and Ethiopia, with some concentration of Salvadorans in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
Unique among cities with a high percentage of African Americans, Washington has had a significant black population since the city’s creation. This is a result of the manumission of slaves in the Upper South after the American Revolutionary War. The free black population in the region climbed from an estimated
1% before the war to 10% by 1810. In the District, black residents composed about 30% of the population between 1800 and 1940. Washington’s black population reached a high
of 70% of the city’s residents by 1970. Since then, however, the District’s African American population has steadily declined due to many leaving the city for the surrounding suburbs. Some older residents have returned South because of family ties and lower housing costs. At the same time, the city’s white population has steadily increased, in part due to effects of gentrification in many of Washington’s traditionally black neighborhoods. This is evident in a 7.3% decrease in the African American population, and a 17.8% increase in the Caucasian population since 2000. However, some African Americans, particularly college graduates and young professionals, are moving from northern and midwestern states in a New Great Migration. Washington, D.C. is a top destination for such blacks because of increased job opportunities.
The 2000 census revealed that an estimated 33,000 adults in the District of Columbia identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, about 8.1% of the city’s adult population. Despite the city’s sizable LGBT population and liberal political climate, same-sex marriage is not legal in the District, due in part to opposition in Congress. However, Washington’s domestic partnership law does provide same-sex couples legal recognition similar to civil unions offered in other jurisdictions.
A 2007 report found that about one-third of Washington residents are functionally illiterate, compared to a national rate of about one in five. This is attributed in part to immigrants who are not proficient in English. A 2005 study shows that 85.16% of Washington, D.C. residents age five and older speak only English at home and 8.78% speak Spanish. French is the third-most-spoken language at 1.35%. In contrast to the high rate of functional illiteracy, nearly 46% of D.C. residents have at least a four-year college degree. According to data from 2000, more than half of District residents were identified as Christian; 28% of residents are Catholic, 9.1% are American Baptist, 6.8% are Southern Baptist, 1.3% are Eastern or Oriental Orthodox, and 13% are members of other Christian denominations. Residents who practice Islam make up 10.6% of the population, followers of Judaism compose 4.5%, and 26.8% of residents adhere to other faiths or do not practice a religion.
During the violent crime wave of the early 1990s, Washington, D.C. was known as the murder capital of the United States and often rivaled New Orleans in the number of homicides. The number of murders peaked in 1991 at 482, but the level of violence declined drastically in the 1990s. By 2006, the annual murder count in the city had declined to 169. In total, violent crime declined nearly 47% between 1995 and 2007. Property crime, including thefts and robberies, declined by roughly 48% during the same period.
Like most large cities, crime is highest in areas associated with illegal drugs and gangs. The more affluent neighborhoods of Northwest Washington experience low levels of crime, but the incidence of crime increases as one goes further east. Once plagued with violent crime, many D.C. neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights and Logan Circle are becoming safe and vibrant areas due to the effects of gentrification. As a result, crime in the District is being displaced even further east and across the border into Prince George’s County, Maryland.
On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the city’s 1976 handgun ban violates the Second Amendment right to gun ownership. However, the ruling does not prohibit all forms of gun control; laws requiring firearm registration remain in place, as does the city’s assault weapon ban.
Washington has a growing, diversified economy with an increasing percentage of professional and business service jobs. The gross state product of the District in 2007 was $93.8 billion, which would rank it No. 35 compared to the 50 U.S. states. In 2008, the federal government accounted for about 27% of the jobs in Washington, D.C. This is thought to immunize Washington to national economic downturns because the federal government continues operations even during recessions. However, as of January 2007, federal employees in the Washington area comprised only 14% of the total U.S. government workforce. Many organizations such as law firms, independent contractors (both defense and civilian), non-profit organizations, lobbying firms, trade unions, industry trade groups, and professional associations have their headquarters in or near D.C. to be close to the federal government. As of November 2008, the Washington Metropolitan Area had an unemployment rate of 4.4%; the lowest rate among the 49 largest metro areas in the nation. It is also lower than the national average unemployment rate during the same period of 6.5%. The District of Columbia itself had an unemployment rate of 7.4% as of October 2008.
The District has growing industries not directly related to government, especially in the areas of education, finance, public policy, and scientific research. The George Washington University, Georgetown University, Washington Hospital Center, Howard University, and Fannie Mae are the top five non-government-related employers in the city. There are five Fortune 1000 companies based in Washington, of which two are also Fortune 500 companies.
Washington became the leader in foreign real estate investment in 2009, ahead of both London and New York City, in a survey of the top 200 global development companies. In 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked D.C. among the top ten areas in the nation favorable to business expansion. Washington has the third-largest downtown in the United States in terms of commercial office space, directly behind New York City and Chicago. Despite the national economic crisis and housing price downturn, Washington ranked second on the Forbes list of the best long-term housing markets in the country.
Gentrification efforts are taking hold in Washington, D.C., notably in the neighborhoods of Logan Circle, Shaw, Columbia Heights, the U Street Corridor, and the 14th Street Corridor. Development was fostered in some neighborhoods by the late-1990s construction of the Green Line on Metrorail, Washington’s subway system, which linked them to the downtown area. In March 2008, a new shopping mall in Columbia Heights became the first new major retail center in the District in 40 years. As in many cities, gentrification is revitalizing Washington’s economy, but its benefits are unevenly distributed throughout the city and it is not directly helping poor people. In 2006, D.C. residents had a personal income per capita of $55,755, higher than any of the 50 U.S. states. However, 19% of residents were below the poverty level in 2005, higher than any state except Mississippi, which highlights
the economic disparities in the city’s population.
Education and health care
District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) operates the city’s public school system, which consists of 167 schools and learning centers. The number of students in DCPS has steadily
decreased since 1999. In the 2008–09 school year, 46,208 students were enrolled in the public school system. DCPS has one of the highest-cost yet lowest-performing school systems in the country, both in terms of infrastructure and student achievement. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s new superintendent of DCPS, Chancellor Michelle Rhee, has made sweeping changes to the system by closing schools, replacing teachers, firing principals, and using private education firms to aid curriculum development.
Due to the problems with the D.C. public school system, enrollment in public charter schools has increased 13% each year since 2001. The District of Columbia Public Charter School Board monitors the 60 public charter schools in the city. As of fall 2008, D.C. charter schools had a total enrollment of 26,494. The District is also home to some of the nation’s top private schools. In 2006, approximately 18,000 students were enrolled in the city’s 83 private schools.
Washington is home to many notable private universities, including the George Washington University (GW), Georgetown University (GU), American University (AU), the Catholic University of America (CUA), Howard University, Gallaudet University, and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The Corcoran College of Art and Design provides specialized arts instruction and other higher-education institutions offer continuing, distance and adult education. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is a public
university providing undergraduate and graduate postsecondary education.
The District’s 16 medical centers and hospitals make it a national center for patient care and medical research. The National Institutes of Health is
located in nearby Bethesda, Maryland. Washington Hospital Center (WHC), the largest hospital campus in the District, is both the largest private and the largest non-profit hospital in the Washington area. Immediately adjacent to the WHC is the Children’s National Medical Center. Children’s is among the highest ranked pediatric hospitals in the country according to U.S. News and World Report. Many of the city’s prominent universities, including George Washington, Georgetown, and Howard have medical schools and associated teaching hospitals.
Walter Reed Army Medical Center is located in Northwest Washington and provides care for active-duty and retired personnel and their dependents.
A 2009 report found that at least 3% of District residents have HIV or AIDS, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) characterizes as a “generalized and severe” epidemic. City officials claim that the rate of HIV infection is higher in D.C. than some countries in West Africa.
The Washington Metropolitan Area is often cited as having some of the nation’s worst traffic and congestion. In 2007, Washington commuters spent 60 hours a year in traffic delays, which tied for having the worst traffic in the country after Los Angeles. However, 37.7% of Washington commuters take public transportation to work, also the second-highest rate in the country.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) operates the city’s rapid transit system, Metrorail (most often referred to as the Metro), as well as Metrobus. The subway and bus systems serve both the District of Columbia and the immediate Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Metrorail opened on March 27, 1976 and presently consists of 86 stations and 106.3 miles (171.1 km) of track. With an average 950,000 trips each weekday in 2008, Metrorail is the nation’s second-busiest rapid transit system in the country, after the New York City Subway.
WMATA expects an average one million Metrorail riders daily by 2030. The need to increase capacity has renewed plans to add 220 subway cars to the system and reroute trains to alleviate congestion at the busiest stations. Population growth in the region has revived efforts to construct two additional suburban Metro lines, as well as a new streetcar system to interconnect the city’s neighborhoods; the first tram line is expected to open in late 2009. The surrounding jurisdictions in the Washington area have local bus systems, such as Montgomery County’s Ride On, which complement service provided by WMATA. Metrorail, Metrobus and all local public bus systems accept SmarTrip, a reloadable transit pass.
Union Station is the second-busiest train station in the United States, after Penn Station in New York, and serves as the southern terminus of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and Acela Express service. Maryland’s MARC and Virginia’s VRE commuter trains and the Metrorail Red Line also provide service into Union Station. Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound, Peter Pan, BoltBus, Megabus, and many other Chinatown bus lines.
Three major airports, one in Maryland and two in Virginia, serve Washington, D.C. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, located just across the Potomac River from downtown D.C. in Arlington County, Virginia, is the only Washington-area airport that has its own Metrorail station. Given its proximity to the city, Reagan National has extra security precautions required by the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone, as well as additional noise restrictions. Reagan National does not have U.S. Customs and Border Protection and therefore can only provide international service to airports that permit United States border preclearance, which includes destinations in Canada and the Caribbean.
Major international flights arrive and depart from Washington Dulles International Airport, located 26.3 miles (42.3 km) west of the city in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia. Dulles serves as the major east coast airline hub for United Airlines. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, located 31.7 miles (51.0 km) northeast of the city in Anne Arundel County, Maryland is a hub for Southwest and Airtran airlines.