By William Rich

Architectural rendering of the proposed Wharf development.

On February 27, there was a presentation of the Stage Two PUD for phase I of development at the Southwest Waterfront (called The Wharf) by the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team at Arena Stage. At the presentation, the developers and master planner gave a description of what is planned for parcels 2, 3, 4, 11, and public places including District Pier, Transit Pier, Waterfront Park, and 7th Street Park. The Stage Two PUD application was submitted to the Zoning Commission on February 3rd.

Monty Hoffman from PN Hoffman gave his vision for the project and mentioned some of the refinements made to the plan since the Stage One PUD was approved in the fall. For instance, the proposed traffic circle in front of Arena Stage has been removed from the plan.

At the water’s edge, wooden fencing has been added to wrap around the bulkhead and provide a nicer face to the shoreline, especially at the District Pier and Transit Pier. Earlier in the process, a streetcar line was proposed for Wharf Street, but that has been shifted to Maine Avenue due to safety concerns.

An extra mews was added to separate the office building and hotel planned for parcel 3. In addition, the facades have been broken down at street level to have more of a human scale to them.

The Hoffman Madison Waterfront team is working with Washington Gas on building a Combined Heating and Power Facility (or Co-Gen plant) on Maine Avenue that would use clean-burning natural gas to power the rest of the development. As a result of the Co-Gen plant, over 1,000 coal cars per year will be saved since most of the city is powered using coal fuel.

Next up was Stan Eckstut from Perkins Eastman, who gave an overview of what’s planned in the development. As much attention was given to the water plan as the land plan, and in fact, the water plan was done first.

Eckstut mentioned that the only other city in the United States that has a comprehensive water plan for their waterfront is Baltimore. Along the water’s edge at The Wharf, there will be a continuous bench (about 2,000 feet) instead of a railing, so people can enjoy the water more easily. Lighting will be near the base for safety purposes at night, as well as blue lighting along the water’s edge to serve as a way to define the waterfront that can be seen from passersby crossing the Case Bridge into the District.

The Transit Pier is triangular in shape and is located near Parcel 2. This is where most of the dinner cruise ships, water taxi, and charter boats will dock. Music barges will also dock here for festivals.

Down-channel from the Transit Pier is the District Pier, which will serve at the ceremonial entrance for tall ships and other vessels from around the world that visit the city. The District Pier is very large — 650 feet long (more than twice as long as a football field), stretching from Maine Avenue out into the Washington Channel. The public space created here will be larger than comparable spaces in other cities, including Covent Garden in London, outside of Faneuil Hall in Boston, or Harborplace in Baltimore. District Pier is designed to serve a variety of purposes, with permanent scaffolding along the sides to facilitate the set-up for events and festivals throughout the year.

For instance, the pier can serve as a venue for the National Cherry Blossom Festival, or become a large ice rink in the winter. Closer to Maine Avenue, there will be a large water feature called Water Court next to where people will emerge from a parking garage underneath the District Pier. At the channel end of the pier, there will be the Dock Master building with a pavilion affording views out to the water and back towards the city.

On the land side of the development, the design of the retail space along the wharf and Maine Avenue will vary, but will be smaller format with no big box retail. Along the wharf there will include mostly restaurants, as well as kiosks, while Maine Avenue retail will focus more on neighborhood-serving retail. Meanwhile, retail along the mews will be cafes, and some entertainment venues along what is dubbed “Jazz Alley” between Parcel 4 and Parcel 5.

The design of the buildings will include more masonry than glass in most areas, with the exception of the condo building planned for Parcel 4. Buildings facing Maine Avenue will more closely resemble the design of buildings in the rest of the city, while the wharf-facing buildings will have more windows to allow views out to the water. In addition, at least 50% of the roofs will be green.

Parking will all be below grade, which is rare for waterfronts in the United States and will accommodate around 1,500 cars. Nearly the same amount of bike parking spaces will be provided. A second Capital Bikeshare station will be installed at 9th Street and Maine Avenue to join the one already at 7th Street. Other planned public spaces in Phase I include 7th Street Park and Waterfront Park.

After Mr. Eckstut’s presentation, Shawn Seaman from PN Hoffman went over the sustainability measures planned for the development. The Wharf will seek LEED-New Development Gold, while the individual buildings will strive for a minimum of LEED-Silver. An elaborate 675,000 gallon cistern system will be constructed to capture the more than 25 million gallons of runoff each year that currently dumps into the Washington Channel due to the lack of permeable surfaces at present. The captured runoff will be recycled to the greatest extent possible, including the provision of chilled water for the Co-Gen plant. Solar power may also be used for lighting throughout the development.

What’s Next?

Next in the timeline is a set down hearing with the Zoning Commission in April, followed by a presentation to the ANC and vote in May. Public hearings will be held in June and July, with approval anticipated by the Zoning Commission in the fall and groundbreaking in the first quarter of 2013.

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