Sunday, October 29, 2017

New SW Library Design to Honor Mid-Century Modern Heritage

A community meeting was held last month to discuss the design of the new SW Branch library on Wesley Place. The sketch design of the new library by Perkins + Will gives a nod to mid-century modern architecture. Glass is used on the façade to give the library an open feeling and the roofline is angular, somewhat mimicking nearby United Methodist Church. On the north side of the library facing the playground, a “front porch” will be created with rocking chairs. The entrance to the library will shift from its current location on the west side to the northwest corner and will be double-height. 

As currently proposed, the new library will be about the same size as the current one (18,000 – 19,000 SF), but more of the space will be dedicated to public uses (81% in the new library vs. 66% in the current library). The first floor will contain the entrance and circulation desk, as well as children’s services, a multipurpose room, staff space and restrooms. On the second floor, space will be reserved for adult/teen services, meeting rooms, staff space and more restrooms. Unlike the current library, the new library will not have a basement level primarily due to flooding concerns and construction costs. There will be space inside the library set aside to highlight Southwest heritage as well as the creation of a “wow” factor, perhaps by the staircase. Other design elements include sanctuary spaces, the creation of curiosity and stimulation, as well as making the library’s flow intuitive for visitors. 

A total of $18 million has been set aside to build the new library and create an interim space during construction. By next summer, the interim library will be open and construction on the new library will commence, which is expected to last about 18 months. That timing places completion of the new library in early 2020. 

Renderings courtesy of Perkins + Will

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Anacostia Riverfront Eyed as Possible Amazon HQ2 Location

The Bowser administration this week released details on the four areas of the District that city officials are supporting in its bid to win the continent-wide competition to lure the second headquarters campus of Amazon. One of the four proposed areas is dubbed the Anacostia Riverfront, an area that includes portions of Capitol Riverfront and Poplar Point. The Capitol Riverfront parcels include undeveloped portions of the Yards in Southeast, as well as most of Buzzard Point. In all, 12.6 million SF of development potential exists, which would be sufficient to fully build out Amazon HQ2. Not all of it would be built as once – an initial phase could accommodate 1.4 million SF of space with a portion being built at Riverpoint (former Coast Guard headquarters) in Buzzard Point. In the District’s press release, it describes the Anacostia Riverfront neighborhood as a “riverfront entertainment hub accessible by land and water.” 

From the press release:
The Anacostia Riverfront proposal provides riverfront space along one of Washington, DC’s main waterways. It offers the best of two worlds: a breathtaking river corridor with more than 1,200 acres of parklands integrated into a high-density and transit-oriented community that is accessible by walking, biking, metro, ferry, or even kayak.
The other neighborhoods under consideration are NoMa-Union Station, Capitol Hill East, and Shaw-Howard University. Bids for the Amazon HQ2 RFP are due on 10/19. The company is expected to select a winner sometime in 2018. 

Renderings courtesy of DMPED

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

District Wharf is Here!

A large countdown clock finally reached zero on Thursday, which marked the date when the first phase of District Wharf would open to the public. It was a cool and misty morning which greeted those who came to witness the grand opening event. Hundreds of people packed District Pier to watch the opening festivities and many more lined the Wharf Street promenade. Representatives from the development team, city officials, and DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton gave remarks about the amount of time and effort needed to bring the project to fruition, as well as the impact District Wharf will have on the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood and city. Noticeably absent was ANC 6D Chair Andy Litsky, who was in the hospital and had to miss the event. After the bands played, choirs sang, and speeches given, a daytime fireworks show marked the ending of the grand opening ceremony. 

The opening ceremony event was just the beginning of a four-day celebration, which included a multitude of free concerts, fireworks, street performers, a sold-out opening night concert by The Foo Fighters at The Anthem, and many other activities. While many of the restaurants planned in the first phase have not yet opened, several new businesses made their debut over the four-day celebration. A large fountain greets visitors who arrive at District Square from the parking garage below and the space includes a concentration of retailers that were open for business, such as Politics and Prose, Blink Optical, Ligne Roset, and Martha Spak Gallery. The standalone building within District Square contains Requin, a Mike Isabella restaurant that was opened temporarily for opening weekend. It closed after opening weekend to finish construction of the space and train workers before reopening later this month. 

Wharf Street is made for strolling and will definitely become a place to go on date night. There are separate zones for café seating, limited mixed traffic, and a pedestrian promenade. Cobblestone pavers give the promenade a look of permanence and makes it look like it’s been there for decades. Kiosks along the promenade contain businesses, such as Florentjin Wafelhuis and Red Hook Lobster Pound.

Pearl Street is a located off of Wharf Street and contains smaller live music venues including Pearl Street Warehouse and Union Stage - the former is open but Union Stage still needs some time before it makes its debut. 

While Wharf Street is restaurant-heavy, the retailers along Maine Avenue are more geared towards convenience. District Hardware and Bike and CVS are the larger retailers along Maine Avenue. A separate bike lane has been created closer to the roadway and is separated from the sidewalk by a row of street trees.

District Pier is the largest pier at the project and was used as a stage during the opening celebration, but it also has a dockmaster building at the far end of it, which will direct traffic in the Washington Channel. Visiting tall ships can also dock alongside the pier.

Transit Pier is where visitors can catch a water taxi to Georgetown or Alexandria. Future service will include National Harbor and Navy Yard. A new fleet of yellow water taxis were designed to move faster in the water but not cause waves since most of the waters along the Washington Channel and the Potomac River are no-wake zones. Free rides were given on Thursday, but the normal water taxi fare is $12 one way or $20 round trip. Cantina Bambina, which is a mini version of Cantina Marina with limited food service, is also located on Transit Pier. 

Market Pier is adjacent to the Municipal Fish Market (construction on the land side of the fish market is ongoing and should be completed by June 2018). This pier will be used by those that can tie in their vessels temporarily while visiting District Wharf. 

Meanwhile, the recreation pier at the end of 7th Street is a long, curvy space that allows users to launch a kayak or take a free water taxi jitney to East Potomac Park on the lower level. The upper portion of the pier includes swings large enough for adults to use and at the far end, a bonfire sculpture with seating awaits.

Next to Recreation Pier on the land side is 7th Street Park, a more formal oval-shaped open space, but has an interactive water feature close to Wharf Street which was popular with the kids on opening day.

Future posts will go into more detail on the individual spaces once I’m able to get back and get photos when there is better weather and not tens of thousands of people around (maybe the crowds won’t subside anytime soon). If you haven’t been to District Wharf yet, I highly recommend you go check it out!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Southwest Waterfront, A Look Back...

Good morning Southwest! It’s been more than a decade in the making, but the first phase of District Wharf finally opens today. After countless meetings, rendering revisions, and years of construction, we’ll finally be able to take a long stroll once again along the waterfront promenade (now called Wharf Street) from 7th Street to near the fish market. The media has covered The Wharf very well in the days and weeks leading to the opening, so what I thought I’d do is look back and see what used to be here along the sleepy Southwest Waterfront. Below are some before pictures:

Fish market crowds.
Fish market crowds.

View of Washington Channel from
9th and Water streets.
View of area roughly where District Pier is today.

Zanzibar on the Waterfront.
Phillips Flagship. 

View of Hogates/H2O from promenade.
Demolition of Hogates/H20.

View of Kastles Stadium from
the Washington Channel.

Kastles Stadium was built temporarily
where Hogates/H2O once stood.

Southwest sunset from Cantina Marina.

Cantina Marina, which will close
later this month.

Groundbreaking ceremony
for District Wharf.

Predecessor to the new water
taxi system serving SW.