South by West – October 2017

An aerial view of the last phase of development shows how the remainder of the Southwest Waterfront will be transformed in the coming years. Rendering: Hoffman-Madison Waterfront

Wharf Community Meeting Addresses Next Phase, Traffic Concerns
With phase one of The Wharf getting ready to debut in a matter of days with a four-day celebration, Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the development team behind the Southwest waterfront revival, has its sights set on the final phase of the $2.5 billion project. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D hosted a community meeting on Sept. 18 at Arena Stage to allow the development team to present their plans and for the community to ask questions. A standing-room-only crowd was on hand for the presentation, as neighborhood residents have dealt with years of planning and construction for the first phase and wanted to know what was coming next for the project.

Summary of Final Phase
Sean Seaman and Matt Steenhoek from PN Hoffman provided an update on where things stand with phase one and gave an overview of what’s planned. For the final phase, about one million square feet of development is planned. A full explanation of what is planned can be found in the June 2017 “South by West” column, but here is a summary:

  • A 539,000-square-foot office building for Parcels 6 and 7 with 34,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
  • Parcel 8 will contain a 116-key hotel and a 235-unit rental apartment building (115 of the units will be set aside as affordable units). The building will have 26,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
  • An 82-unit condominium building with 16,000 square feet of ground-floor retail is planned on Parcel 9.
  • Parcel 10 will be a 60,100-square-foot office building with 16,200 square feet of ground-floor retail.
  • Three water buildings will contain a mix of maritime and restaurant uses, including perhaps a new home for Cantina Marina. The water building farthest east will be used by the Gangplank Marina occupant, including the live-aboards and nonprofit users.
The facade of the planned apartment building at the Randall School Project has been refined to make the historic buildings stand out more. Rendering: Lowe Enterprises

Community Comments and Concerns
Prior to the presentation, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen started things off with a commitment to tackle the traffic problems that will likely come about as a result of the opening of phase one (and once phase two is built). The Councilmember, the ANC, Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, and other stakeholders (collectively the Strikeforce) have been meeting regularly to address traffic issues and plan on continuing as the first phase opens.

Traffic concerns were a common theme among the audience once the question-and answer-period began. One question dealt with whether the project contained enough spaces for patrons of The Anthem, which has an audience capacity of up to 6,000 people. Many in the audience were surprised to hear that only 650 public spaces were available at the project. Seaman stated they have encouraged the operators of The Anthem to tell their patrons to use off-site parking at L’Enfant Plaza or Metro to get to and from the venue. Free shuttle buses will be provided connecting with L’Enfant Plaza and Smithsonian Metro stations. Water taxi service will also connect to other waterfront destinations such as Alexandria, National Harbor, Georgetown, and Navy Yard.

Another question was about egress to Maine Avenue SW and beyond to I-395. According to Seaman, some of the traffic backup on Maine Avenue is caused by drivers exiting the Southwest freeway at Maine Avenue and merging back onto the highway in order to save about 30 seconds of time in traffic. A solution is in the works but may take about a year to implement since approvals are needed by the Federal Highway Administration. Illegal parking next to the Municipal Fish Market also causes backups along Maine Avenue, and the Metropolitan Police Department is stepping up enforcement of no-parking zones.

A non-traffic question was about the opportunity to bring a grocery store. The development team agreed that a grocery store would be good to have in this final phase. Steenhoek even joked that the audience should send emails to Trader Joe’s.

ANC 6D is scheduled to vote on the stage-two planned unit development (PUD) for the project at its October meeting. The Zoning Commission will then take up the PUD in a series of meetings in November. If approved, construction will likely begin in early to mid-2018 with completion in 2021.

Randall School Plans Revised (Again)
Now that Lowe Enterprises has been brought on as a developer in the redevelopment of Randall School on I Street to a mixed-use project, revisions have been made to the previously approved (and recently extended) PUD. One major change is the removal of an annex building for the museum, which results in a larger courtyard separating the historic Randall School building and the proposed apartments. In addition, the design of the apartment building has been revised to further open up the courtyard. A portion of the wings of the apartment building was pulled away from the historic building. The courtyard will be open during the day and closed at night with gates.

The east and central buildings will contain a modern art museum of approximately 32,000 square feet. The museum entrance has been shifted to the east building, which will allow the center building to be fully restored. Originally, a restaurant was planned in the east building’s auditorium, but instead this space will contain museum space with larger pieces of art, as well as ancillary retail (cafe, bookstore, gift shop). A mix of commercial, retail, and nonprofit uses is still planned in the west building, but a mezzanine level will be added to increase the amount of usable space.

Meanwhile, the residential entrance will now be in the center of the apartment building on H Street. The number of units has been reduced from 520 to 489, but the portion of units set aside as affordable for households earning up to 80 percent of area median income will remain 20 percent. Most of the units will be rentals, but a portion may be built as condos.

The parking garage entrance has been moved to the northeast corner, with a planned total of 301 spaces. The ground floor of the apartment building might include retail/service uses, and two-level units might be created. Penthouse configuration and trellis placement are also changing slightly. The Bing Thom-designed apartment building has been refined by Beyer Blindle Belle, simplifying the facade to allow balconies and to further distinguish the historic Randall buildings from the new construction.

Once they receive approval of their plan, the developers plan to begin with abatement of the historic buildings in late 2018, then demolition of the non-historic portion, which would likely put the start of construction in 2020.


William Rich is a blogger at Southwest … The Little Quadrant that Could (