Housing Complex

A Declaration of Wharf

Mayor Vince Gray addresses the crowd as mayoral rivals Tommy Wells, Jack Evans, and Muriel Bowser look on.

Mayor Vince Gray addresses the crowd as mayoral rivals Tommy Wells, Jack Evans, and Muriel Bowser look on.

Eight years after the city selected a developer for the megadevelopment along the Southwest Waterfront known as The Wharf, the project officially broke ground today, ushered in by the city's leading—and competing—elected officials.

Mayor Vince Gray was accompanied on stage in a heated tent at the waterfront by his three top challengers for the Democratic mayoral primary on April 1: Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, and Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser. (Another candidate, At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, was also present but not invited on stage.) In 90 minutes of speeches to a packed crowd, the politicos and developers spared no superlatives in presenting the 24-acre project, which will feature three hotels, apartments and condos, a movie theater, several music venues, office space, and an expanded marina.

The Wharf, said Wells, will be "one of the most remarkable developments anywhere on the planet." David Brainerd of Madison Marquette, one of the two lead developers along with PN Hoffman, called it "one of the most exciting development projects ever constructed in the city of Washington, D.C."

"This is going to be beyond the Inner Harbor in Baltimore," chimed in Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins. "This is going to be beyond National Harbor."

It's been a long time coming. The city awarded the project to the developers two administrations ago, in 2006. Between the recession, financing challenges, and logistics in gaining the approval of the federal government, it took eight years to break ground. "I remember the first meeting we had on the Southwest Waterfront: George Washington, Pierre L'Enfant, and we said, 'Maybe we can get this done,'" said Evans, poking fun at the long process.

Today's groundbreaking kicks off the first phase of the development, which will include 200,000 square feet of retail, 435,000 square feet of offices, 648 apartments (including 135 affordable units for people making under 60 percent of area median income), 240 condos, 680 hotel rooms, and cultural spaces. This phase is expected to be completed in 2017. In that same year, the second phase will begin, nearly doubling the retail, office, and housing, and adding 450 marina slips. The second phase is slated for completion in 2020 or 2021.

Local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Andy Litsky trumpeted the project as one that will rescue the Southwest quadrant from the shadows of the other quadrants, which have experienced more development and publicity in recent years. "Southwest has always been the forgotten quadrant," he said. But with a groundbreaking that Gray called the biggest he'd ever witnessed, people are clearly paying attention now.

Photo by Aaron Wiener

  • blkwrestl

    I do not think this will surpass national harbor. the reason is that people are not coming into a city where there are red light cameras on every corner, no meters and,pedestrians and bikers don't follow the rules of the road. And as fas as the other quadrants what about SE east of the river?

  • 20011

    ^^^ 1,000 people moving into the District every day says what?

  • CC

    DC is thriving and looking like the elite city it should. While PG county has become a dumping ground for criminals and those that can't afford to live in the District.

  • Ho Hum

    If PN Hoffman is involved it is already third rate...tourist hotels, chain restaurants, and cheesy tour boats. Litsky is a hack and if Gray, Bowser, and Hoskins are around look for more of the same...

    It won't matter how many new residents we have or get, they won't be going here. How many folks who live in Baltimore actually go to the harbor?

    And Bowser was there why? She has nothing to do with anything.

  • SW,DC

    comparing the Wharf to the National Harbor is offensive. The Wharf is IN DC. Enough said. A true urban waterfront. W/o a car, good luck getting to the vast and generic National Harbor.

    As for no one wanting to go here? So let's think? No one really comes to the Wharf now cause, well - there is nothing there. So clearly this will attract more people to an area that desperately needs it.

    Because of its proximity to everything (395, VA, Cap Hill, Downtown, the Mall, etc.) once the L'Enfant Plaza area turns around and focuses on connecting SW to the mall and the rest of NW, DC - SW should be the greenest and most desirable place to live in any urban environment on the east coast.

  • TakomaNick

    I'm excited about this. I'm not a big fan of Baltimore's Inner Harbor (too many chains) but a lot of people go there and they spend money. I'm fine with this turning into a tourist trap. I would rather they spend their money in DC than the suburbs. That said, I do think it will be an attraction for local residents as well.

    Someone mentioned "National Harbor". That place is a joke. It's in the middle of nowhere and has no character. I don't see why anyone would want to go there. There isn't even a Metro stop.

  • poopee

    @blkwrestl: National Harbor sucks. I don't know any locals who go there (at least not often). I have only been for work or visiting friends from out of town who were there for work. And people aren't coming into DC? Are you joking? Have you checked out property prices, hotel room rates, population growth, etc. etc.? DC is one of the hottest cities in the country right now. This development will succeed wildly even if it's only mediocre. You mention meters, cyclists, and red light cameras as reasons people stay away. Admittedly, DC is less and less a city for motorists, and that's one reason it's increasingly popular! Stay in the burbs.

  • Ho Hum

    @SW,DC

    I stand corrected. I misread the piece, confusing the Inner Harbor.

    I thought Litsky was all anti dinner cruise boat because those vast hordes of the unwashed would upset the equilibrium etc. Someone got to her, she is clearly dressing better. Maybe they used her trendy name idea. The Wharf sounds so Steinbeck, literary, Cannery Row!!! Litsky must have been all self righteousness having to be up there with Jack Evans. Jack is pro development, oh wait, this is about development...

    I don't disagree that SW has great potential but Gray, Hoskins and the like are a contemporary iteration of that which brought forth the mess that it is now.
    Gray should just learn to shut up. Pointing out that this is the biggest groundbreaking he had ever witnessed only underscores how little he has witnessed.

    ...and Bowser was there because??? Did she confuse it on her schedule with the Blade endorsement meeting? Now that Marion has sliced and diced her "strategy" so completely she needs to grovel to the gay folk in DC who still pretend to be straight and hope they both are not out of town.

    And Wells? Must have been an open bar but he should have been warned if it was a Hoffman event it was nowhere near top shelf, not that it would matter to him?

  • Resident

    Complaining about pedestrians and cyclists not following the rules of the road? LOL

    Since when do car drivers follow traffic laws? A majority of drivers speed every day, often 10 mph or more above the speed limit. 25-40% are texting while driving. Many will speed up on yellow lights to "beat the light" then mistime it and run the red. I see this every day. Then there are all the drunk drivers too.

    As for the Wharf, I think they should also work on improving the roads that connect the SW Waterfront to L'Enfant Plaza and the National Mall. 7th and 9th Streets are not very appealing or welcoming for visitors. It's not that far of a walk or ride between those areas. The L'Enfant Plaza Metro is closer to some parts of the Wharf than the SW Waterfront Metro is, so improvements to 7th & 9th Sts. can make the area more appealing.

  • Northwesterneer

    Resident, I once sat at 16th and U St and counted as 11, 11!!!! bicyclists ran the red light.
    About 7 years ago I parked in front of the DC Jewish Community Center on 16th St and got out of my car and stood in the bike lane while trying to get my child out of a car seat when a bicyclist rode by screaming at me, "Get out of the bike lane, Jew!" (I am not Jewish, but when I completed to the JCC they said they have heard many complaints of anti-Jewish rants from bicyclists on the bike lane- nice compadres you got there.)
    Last summer I parked my car at my children's camp, got out of it and started across the street when a bicyclist whizzed by me, then stopped and started yelling at me that I almost "doored" him (despite the fact that I was out of my car and a pedestrian). He was sputtering mad at me and looked like things were going to get violent until the other people on the sidewalk told him he was wrong and needed to keep riding- I am pretty confident that vast majority of the "incidents" bicyclists rant about are their mistake or are incidents like when this bicyclist came close to hitting me when I crossed the street and then accused me of almost "dooring" him, are just hallucinations or lies they tell themselves. Either way, bicyclists complaining about cars are sooo 2009, get over yourselves.

  • http://www.flickr.com/thisisbossi/ The Turing Testudo

    "Get out of the bike lane, dude"
    "Get out of the bike lane, you."
    "Hey, yous guys, get out of the bike lane."

    About 3 years ago I was at the Greenbelt Co-Op and asked an attendant, "Excuse me, where can I find the juice?", and without pause a little old lady beside us reacted in horror and yelled at me for the next five minutes about being racist. I just wanted cranberry juice.

  • adelphi_sky

    A lot of harsh words for National Harbor. Why the angst? Thousands of people visit National Harbor every month. The Wharf doesn't even exist right now. While National Harbor is disconnected from mass transit, it is not in the middle of nowhere. That's like saying Old Town is in the middle of nowhere. It's right across the river! Arundel Mills is in the middle of nowhere.

    National Harbor has a lot to offer for the area. National Harbor was never meant to compete with DC. That would be absurd. It was meant to feed off of the tourism and conventions that DC attracts. And for that reason, the Peterson Companies have been successful.

    If given the opportunity, anyone here would have jumped at the chance to do what Peterson did for that area. I know I would. And National Harbor is only getting better.

  • Liveaboard

    I have lived on the water for 6 years and view this development with mixed emotions, nostalgic for the passing of an era and the permanent loss of a lifestyle that was unique to Southwest while recognizing that most great tourist destination cities also have great waterfront venues. There's just something special about relaxing near the water and it is only fair to share. I will miss the charm and character of my floating "trailer park" community at the end of 7th Street, (heck we even have double wides) but this is probably the right way to go. My one source of satisfaction in all of this is in knowing that the folks who are likely to move in to the new "wharf" community are unlikely to vote for any of the kinds of politicians standing there yesterday touting this project - that will also be good for the neighborhood.

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