The Living Room, near McPherson Square: People exit on the red carpeted stairs. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

This is what happens when a city gets hit by a deluge of dollars.

A dilapidated storefront in the District gets washed away; left in its place is a fancy new restaurant. Economic lightning strikes a vacant lot; when the dust clears, the land is covered in natural woods and polished stones, marked by a sign announcing the opening of a swanky outdoor cafe.

It is the reverse of an economic drought, but the impact is no less dramatic. For decades, residents in the District got to see what economic droughts can do to an urban landscape. Now we are seeing what happens when a city gets flooded with cash.

These photographs, taken by Washington Post staff, show people in different quadrants of the city going about life as usual. For the most part, they look as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. But there is absolutely nothing ordinary about anything that is happening around them. The world is shifting under their feet.

Even if it doesn't always seem to show on their faces, it's almost surely being felt in their bones. Something amazing is happening. What's here today may be gone tomorrow. And who knows what tomorrow will bring.

The only hint of the future can be found on those architectural renderings posted at construction sites. "Coming soon: More glass and chrome to look up at," they all seem to say. But whatever comes, you just know the city will never be the same.

Exciting, exhilarating. Terrifying.

In just one nine-month period a few years back, more than 1,200 condos and apartments and 100,000 square feet of retail were built or under construction in the District. Also during that time, along a mile stretch of 14th Street NW between Thomas Circle and Florida Avenue, 25 bars and restaurants opened or were under construction. That amounted to more than 2,000 new seats for dining.

Nature may take millennia to create a mountain range. In Shaw, we got a condo canyon practically overnight.

Many residents are giddy at having new places to shop, even if it's only window shopping. But lots of money in a city can have drawbacks, too. More homelessness and more people displaced as housing prices skyrocket, for instance.

Longtime neighbors and family friends are selling their homes and leaving their apartments, either by choice or because of economic pressure. New residents are moving in. Are you among the fortunate ones whose new neighbors smile and speak to you? Or do your new neighbors want to re-create the neighborhood in their image?

Apartment rents in the city are now averaging about $2,100 a month, according to real estate service firm Newmark Knight Frank . Renters of modest means are hanging on by their fingernails. A modestly sized two-bedroom condo downtown can cost more than $900,000. And the prices keep rising.

Meanwhile, public housing complexes are being emptied out and marked for "mixed-income development." Displaced tenants have been told that they will be brought back to live among the upscale home buyers. But that doesn't always happen. Plans change. Construction gets delayed. Tenants who can't afford to hang on simply drift away.

On the upside, there are lots of hot new clubs in town. You can hail Uber to take you and bring you home. However, one popular hairstylist had to leave the spot she was renting in Northeast Washington because the space was sold to a guy who wanted to open a club.

Not that there will be a lot of sympathy for anyone having a bad hair day in a city drowning in cash.

See the full photo essay.


The Lucky Bar, near Dupont Circle: Pierre Bennett of Reston, Va., spins Joanna Mendez, 26, of Jacksonville, Fla. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Columbia Elks Lodge, LeDroit Park: Ralph White, 50, of Washington on the dance floor. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Georgetown: From left, Judge Paul L. Friedman, wife Elizabeth Friedman and A.R. Esfandiary sip cocktails at a welcome-back-to-Washington soiree in the home of Calvin and Jane Cafritz. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Rosedale Community Center: Phyllis Martin, 7, left, and Dakota Jackson, 5, splash in the pool. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Near Union Market: A crane rises above an old building. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Marvin Gaye Park, Deanwood: Karim Clayton, 10, plays with a hula hoop. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: A musician performs on the plaza for Summer Evenings @ Hirshhorn. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Arena Stage: Elise Sipos, an aerialist with the Trapeze School of New York, dangles in the window as people line up for an annual costume sale. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Hains Point: A lone fisherman waits for a bite. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Outside Nationals Park: Kevin Garnes, 65, collects spare change from people headed to a game. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

We Act Radio, Anacostia: Co-owner Kymone Freeman, left, during a community meeting at the station. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Congress Heights: Mike Larry waits for a bus with son Jayceon, center, and family friend Jeremy. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

Courtland Milloy is a Washington Post columnist. To comment on this story, email or visit