Mention a major Northeast city that serves as the hot spot for lawyers and government officials to any real estate professional, and you are likely to hear groans and tales of projects stalled and never completed.

But that's the old Washington, D.C. In the past decade it has been transformed with mayors and economic development officials who get it. Already sections of the city — like Gallery Place — have been transformed and new retail brought in.

But there are big reasons to believe that what's happened so far has just been a prelude. Specifically, while the next few decades will be dominated by 78 million aging Baby Boomers — Washington, D.C. actually projects to get younger, according to Census Bureau data.

Sections of the city are preparing to embrace affluent twenty and thirtysomethings. Take the so-called East End in the city's downtown.

A decade ago, the area was best known for its high crime rates. But with thousands of condominium and apartment units rising out of the ground, it's now home to upscale grocery chains, entertainment venues and popular restaurants. “It really was a chicken or the egg kind of question — we needed retail for residential, and residential for retail,” says Lisa Stoddard, executive vice president of retail services with brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis.

And along the Capitol Riverfront, the construction of a 41,000-seat baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals is bound to spur further office and retail development, says Mike Zacharia, senior vice president with CBRE.

Meanwhile, the demolition of the old Washington Convention Center has resulted in plans for a new mixed-use project, incorporating 280,000 square feet of retail, 450,000 square feet of office space and about 700 housing units.

“I really think the next big thing in D.C. will be the evolution of the ballpark retail and what happens with the old convention center site,” Zacharia says.

Fast Facts

  • Washington, D.C. has ranked in Forbes magazine's top ten cities for singles each of the past seven years.
  • In 2005, about 16 percent of the city's population was 24 years old or younger. By 2030, the Census Bureau projects that percentage to rise to more than 18 percent. In contrast, the number nationally will drop from 15.6 percent to 14.1 percent.
  • Even with many projects being constructed, Washington, D.C. today has just 13.5 million square feet of existing retail space. That amounts to 23.1 square feet per person. That is below the national average of 36.4 square feet per person, according to CoStar data.
  • The city ranks ninth in Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage's 2007 National Retail Index.
  • Washington D.C.'s annual household incomes average $80,774 with retail expenditures of $6.8 billion, according to the Central Business District. The per capita income is currently $51,115.