By Melissa Silverman
On October 12, elected officials, high-profile developers and community leaders came together to mark the five-year anniversary of the grand opening of The Wharf, as well as the substantial completion of Phase II of the multi-billion dollar development along the Southwest waterfront.
The second phase will add an additional 1.15 million square feet of mixed-use development, including a marina, offices and retail, housing, hotels and parks. In a public space developers are calling The Grove, strung with lights and centered around a firepit, the celebration commenced with a performance from the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School Choir.
Speakers including Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, and executives Monty Hoffman and Amer Hammour from developers Hoffman-Madison Waterfront were joined in the overflow crowd by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, ANC 6D Commissioner Andy Litsky and other fixtures of the Southwest neighborhood.
Hoffman outlined the more than 16 year effort to conceptualize, fund and build the massive project. The completion of Phase II of The Wharf links the Jefferson Memorial to Fort McNair, creating more than a mile-long promenade along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers that links restaurants, shops, music venues and public areas including waterfront parks, piers and docks.
The redevelopment required four acts of Congress, Hoffman said, and he credited Norton as not only the champion of the legislation necessary for work to move forward, but as the deep-rooted community leader who suggested officially naming the new area what it had always been called by local residents – The Wharf.
“Getting federal land for the District and ensuring public access to our waterfront have been among my top priorities during my service in Congress,” Norton said. “With Phase 2 of The Wharf complete, we can celebrate the neighborhood’s revitalization. These types of projects bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for D.C.”
Waterfront Park on the far east side of the development was dedicated to Norton, who was also instrumental in a development project to revitalize the Southeast waterfront, now known as The Yards.
After noting Norton was a tough act to follow, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser shared her story of spending time as a young child along the waterfront, where her father was a boater on the Washington Marina. While the Municipal Fish Market, opened in 1805 and the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States, remains a fixture of the new neighborhood, much of the rest of the area would be unrecognizable to a visitor from the time of Bowser’s childhood.
“The Wharf is yet another example of the District’s ability to work with residents and businesses to transform underutilized land into new opportunities for our community,” said Bowser. “Today, we’re celebrating even more jobs, housing, and opportunity for DC residents and businesses. And we’re celebrating Washington, DC as a world-class waterfront city.”
According to Bowser, the DC government has invested approximately $200 million in tax increment financing and secured agreements with The Wharf in exchange for agreements to hire at least 51 percent District residents, with 20 percent designated for residents of Ward 8 and 30 percent of apprenticeships for residents of Wards 7 and 8.
As the ceremony in front of the soon-to-open luxury boutique hotel the Pendry came to a close, Hoffman reflected on the full-circle completion of a vision that has spanned four mayoral administrations in the District. “We visited and studied spaces all over the world,” Hoffman said. “And now, the world is coming here to study The Wharf.”