Developers Selected to Transform Southwest Waterfront

Developers PN Hoffman and Struever Bros. Eccles &  Rouse plan to transform Washington's Southwest waterfront into a multimillion-dollar neighborhood.
Developers PN Hoffman and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse plan to transform Washington's Southwest waterfront into a multimillion-dollar neighborhood. (Pn Hoffman / Pn Hoffman)
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006

A team of developers was chosen last night to transform 47 acres of the Southwest Washington waterfront, from the 12th Street Bridge to Fort McNair, into a multimillion-dollar neighborhood with housing, restaurants, shops, offices and cultural attractions.

The team's lead developers, PN Hoffman of the District and Baltimore's Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, plan to invest $800 million to turn a concrete-heavy product of 1960s urban renewal into a leafy, park-like setting that attempts to capitalize on the riverfront landscape, with an inviting promenade and tall ships docking at the piers.

The area is now home to the fish market on Maine Avenue, Channel Inn Hotel, the Zanzibar on the Waterfront and other nightclubs, Phillips seafood restaurant and parking lots. The fish market will remain, but it remains unclear whether some of the businesses, such as Phillips, will stay in the new development.

Building is expected to begin in 2009 and take eight years. Monty Hoffman, founder and chief executive of PN Hoffman, said the project's aim is to bring a human scale to a neighborhood defined more by highway pavement than waterfront pleasure.

"It's a golden opportunity to have the neighborhood embrace the waterfront," he said after the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. made his team its unanimous choice last night.

Adrian Washington, president and chief executive of the AWC, said the city has been talking for years about this redevelopment. "We have a tremendous mandate and we're moving forward very quickly," he said.

Although the D.C. Council must approve the developer, it has already agreed to the basic plan.

The 2 million-square-foot development will include about 900 condominiums and apartments, 360 hotel rooms, 230,000 square feet of retail, 150,000 square feet of cultural spaces -- perhaps a maritime museum or aquarium -- along with office space, parks, piers and a waterfront promenade. Some of the residential units will be for moderate- and low-income families.

The developers were selected by the quasi-public AWC, chosen from a field of 17 teams. Details of the project could still be adjusted.

PN Hoffman will direct the project, working with Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, which has experience on revitalization projects along Baltimore's waterfront and throughout the city.

Their plan includes a mixture of white-tablecloth restaurants, cafes and bistros, a small grocer and specialty stores. The original proposal included a space for Cirque du Soleil, but the developers decided against it because the attraction was seen as being too touristy.

"I love that we won," Hoffman said. "The neighborhood is going to be the anchor. We're going to be looking for retail that promotes neighborhood gathering along the promenade of the waterfront."

Phillips and the other businesses have long-term leases from the National Capital Revitalization Corp., another quasi-public group, which owns some of the waterfront. Executives at the Anacostia group said the land would be transferred to the AWC, which would sell or lease it to Hoffman. Other parcels, including the fish market site, are owned by the federal government.

The runner-up in the competition was District retail developer Madison Marquette, paired with housing developer KSI Services Inc. of Vienna. It had financing help from Earvin "Magic" Johnson's investment fund and wanted to put in a health club and a grocery store. Their plans also called for a river-walk with cafes and stores; a "market hall" that would sell produce; a boutique-type hotel for a young, hip crowd; and a "Washington version" of the luxury Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Mass.

The Anacostia group started gathering ideas from the community in 2001, and this spring the 17 development teams, including some of the biggest names in the real estate industry, applied for the opportunity to redo the Southwest waterfront.

Five finalists were selected in June, including EastBanc Inc., a retail developer in Georgetown that did Cady's Alley; housing and office developer JBG Cos. of Chevy Chase; and the John Buck Co., a major Chicago developer.

The competitors presented their ideas this summer to a meeting of about 150 community leaders, neighbors and the Anacostia group. They were asked not to show detailed sketches and renderings from architects but to describe their qualifications, minority investors, financing and plans for involving the community in the project.

The top two competitors were selected in August.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company