- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

The opening of the Washington Nationals‘ stadium in Southeast spurred redevelopment of that sector of the city, now a sea of construction cranes and deeply dug sites for future condominiums, shops, restaurants and offices. However, that’s not the only quadrant of the city gearing up for a makeover.

Nearby in Southwest, plans have been approved for a number of commercial, residential and mixed-use projects that will result in a revitalized neighborhood with links to the Potomac River waterfront and to Nationals Park and its surrounding amenities.

“The plans which are being approved now for redeveloping Southwest had their genesis in the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, which took place from 2001 to 2003,” says Sean Madigan, communications director for the city’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. “The ongoing discussion is that the Southwest waterfront suffered some of the same problems as the Anacostia waterfront, mainly a terrible infrastructure that cuts off the riverfront from the rest of the neighborhood.”

Mr. Madigan says the master plan developed by that initiative includes plans to reclaim the waterfront from the Maryland border near the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens to the tip of Buzzard Point.

“This initiative laid out a 20- to 30-[year] plan for revitalizing the waterfront areas of the city, with specific plans for smaller areas,” Mr. Madigan says.

The city government’s role in these multiyear plans, he says, is to get each site ready for the master developers, to facilitate permitting and to coordinate plans with various regulatory agencies.

“The city government also needs to be involved with various infrastructure issues which affect these areas,” Mr. Madigan says. “The [D.C.] Council passed a package of tax subsidies which includes $198 million for bulkhead improvements along the river in Southwest, road changes and parks.”

The city government established what Mr. Madigan calls a “creative setup” - PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program, which secures future tax payments to pay for improvements now. A similar system was used in Southeast for improvements around the new stadium.

“About $42 million will be spent for a six-acre waterfront park at the pier in the Southwest,” Mr. Madigan says. “By the time the entire Southwest waterfront redevelopment project is finished, we expect $1.1 to $1.5 billion [to have been invested].”

The two largest projects, which will include new housing, are the revitalization of Waterside Mall (now known as Waterfront) and the Southwest Waterfront project.

Waterfront, under development as a joint venture by Forest City Washington Inc., Vornado/Charles E. Smith and Bresler and Reiner Inc., is a multiphase project that will result in new public spaces, office space, up to 75,000 square feet of retail space and 1.2 million square feet of new residential space (www.waterfrontdc.com). The residences will include a mix of market-rate and affordable housing. A key element of the redesign of this development is the reopening of Fourth Street Southwest to traffic, which will create a stronger link within the neighborhood.

“Demolition on Waterside Mall started last November, so at this point, we are working with a hole in the ground and beginning vertical construction,” says Gary McManus, director of marketing for Forest City Washington. “The first phase of the development, which will be office buildings, is expected to open in 2010. The first residential component should be ready for occupancy in late 2010 or early 2011.”

About 500,000 square feet of office space have been pre-leased to the District government. Neighborhood retail space and the reopening of Fourth Street are also part of the first phase of Waterfront’s development.

Mr. McManus says two existing offices on the Waterfront site will be converted into residences. In the second phase, all-new residences will be built on the northern part of the site.

“When the entire project is finished, there will be about 1,000 new residential units,” Mr. McManus says. “At this point, we have no idea whether the homes will be rental apartments or condominiums. It depends on the real estate market when they are complete. The exact number of units and the prices will be determined as the development continues.”

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