WBJ: The hunt for the next hot spots

The latest weekly issue of the Washington Business Journal arrived in my mailbox with an 84 page magazine insert called OnSite: Greater Washington’s Real Estate Quarterly. The feature article in the magazine is titled “The hunt for the next hot spots.”


The most important factor in figuring out where we’ll be living in the future is to look at how we’ll be living. Just as the automobile in the 1940s and ’50s and racial turbulence in the 1960s and ’70s drove their parents and grandparents to the suburbs, look for today’s younger generations to affect what tomorrow’s communities will look like.

Just consider developer Jim Abdo’s successful bet in the late 1990s that Gen X-ers (born from 1965 to 1980) would line up for new places in the city if he helped remake Logan Circle.

“Generation X and Generation Y are putting much more emphasis on life-work balance,” says Adam Ducker, managing director at Richard Charles Lesser & Co., a real estate firm based in Bethesda.

One of the main ways to achieve a better life-work balance, Ducker says, is foregoing a large home in the suburbs and the long commute it carries for a smaller home closer to work. Commuting in exchange for a bigger house was a deal baby boomers were willing to make for their family. For younger generations, that’s not a reasonable trade-off.

That means neighborhoods like the established Dupont Circle and the emerging Capitol Riverfront around Nationals Park in Southeast — where you can walk or Metro to work, shop, exercise and socialize, all without getting in your car — will only grow in popularity as Generation Y (those born between 1979 and 1996) ages.

According to Richard Charles Lesser’s research, 77 percent of Gen Y-ers plan to live in an urban core — a far cry from the baby boomers’ suburban dream of a white picket fence and a two-car garage.

Developers are paying attention: The 80 million Gen Y-ers (30 percent of the population to the boomers’ current 25 percent) will drive the real estate market in the coming years. They’re expected to transition from renters to homeowners starting around 2012 and flood the market with demand for more urban developments. That means more condos, more apartments and more townhouses. At the same time, even many boomers are moving back toward the city in search of walkable communities.

Generation X accelerated the trend toward city living — just look at the wildly successful Ballston and Clarendon areas — but the Washington region will only see more in-fill and new urban neighborhoods spring up in the years to come.

Much more in the online article including thoughts on how density in the suburbs, even off metro such as Shirlington and the Reston Town Center will also continue to be models for the future.

Not in the online article are WBJ’s spotlights on emerging hot spots. The list was not meant to be inclusive but rather highlight a few locations inside and outside the beltway across DC, Virginia and Maryland. Those included Anacostia, Poplar Point, Fort Totten and Hill East in the District; Rosslyn, Braddock Road, Columbia Pike and Occoquan in Virginia; Gaithersburg, Green Belt, Landover, Laurel and Mount Rainier in Maryland. No direct mention of the Triangle but I think, with the exception of Rosslyn, these were meant to be longer term speculations than MVT or NoMA.

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  1. 1

    OhMyHeart says

    I grew up out in Fairfax and always lamented to my parents how far away we were from everything and how I couldn’t WAIT to live in a city. They were so offended – because they worked HARD to provide that kind of life for me.

    And now gas is how expensive? I’ll take walking around a potentially crime-ridden (I mean, preferably not, obviously) city neighborhood any day :)

  2. 2

    fourthandeye says

    @OMH – My parents also thought migrating to the far out suburbs was a sign of hard work being rewarded. During 8th grade they moved our family from a close in suburb to Hartford CT to a sprawling town where neighbors are 1/4 mile apart.

    I went from being able to bike to friends houses, public pools, parks, movie theatres, shops, the DQ, etc in 5-25 minutes to the boonies. It now took 20 minutes across enormous rolling hills simply to get to the one convenience store in town. Uggggh. My mobility was stripped from me. I was in an auto dependent area without a car. I don’t think they anticipated that I would dislike the move as much as I did. But based on that experience they aren’t surprised to see that I’m a city person today.

  3. 3

    Daniel says

    It also did a real good job at killing communities. People become so tired from the commute that they have no interest to even talk with their neighbors.
    I was lucky that I grew up in a semi-urban area (Arlington Courthouse). I tried a place like Fredericksburg for a shocking 3 years before I wanted to scream and came roaring back to the the near-burbs…