Representatives from the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team, political leaders, and neighborhood residents gathered in a large tent at the site of the former Kastles Stadium this morning for a groundbreaking ceremony to start construction on The Wharf project along the Southwest Waterfront. This day has been a long time coming…more than eight years have gone by since Hoffman-Madison Waterfront first began the process, which included countless community meetings, seven DC Council votes, three acts of Congress, and one Great Recession, but groundbreaking is here at last. By next year, eight cranes will become a fixture along the waterfront to join the 57 other tower cranes across the city.
A choir from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School started off the program with two songs, followed by an invocation from Reverend Martha Clark of St. Augustine’s Church. Then, Monty Hoffman from PN Hoffman took to the stage and introduced the partners in the project, while describing the long process that culminated with this morning’s ceremony. In describing his interactions with Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells for instance, Hoffman noted that Wells had four main themes that he wanted addressed with the project:
- Sustainability – The Wharf will be LEED-Gold certified and will have a cistern system that will be able to handle up to two inches of rainwater, along with a co-generation plant that will provide electricity to the parking garages.
- Inclusiveness – Over 200 units will be set aside as affordable housing for a variety of income levels, starting as low as 30% of AMI.
- The Lower 30 Feet – The designers took great care in the pedestrian experience by designing the lower levels on a human scale.
- Keep Bufus! – King Ribs was the first vendor to appear on the waterfront and will remain once the project is complete – Bufus’ barbecue was available for all to enjoy after the groundbreaking ceremony, along with food from other waterfront establishments, including Cantina Marina, Jenny’s Asian Fusion, and Captain White’s Seafood.
Next up was David Brainerd from Madison Marquette who provided some specifics about The Wharf:
- 1,350 residential units
- 700 hotel keys
- 900,000 square feet of office space
- Ground floor retail
- Wharf Hall that will bring “top music acts from around the world”
- A series of mews and alleys leading to Jazz Alley, which will include a movie house
- Market Square adjacent to the Maine Avenue Fish Market that will be “the hub of food activity for the whole Mid-Atlantic”
- 10+ acres of public space
- 500 boat slips
- Four piers, including a recreation pier, transit pier, District Pier, and the existing Pier 4
- A mile-long cobblestone-like waterfront promenade
Following Brainerd were speeches from politicians, including DC Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressman Darrell Issa, Mayor Gray, Wells, Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans (who used to represent SW back in the 90s), Ward 4 Council Member Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins, and ANC 6D Vice Chair Andy Litsky, whose single-member district includes the liveaboard community at the Gangplank Marina. Litsky had a few memorable lines (one of them referenced the name of this blog), but the one that probably elicited the most applause was his description of creating a first class waterfront where “we won’t need a casino to keep it afloat.” (For those who don’t know, a MGM Grand casino hotel is coming to National Harbor downriver in Prince George’s County.)
After the speeches, the VIPs went outside in the rain and ceremoniously turned some dirt that was set up for the event. The waterfront setting allowed for the John Glenn water boat from the fire department to spray water along the Washington Channel following the photo-op. The program ended with a catered lunch and live music from a jazz band. Despite the rain, it was a well-attended event, which several of the speakers noted, including Gray and Bowser. After all, this is a $2 billion development in the Little Quadrant That Could (Can).
Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront