- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

For many residents and visitors to the nation's capital, the Southwest waterfront is a place to stroll along the Potomac and sample the region's best fresh crab cakes.
For about 300 boater residents, called liveaboards, the waterfront is home. But these residents and their land-loving neighbors, long angry over deteriorating conditions at the marina, say they are cautiously hopeful about new city plans for the area's renewal.
"We just hope the right hand knows what the left hand is doing," said boater and marina resident Susan Carpenter. "Revitalization of the waterfront would be magnificent, but we have been here a long time and we want to stay here."
Long before there was the Georgetown waterfront, residents and visitors alike swarmed down to the lively Southwest pier, sampling fresh fish from the fish market, sipping wine at the waterfront's bustling restaurants and chatting with boat owners docked nearby.
But residents say that the once-immaculate waterfront neighborhood has slipped into deterioration over the past decade while the city planners commissioned and ignored plan after development plan.
Residents point to loose concrete blocks and other deteriorating structures. They complain about the abundance of litter and the lack of parking spaces. They plead for changes and to be a part of them.
D.C. officials are finally listening.
This month, a new city agency charged with city redevelopment is making the marina its first priority, and it already has started looking for a new management company for the marina.
In its first action since being created a year ago, the National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) took over control of most of the waterfront land's leases. Although the District owns the land, leases issued decades ago left control over most of it to private companies.
As part of the agreement, the city and the development corporation together paid $6.3 million to take control of Gangplank Marina from RIF Realty, which previously held the lease.
As a result, NCRC now has control over a 300-boat marina, the parking lots, a vacant restaurant and the Odyssey cruise ship. This control is the first step toward overhauling the waterfront, city officials said.
"We felt it was important to assume the leasehold," said Elinor Bacon, chief executive for the NCRC. "This gives us a seat at the table."
Ms. Bacon said the corporation has heard the neighborhood's concerns and is acting quickly to address management issues by searching for a new management company for the marina. She added that newly formed neighborhood groups are working with the corporation in selecting and addressing other neighborhood concerns.
"[This waterfront] can be one of the great waterfronts of the world," she said. "This is an opportunity for transformation you just don't find anywhere else in the world."
City planners have been busy, too, recently beginning a long-term redevelopment plan for the area that envisions more retail shops and restaurants and a more pedestrian-friendly waterfront.
As part of that redevelopment, the city wants to narrow the six-lane Maine Avenue, which planners said creates a barrier to nearby residents and pedestrian traffic. Planners envision the extra space on the thoroughfare being used for parking, parks and buildings. And they said it is crucial to add greenery and benches to the promenade.
And neighbors are organizing to be part of the revitalization.
Last fall, the Washington Waterfront Citizens Association formed to push the city to action. Earlier this month, the Gangplank Slipholders Association formed to participate in the redevelopment of their neighborhood.
Now they are hoping that city officials continue to listen to their input and that the long-term redevelopment plan doesn't follow the path of prior ones into old file-cabinet drawers.
"It's not been kept up or managed right," said Richard Westbrook, an advisory neighborhood commissioner from the area. "Let's hope this time we can get it right."

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