Region Forward Blog

Commercial construction rebounds in metro Washington

Sep 20, 2011


As we noted in August DC area residents are some of the most economically confident in the nation. Even as the region’s unemployment rate has ticked up slightly over the past few months the region remains in a relatively strong position. Washington’s supercharged housing market is frequently cited as an example of the DC area’s protective economic bubble. The commercial construction sector is beginning to show similar vibrancy.


A new report shows that the volume of commercial construction in metro Washington increased in 2010 recovering from a near record low the previous year. Although still far from the recent high of 37.3 million square feet in 2008 the 20.2 million square feet under construction in 2010 was a significant improvement from 2009’s figure (15.5 million square feet).

One of the most positive trends was the increase in construction near transit with Metrorail station areas capturing more than twice as many square feet of construction as they did in 2009 and 30% of all commercial construction square feet was located within a half-mile of a Metro station. Likewise the rate of construction in the region’s activity centers increased by six percent over 2009 rates (for a total of 46%) though as the report notes this is still about 30% lower than the Region Forward target for 2012. Construction rates in activity centers will have to increase dramatically if we’re going to meet that target.

Also notable the region’s central jurisdictions – the District of Columbia Arlington County and Alexandria – captured the most square feet of construction as well as the two largest projects from 2010 the Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel and the US Coast Guard Headquarters. The report which only takes into account projects officially “under construction” and valued at least $200000 outlines the rates of growth in the region as a whole as well as in individual cities and counties. The report also breaks down the rate of construction by usage – retail medical education etc.

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