Many quarters of Northwest D.C. feel like the global financial recession never hit. Just try reserving a table at one of the more than 24 new restaurants on 14th Street, the city's main artery of gentrification, and you'll quickly get the picture. The next available table for two at 7:00 p.m. does not open up until early December at Le Diplomate, the $6.5 million French bistro built on the site of a former dry cleaner.
Purchasing real estate is hotly competitive in D.C., too, with multiple bidders pushing up the median sale price of homes by 18.1 percent over the past five years. This to say nothing of the recent influx of millennials to the city, or its high median income of $66,538 — compared with the national average of just over $50,000 — or the huge jump in the last decade of the number of people in the region in the top 1 percent of the income bracket.
But, don't be fooled by all of the cranes around the nation's capital. While it is true that the district has weathered the economic storm far better than most other cities, economists warn that D.C.'s boom days may by threatened as the financial largesse of the federal government wanes.
The federal government shed jobs in the last year, typically a bright spot of employment for local residents and the middle class. Now, the majority of the political conversation revolves around reducing the footprint of the federal government, not expanding it. Even Democrats talk about making cuts to government programs — smarter ones, they say, than the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. "As the federal budget negotiations continue and the second round of sequester cuts takes hold, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty for D.C. and other areas," says Kil Huh, director of the state and local fiscal-health project for the Pew Charitable Trusts.