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Buzzard Point Rises

Like much of the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, Buzzard Point is undergoing a substantial transformation from a former industrial backyard of DC to a growing mixed-use subarea of this riverfront community. Buzzard Point is yet another chapter in the “proof of concept” that residents want to live on or be proximate to the water if given the opportunity.

Imagine 10 years from now driving across the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge towards Capitol Riverfront and seeing a new neighborhood to your left on the banks of the Anacostia. The bridge is actually bracketed by new buildings as the old Florida Rock concrete plant site to the right has been completed with an office building and either a new hotel or residential building. You will see the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail along the river’s edge pass under the bridge and connect the SE portion of Capitol Riverfront to its SW companion – Buzzard Point.

You will also be greeted by the Memorial Oval, a 4+ acre open space that offers active lawn space suitable for concerts, movies, and other activations, and will one day be home to a new national memorial or monument. The oval offers much needed “green relief” and stunning views of the US Capitol for residents on both sides of South Capitol Street, and a premier business address for new offices that can front on the oval.

Potomac Avenue, SW offers the best access into the Buzzard Point neighborhood and your view is immediately captured by Audi Field, home to the DC United soccer team. The stadium has also become the hub for a variety of programming and community activities for the surrounding neighborhood. Potomac Avenue is lined with residential and hotel buildings that offer ground level neighborhood support retail.

South of Potomac Avenue has become a high density, mixed use neighborhood as was envisioned in the Capitol Overlay Zoning District and the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI) Framework Plan. The DC Office of Planning also developed the Buzzard Point Urban Design Framework Plan that envisioned and planned for a new riverfront neighborhood. While residential is the dominant land use with approximately 6,000 units having been built, there are also hotels and office uses, with more restaurants, retail and a grocery store planned to serve Buzzard Point residents and the neighborhoods immediately to the north. It is a compact and walkable neighborhood that ties into the walking/biking paths of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail network.

The Stacks
Buzzard Point is currently anchored by Audi Field, the old Pepco generating plant and its three smokestacks, and three new residential buildings. But an exciting new mixed-use project appropriately named “The Stacks” will soon break ground and become an identifiable destination in its own right. The Stacks will be constructed in two phases, with Phase I starting in the 1st quarter of 2022. The project will contain over 2.2 million SF of new construction – similar to the 1st phase of the Wharf, with each phase having approximately 1.1 million SF.

Phase I Mix: This phase contains 1,100 residential units, a 184-room hotel, 40,000 SF of retail, 12,000SF of co-working space, and a new park space on V Street (9,000 SF).

Phase II Mix: This phase contains additional multi-family, a larger office component, and a hotel.

The Stacks was designed to be a more pedestrian scale with tight urban spaces and an inviting 1st Street and pedestrian alleys. It also includes two levels of underground parking.

As a peninsula, Buzzard Point overlooks the confluence of the Anacostia River, the Potomac River, and the Washington Channel. The National Park Service lands at the southern tip have been reimagined and will be constructed as a public park that allows residents and visitors unparalleled views of the water and access to it through a pier with canoe and kayak launches. The riverwalk trail will pass through the park and encourages its users to stop and admire the park’s setting and views. At some point in time, it is hoped that the riverwalk trail can be extended over the river adjacent to Ft. McNair for a more direct connection to the Wharf and beyond.

Watermark Apartments which delivered in 2020

What is the reality of all the developments described above? Very real and a trip to today’s Buzzard Point will reveal a neighborhood that has already achieved a visible presence and footprint with more to come. Today Buzzard Point is home to three new residential buildings that contain over 1,000 residential units:

  • Watermark (1900 Half Street, SW) – an apartment building by Douglas Development has 453 units and the Eagle Academy public charter school.
  • Peninsula 88 (88 V Street, SW) – a 110-unit condominium building by Capital City Real Estate.
  • RiverPoint (2121 1st Street, SW) – a 480-unit apartment building by Western Development and Akridge that is also home to The Point restaurant and the future headquarters location for the DC Central Kitchen facilities.

MRP is currently constructing the Verge, a 344-unit apartment building located at 1800 Half and S Street, SW.  This side of Buzzard Point will see construction over several years after the concrete and rock crushing facilities are moved. Florida Rock, MRP and Steuart Investments have a combined 2+ million square feet of development rights for their sites with frontage on the river and the memorial oval. They envision a mix of uses – residential, retail and office – with an active engagement of the riverfront and S Street, SW serving as a major pedestrian entry from the riverwalk trail into those projects. The first phase of this large project will be SQ662 that will include residential and substantial ground floor retail. This development partnership realizes the importance of creating a vibrant engagement of the river frontage, creating a new public square that becomes a focus for community gathering, and enhancing the neighborhood support retail for the community.

The new Cambria Hotel has opened at 69 Q Street, SW with 154 rooms, a full-service restaurant and a rooftop bar. The site directly south of the Cambria that is bounded by Potomac Avenue, 1st Street, Q Street, and Half Street is owned by Toll Brothers and preliminary plans have the site being developed with a 400+ apartment units, a 150+ room hotel, and approximately 20,000 square feet of retail.

PN Hoffman is developing the large parcel directly east of Audi Field (Parcel B) and it is now going through review with the city. They are proposing a two-building complex that will contain 110 affordable seniors units, another 352 apartment units of which 8% will be affordable, ground floor retail, and the new headquarters office for Volunteers of America, a nonprofit that will move to DC from Alexandria.

The development of any new high density neighborhood like Buzzard Point always raises questions and opportunities. Some items that are still being discussed by the DC Office of Planning, ANC6D, the Capitol Riverfront BID, and DPMPED include the following:

Transportation Infrastructure – being .8 miles from both the Waterfront and Navy Yard/Ballpark Metro stations, accessibility remains a concern. The BID is looking at shuttle strategies with DDOT and emphasizing micro-mobility tactics for the neighborhood. Several partners are working to keep the Metro Bus Line #74 service in place.

Community/Civic Facilities – Capitol Riverfront BID is working with DCOP to see what civic/community facilities are needed to serve the neighborhoods and how they can be achieved through public/private partnerships.

Park Space – work is ongoing between NPS, the BID, Buzzard Point owners, and the city to achieve funding for the design and construction of the NPS Buzzard Point park. The BID is encouraging DPR and DDOT to properly maintain and program the new oval space, and the Steuart/FRP/MRP projects offer opportunities for new access to the river, a continuation of the riverwalk trail, and the creation of a new public square.

River Accessibility – access to the river is important through the riverwalk trail, new pier/dock facilities for the public, and the NPS park.

Neighborhoods like Buzzard Point do not emerge overnight; they involve years of planning, public investment, and a private sector response. We are now beginning to see the initial projects and the opportunities for more living options and riverfront access. It involves public/private partnerships to achieve the many elements that make a “complete” neighborhood. But once again, a stadium anchored neighborhood with waterfront access is showing signs of being discovered and previous industrial lands are being put to productive use.

Michael Stevens, AICP is President of the Capitol Riverfront BID. The Capitol Riverfront BID is a 501©(6) nonprofit that provides a range of place management services including a Clean Team presence, strategic planning and economic development activities, community building events, and marketing/PR services on behalf of a 500-acre new growth neighborhood located 5 blocks south of the US Capitol and with approximately 2 miles of riverfront.

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