Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Southwest Waterfront Meeting Details

The 514-seat Kreeger Theater at Arena Stage was almost filled to capacity with people this evening who were interested in hearing about the revised master plan for the Southwest Waterfront. Representatives from the Hoffman-Madison Marquette team and EE&K Architects presented their vision for the waterfront, a 26-acre development along the Washington Channel. See below for details on the new plan, or check out the Southwest Waterfront Redevelopment page. ( now with renderings)

Key development principles for the Southwest Waterfront include:

  • Create an accessible, lively waterfront neighborhood - alive with people, activity, commerce, culture and recreation
  • Bring the District to the water's edge
  • Restore successful elements of Southwest DC to serve as a great place for District residents
  • Become a model development by use of best practices for sustainability
  • Create an enduring place - a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of the people of Washington

Current plans include the following basic elements:

  • 560 residential units
  • 600 keys in three hotels
  • 840,000 SF of office - the development team is talking with a tenant for phase I
  • 335,000 SF of ground floor retail wrapped around all of the buildings
  • music hall/museum/maritime education
  • 2,500 underground parking spaces in five garages
  • 400-500 marina slips
  • 60% of the site area will be public space

Community benefits include the following:

  • 30% of the residential units will be affordable - half of the affordable units will be for those earning up to 30% of AMI and the other half for those earning up to 60% of AMI. The affordable units will blend in with market-rate housing.
  • 51% of all new jobs will go to District residents with an emphasis on Wards 5, 6, 7 and 8
  • 650 - 1,000 construction jobs will be created
  • 2,800 permanent jobs will be created (1,000 of them will be service jobs)
  • 35% of goods and services will be provided by CBEs
  • 20% of retail will be reserved for unique and local retailers

The Southwest Waterfront development will be built in three phases, however, phases I and II could be combined depending on whether the development team can secure enough pre-leasing:

  • Phase I - from 7th Street to 9th Street, including 7th Street Park & Pier and City Pier. Will include 2 hotels with 40,000 SF of retail, office, a residential building and the Capital Yacht Club.
  • Phase II - from 9th Street to the Fish Market will include the music hall or other cultural element, farmers' market, office, retail, and residential.
  • Phase III - from 7th Street to P Street Park. Will include residential, office, hotel, retail and commercial pier

Some of the major public spaces include the following:

City Pier
The City Pier will serve as the terminus of 9th Street from Maine Avenue and will jut out into the Washington Channel. This will be the main civic space of the waterfront, where tall ships can dock, a band shell may be located at the end of the pier, and a landmark light tower may be located adjacent to the pier. This will also be the area that will have the most programmed activity.

Market Square and Pier
This section of the waterfront is near the fish market, which will be refurbished. In addition, a new farmer's market will be built north of the fish market to replace the head house market that once existed in the area back in the 1930s. A seasonal market, brewery, cafes, picnic tables, and restaurants will be located in this informal space and a couple of barges will be added to this area.

7th Street Park and Pier
7th Street Park will be at the terminus of 7th Street and will be more formal in nature than Market Square. It will be a grassy area with lots of trees and the retail space adjacent to the park will be reserved for higher-end restaurants. There will be a pedestrian pier with perhaps a gazebo and kayak rental facilities.

M Street Landing
Across from Arena Stage will be M Street Landing, an open space that connects the waterfront to Arena Stage. This area will have 1-2 story buildings so Arena Stage can serve as a showcase building visible from the waterfront. There will be a traffic circle on Maine Avenue in front of Arena Stage and a water feature - perhaps an ice skating rink - that will be near the Washington Channel. This area is seen as being a fun area with less formal restaurants and family-oriented retail. M Street Landing will also serve as a staging area for the cruise ships that will all operate at the commercial pier nearby.

Maine Avenue
Maine Avenue will become a neighborhood street, with ground floor convenience goods retail running along its length, such as dry cleaners, bakery, pharmacy, etc. Each side of Maine Avenue will have a travel lane on the left, a second travel lane that shares space with a streetcar line, and a parking/loading lane. A row of street trees will separate the road from a 10-foot wide bike lane and a 15-foot sidewalk, so buildings will be 25 feet away from the street. Traffic lights will be added at the new Maine Avenue traffic circle, the northwestern edge of Arena Stage, and the Grand Staircase planned to connect the 10th Street Overlook to the waterfront. Tour buses will be moved to Maine Avenue near M Street Landing so cruise ship patrons have easy access to the commercial pier.

The Wharf
The main attraction at the Southwest Waterfront will be The Wharf, which is the promenade that will run the length of the waterfront from Market Square to M Street Landing. Water Street will be removed and replaced with Wharf Street. The promenade will be 60 feet wide broken into three equal sections and in most places will be at "elevation 13" or 13 feet above the surface of the channel. The 20-foot section closest to buildings will be for outdoor seating. The middle 20-foot section will be Wharf Street, with limited vehicular access and possibly a streetcar line that will run northwest-bound. The 20-foot section closest to the shoreline will be for pedestrians.

Other public spaces planned include P Street Park, which will be a large park space where the tour buses currently idle; Waterfront Park; The Grove, which will be a more intimate space near the Gangplank Marina; The Mews, Theater Alley, Transit Plaza and Pier; and Club Plaza. A major component of the experience that a visitor will have when going to the new Southwest Waterfront will be the programming that will occur. Concerts, fireworks, festivals, seasonal markets, and many other big & small planned events will animate the waterfront so a visitor won't have the same experience twice.

The northwest side of the waterfront will be the more lively area while the activity and buzz starts to die down closer to the existing neighborhood on the southeast side.

Most of the buildings will be perpendicular to The Wharf to minimize blocked views to the waterfront. Taller buildings will also be positioned to avoid a wall effect along the waterfront and enhance view corridors.

The entire development is aiming for LEED-ND (Neighborhood Development) and individual buildings will be seeking LEED-Gold or Silver.

The Planned Unit Development (PUD) process will begin this fall. Construction is supposed to begin in late 2012 and should last 7-8 years.

What do you think about the revised plans for the Southwest Waterfront? Feel free to leave a comment and/or vote in the poll at the top left corner of the blog.

Update: The illustrative plan has now been uploaded to the project website.


Anonymous said...

So I don't live in SW but I grew up in DC and the main reason I went to SW was the fish market. When I first started hearing about the development I heard the fish market was going to be closed for good. I see here it is just getting refurbished? Hoping this is the case. Will they be keeping the iconic signage? I've always thought the one thing the fish market was missing was a covered picnic table pavillion to eat the markets prepared foods and maybe enjoy a draft beer.

David Garber said...

and now the next question.. how to connect Maine Ave to the rest of the city in a way that actually makes some sense.

Caity Rose said...

it sounds pretty neat as long as people are open to the development. I know it's quiet and nice down there but its an area that really yields lots of opportunities to develop. Waterfront developments are always really nice and really popular . I think it would be great and the area would still be nice.

Ed said...

How much public subsidy is there for this project? I remember the city committing to something like $198 million in infrastructure improvements and maybe some payments in lieu of taxes?

Critically Urban said...

In 2008, DC agreed to provide $200 million in public financing to help pay for infrastructure including parks, piers and a bulkhead. This has not yet been earmarked.

Anonymous said...

Many cool things in the plan. But I had to chuckle when I read this:
"Traffic lights will be added at the new Maine Avenue traffic circle"
What is WITH Washington's predilection for lights in traffic circles??

Caity Rose said...

haha to Anon at 3:09
clearly they've never been to the UK. yield to the cars in the circle. but I must say I've seen lights at some of the really big ones...I can't imagine this one would be huge

Anonymous said...

What Metros will serve this area?

Anonymous said...

Is this the place for "affordable housing?" My neighbors and I have a view of parking lots and a freeway, I'm not certain why our tax dollars should go to subsidize affordable housing in the Gold Coast of Southwest?

Caity Rose said...

the actual watefront is close to l'efent plaza, and watefront SEU metro stops. there are also buses that go fairly close including the circulator you can catch coming down 9th st and a bus you can catch on 7th st in chinatown.

it said 30% was affordable housing. It's really not that much if you think the area should be more expensive.

Dianna said...

I lived in SW Waterfront for about four years. I'm so excited for this beautiful neighborhood to get a face lift... makes me wish I hadn't left.

Anonymous said...

I agree that losing the Fish Market would be tragic. The authentic value of the market is much stronger than anything that could be produced in the new public spaces.
Overall I think its a great plan but the ability to support the character of the fish market will determine if this is a nice but generic waterfront development or something really special.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice write-up from the development meeting. I intended to attend but got screwed at work.

I can't imagine and highly doubt they will shut down the Wharf. What about Cantina?

I'm looking forward to the development. I've always been a big fan of SW for many reasons. The 'hood is gonna blow up.

Anonymous said...

Caity: I think affordable housing is very important for a stable neighborhood, but I think the new waterfront development is the wrong place for it. Affordable housing shouldn't be in luxury spots that the middle class taxpayers who subsidize it cannot afford themselves.

I feel that this development should be allowed to sell/rent at market rate which will allow higher-end retailers and restaurant operators get the financing they need more easily in order to invest in the neighborhood--that's how commercial loans work.

Put another way, I believe the new waterfront housing should be the rising tide that raises all Southwest, not artificially held down.

Anonymous said...

Big ideas, but we will see what happens with implementation. This isn't the first rodeo for SW redevelopment. I am big concerned that the new Waterside Mall project has failed to attract private or federal office tenants (and the office buildings by the stadium are totally vacant).There are only so many DC govt agencies to move around the city.

The affordable housing along the waterfront will go away, it always does. DC's laws in this area have many loopholes.

Priority jobs for certain Wards will be short lived. Service jobs will be taken by immigrants from Northern Virginia, not locals. Just like with every other project in the city.

As for the fish market...I guess I can't really care either way. It is not a real fish market in any sense of the word. The fish is trucked in on the very same trucks that service the grocery stores.

It exists as a sort of tourist attraction, yet no tourists really go there. Its customer base is mostly low-income locals (note the heavy advertising of EBT card acceptance), who could probably do much better from a price and quality standpoint at the new Safeway.

It is subsidized by the DC govt to the extent that there are tax advantages to the vendors operating on "barges" rather than on land. That makes no sense at all, especially given that I would guess that 100% of the employees down there, and all of the companies, are from outside of DC.

SWill said...

The fish market will remain. I was told that some of the shacks at the fish market will be demolished, but the one with the cupola will be saved and restored. As far as Waterfront Station goes, both office buildings are fully leased. Office buildings all over the city are having trouble finding tenants, not just in this neighborhood.

AMK said...

I agree with the anonymous commenter who pointed out that, while it's important to have affordable housing available in the city, providing affordable housing in what will be a luxury waterfront neighborhood subsidized by taxpayer dollars of many who can't afford to live there seems unfair.

Also, as someone else noted, any thoughts/ideas about what will become of Cantina Marina? Hopefully they could remain as one of the unique/local businesses for which 20% of the retail space has been guaranteed. Despite the fact that their food is disgusting, it provides such a great, laid-back, beach-like environment in which to relax and enjoy a drink. Although I guess in the future, we may have multiple spots in which to relax and enjoy a drink by the water ... and maybe they'll even have decent food too ...!

Anonymous said...

Priority jobs for certain Wards will be short lived

True, because history shows those ward members will not apply, or not show up after a week or so, Then hard working immigrants will pick up the slack

Anonymous said...

Waterfront Station is fully occupied only because the city government bailed out the project by moving offices there. That is not a long-term strategy for real estate success.

While vacancies are up all over the city, it truly remains to be seen if federal agencies and businesses will want to move outside of the downtown core to places like the stadium area and waterfront.

Its good to be optimistic, but its more important to be realistic. I fear that too many involved in this project are putting realism aside and becoming cheerleaders.

Anonymous said...

Priority for local job applicants is really a losing proposition, despite being well-intended.

First, if you assume business people are rational, they will always hire the most qualified applicant who lives closest to the workplace, as attendance will be better.

Second, if you assume the United States and the District have robust (understatement of the decade) laws in place to prevent discrimination, then the process will be fair.

Given those two assumptions, local hiring preferences can only result in a second-choice employee being hired. That means lower service or worse behind-the-scenes performance for the merchant, both of which make it more difficult for the business to prosper.

So, while it may help the handful of employees who get the jobs, every customer they impact and the business they work for all suffer the consequences. Safeway come to mind? Don't blame Safeway Corporation.