A Walking Tour in Pictures: the Southwest Waterfront on the eve of demolition

March 7

The Southwest Waterfront has been redeveloped before.

In the early 1970s, the urban renewal planning mantra arrived at the Washington Channel. It brought Brutalist-tinged designs for the riverwalk and the Channel Inn hotel, near the corner of Seventh and Water streets. It brought block-like, two-story buildings that restaurants Hogate’s and Flagship moved into. And it brought a frontage road catering to the visitors who of course would be driving there. It was the style at the time.

And now a renewal of the renewal is about to get underway, with the March 19 groundbreaking for the $2 billion Wharf and its acres of apartments, hotels, restaurants, events spaces and piers. And it means most of what was once the “new” Southwest Waterfront will soon be gone.

It is unlikely that there will be preservationists chained to the faded plastic palm tree in front of the former Zanzibar nightclub, desperate to save these Nixon-era structures by the water.

But, in the final days before the restaurants close and the construction fences go up, the 1970s vibe remains. Take a final look.

Photos by Jacqueline Dupree/JDLand.com.


This is the current view of the area that will be redeveloped during the project’s first phase, as seen standing on Hains Point across the Washington Channel.


The Flagship restaurant moved into this new building at Ninth and Water streets in 1972, and was bought by Phillips in 1985. It is set to close in late April, along with its neighbor Jenny’s Asian Fusion (though Jenny’s may reopen in the Wharf). Also disappearing will be Water Street, in the foreground, as the new buildings of the Wharf are to be built right up to Maine Avenue.


Behind the restaurants is a concrete walkway along the water, adorned with bubble-shaped light fixtures that so clearly peg the area’s early 1970s vintage.


The entrance to Zanzibar on the Waterfront, at 700 Water St., SW. The nightclub closed in late 2010 after 12 years in this location.


As part of the Wharf’s first phase, the 650-foot District Pier will jut out into the Washington Channel from this spot at Ninth Street.


Standing on the riverwalk looking north. The Capital Yacht Club, currently housed in the somewhat obscured building next to Phillips’s, will get a new two-story home directly on the water about two blocks south of here.


Some of the docks along the waterfront have already been emptied for the duration of the first phase of construction, though some feathered squatters have arrived in the meantime.


This area had a few good years of re-branding as “Seventh Street Landing,” but may be a bit more inviting in its next incarnation as a grassy and tree-filled “Seventh Street Park.” (Honest, this chair was sitting right here — no staging!)


Look closely at this stretch of Water Street near Ninth Street and you can see the remnants of the tennis court built for the Washington Kastles, the professional team that played here from 2011 to 2013. The lot had been home to longtime waterfront stalwart Hogate’s since 1972, and the nightclub H20, which closed in 2009. The building was demolished in 2010, with then-D.C. Mayor Fenty taking the first symbolic swipe.


The Channel Inn hotel is scheduled to eventually be demolished but will initially remain standing to act as the headquarters for the Wharf construction crew and as a temporary home to the Capital Yacht Club.


At the corner of Sixth Street and Maine Avenue, SW, is St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, built in 1965. St. Augustine’s will be demolished in the project’s first phase but return to this location alongside a new condo building added to the block.


A Southwest landmark: the Phillips sign, at 900 Water Street, in the bright winter sun.  


The entrance to Phillips Flagship, greeting diners with its familiar New Orleans-style, Tiffany lamp-bedecked interior.

Correction: A previous version of this post said that St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church had already closed. The church will be closing in June.  

 

This is the third in a series of tours of local places before they become major construction projects. Here is one of the planned D.C. United stadium site and here is one of White Flint Mall.

Jacqueline Dupree is on Twitter at @JDLand. Jonathan O’Connell is on Twitter at @oconnellpostbiz

 

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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