A changing population brings the fun to the District
So why, now, is Washington finally playing catchup as a fun destination? It’s been a slow burn, driven by new arrivals and a consistently strong economy.
The parcel of land the Wharf sits on was originally slated for development a decade ago. Then the US economy -- construction in particular -- cratered. Even as DC escaped the worst of the Great Recession, financing became scarce. For years, there just wasn’t much to visit on this slice of barren waterfront besides a little marina and nondescript office buildings.
While much of the country was foundering in recession, the District was buoyed by government and biotech jobs in the suburbs. During the past seven years, it was the country’s fastest-growing cold-weather city, with a 12% population spike in the first half of the decade.
As those people moved into the city, they wanted more than just Smithsonians to keep them occupied. “The youth and vitality of the city has changed,” says David Walsh, the sales director at the Mandarin Oriental in southwest DC. “This has and always will be a government town. But if you look at the suburbs, there’s a lot of people working there but spending their time and money in the city, so you have a lot of exciting new developments coming.”