In the latest chapter in the ongoing transformation of the southwest Washington, D.C. neighborhoods surrounding Fort Lesley J. McNair, the District Wharf held its highly anticipated grand opening Oct. 12, introducing a host of new attractions and amenities to the local community.
One of the largest urban-renewal projects in the history of the nation’s capitol, the Wharf now features three million square feet of mixed-use development along a 24-acre, mile-long stretch of the District’s southwest waterfront.
The now-completed Phase 1 of the development, which broke ground in 2014, features a new boardwalk along Washington Channel, four new piers, multiple music venues and outdoor performance stages, public parks, hundreds of new boat slips, and a variety of new restaurants, bars, retail outlets, offices, condominiums and apartments.
The development preserves the Maine Avenue Fish Market, the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the U.S., which opened in 1805.
Located approximately one mile north of Fort McNair, the Wharf is accessible by public transportation, and a new water taxi connects the site to Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor, Md.
At a ceremony launching a full weekend of grand-opening events, D.C. public officials and developers hailed the benefits the Wharf will bring to the city’s economy and quality of life.
“Finally, the city of Washington has embraced its waterfront,” said Amer Hammour, chairman of Madison Marquette, part of the Hoffman-Madison development group that designed and built the site. “Finally, there’s a place for Washingtonians, for visitors, for tourists to come and enjoy water activities, for them to work, live, shop, dine, party and experience music and culture.”
D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton thanked developers for preserving the historic significance of the waterfront while reimagining it in a way that points toward a prosperous future in the southwest quadrant and beyond.
“This is transformative not only of this neighborhood but of our city,” she said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser touted the 6,000 permanent jobs she said the Wharf will bring to the District, and predicted that the site will contribute to the renewed vibrancy the city has enjoyed in recent years.
“When we look at this beautiful waterfront, we know that it’s top quality,” she said. “When we think about the tenants who are coming here, we know they will bring a diversity of options. When we think about all the wonderful residents who will be moving here, we know that they will bring life to this waterfront, and we are so excited for that.”
After The U.S. Army Band Downrange helped cap the grand-opening celebration with a rousing performance on the Wharf’s District Pier Oct. 15, Downrange musical director Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Roberts said he was impressed by the site’s performance facilities.
“It’s a great venue, and it’s a great place for military bands to play here on this stage,” the keyboardist said.
Roberts, who brought his own family to Sunday’s festivities, remarked that the Wharf should appeal to visitors of all ages.
“It’s a great place for families,” Roberts said. “It looks like there’s lots of great places around here for kids to enjoy, there’s lots of restaurants and lots of venues for live music, so it’s great.”
Visiting the Wharf from his duty station at nearby Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Army Staff Sgt. Girard King said he was enjoying his first look at the transformed waterfront.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It has a nice presence. It’s going to be a wonderful addition for the city.”
King said the proximity of the Wharf to the National Capital Region’s many military installations presents attractive recreational opportunities for the local military community.
“As far as being this close to it, it’s a good place for colleagues to go to lunch,” he said. “Family wise, it’s a great place to bring your family. If you’ve got dogs, bring your dogs out here.”
Phase 2 of the Wharf development is scheduled to break ground in 2018 and is expected to be finished around 2022.
Pentagram staff photojournalist Francis Chung can be reached at email@example.com.