- 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.”

The Southwest Waterfront project, (www.swdcwaterfront.com) - a joint venture of PN Hoffman Inc. and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse - will transform a 23-acre site into a riverfront destination with more than 2 million square feet of parks, water-focused development, hotels, office space, housing, shops, restaurants and a cultural center.

Hoffman-Struever Waterfront LLC, in addition to the two larger developers, includes McCormack Baron Salazar Inc., a national mixed-income and affordable-housing developer, and about 30 other entities with experience in affordable housing, mixed-use retail, cultural programming, urban planning, finance and maritime development. Local, small and disadvantaged business enterprises (LSDBE) will participate in all aspects of the project, including ownership and development.

“Ground-breaking and construction on the Southwest Waterfront will start in late 2010 or even 2011,” says Shawn Seaman, vice president of PN Hoffman. “We were awarded the project in 2006 and are currently working on a land-disposition agreement with the city government. We expect approval of this agreement and the public infrastructure funding later this summer.”

PN Hoffman, a Washington-based developer, is the managing development partner, and Struever Bros. brings considerable waterfront revitalization experience, including Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. These developers will work together to rebuild the Southwest waterfront in three phases. The entire project is anticipated to be complete in 2017.

“The first phase, from 2011 to 2013, will include about 1 million square feet, with about 200 residential units, office space and two hotels,” Mr. Seaman says. “The marina section of the waterfront promenade and other public improvements will also be completed in the first development phase.”

The Southwest Waterfront will be the first LEED-Silver certified mixed-use project in the city, which means that environmentally sustainable practices will be used throughout the construction process. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green-building rating system. All buildings will be LEED-Silver certified.

“The master plan includes ripping out the current bulkhead along the Potomac and the promenade and repaving and replacing them with a new walking surface,” Mr. Seaman says. “The existing marina will be redeveloped and improved, too. But the biggest change will be the demolition of everything along the river between the fish market and Pier 4, except for the fish market. There will be 12 acres of parkland and connectivity to the adjacent neighborhoods. Right now the waterfront seems cut off from the rest of the city, so the new plans will be pedestrian-friendly so that people from the neighborhood can walk to enjoy the new services and amenities.”

Plans call for the City Pier District - on the northwestern end of the site and closest to the Mall, L’Enfant Plaza and the fish market - to be the location for the majority of the restaurants and shops. A pedestrian bridge is planned at 10th Street Southwest to link the waterfront with the Mall. Planners anticipate the development of a water taxi service to link the Southwest waterfront with the baseball stadium, Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria and other destinations.

Plans for the Wharf Street District include hotels and a pedestrian-oriented waterside promenade with restaurants and shops along the street. At the southeastern end of the development, plans call for residential buildings, office space and neighborhood-driven retail such as a gourmet grocery and small waterfront cafes. The cultural park will be a multiacre green park with cultural uses including programs by groups such as the Living Classrooms Foundation and the National Maritime Heritage Foundation.

Mr. Seaman says about 770 residential units will be built as part of the Southwest Waterfront, most likely all midrise condominiums in six- to 12-story buildings.

“The District has made a big push for affordable housing, so we agreed to a requirement that 30 percent of the homes are affordable,” Mr. Seaman says. “This means that about 230 units of affordable housing will be built, with the balance market-rate housing.”

The redevelopment of Southwest may take years to complete, but area residents can look forward to another urban destination that will draw visitors to Washington in future decades.

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