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D.C.'s downtown drives city's population growth

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

More than half of D.C.'s roughly 30,000 new residents over the past decade chose to live in the city's downtown core as development there boomed, attracting scores of urban professionals, a new analysis shows.

A total of 17,768 -- 62 percent -- of the city's new residents during the 2000s are living in Washington's downtown, which encompasses Columbia Heights to the north, the Capitol Riverfront to the south, Georgetown to the west and Capitol Hill to the east. About 8,700 chose to live in more outlying areas in Northeast or Southeast, while the small remainder -- about 2,100 people -- chose the wealthy neighborhoods of upper Northwest D.C., according to a new report by the city's Office of Revenue Analysis.

Marvin Ward Jr., the analyst who authored the report, said the findings, from 2010 census data, have implications for how the District can plan for its population and development future.

Population flow
    2000 2010 Change  
Downtown 194,271 212,039 +17,768 +9.15%
Southeast/Northeast 278,769 287,489 +8,720 +3.13%
Upper NW 99,008 101,131 +2,123 +2.14%
Citywide 572,048 600,659 +28,611 +5.00%

"[The new residents] tend to be young, don't have dependents, they're quite often single so they're kind of filling up these large developments -- condos and apartment projects -- that have been going up in parts around the urban core," Ward said. "These are places where there's a lot more activity, both in commercial and social."

The zone from Mount Pleasant to Colombia Heights to U Street attracted the most new residents, with more than 6,700 additional people in 2010 than there were a decade earlier. The Chinatown, Mount Vernon Square and Shaw neighborhoods ranked second, drawing more than 4,000 new residents during the decade.

The rents in those neighborhoods and their access to jobs and nightlife draw many recent college graduates. Keith Urbahn, who now lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, said that's exactly why he and four other guys rented a house in Columbia Heights in the mid-2000s after college.

"It was affordable," he said. "I think a lot of young professionals who are working on intern salaries or entry-level pay, they gravitate toward the edges of the metropolitan downtown area. Dupont and Georgetown were out of my price range. U Street, Shaw, Lincoln Park is where a lot of young people -- it's really the only option they have."

Of what's called the "non-core," the Anacostia, Congress Heights and Bellvue neighborhoods attracted the most people, drawing more than 3,400 new residents. In upper Northwest, Tenleytown drew most of the new residents.

Ward said he plans to do more analyses to include socio-economic characteristics of the city's newer population.

"If we can understand more about the new people coming in, what are they doing to our sales base, our revenue base, is there something that's attracting them, that gives us the ability to have an idea of what to expect in the future," he said.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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