The emerging Southwest: Transformation underway

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 26, 2010

A concrete-heavy product of urban renewal in the 1950s and '60s, Southwest Washington is defined by high-rise apartment blocks, federal office buildings, and modernist-looking townhouses and churches. Its multibillion-dollar transformation over the next 10 to 15 years will include, in addition to the renovated Arena Stage, a new Southwest Waterfront, the mixed-use Waterfront Station inland, a new boutique hotel and art museum at the former Randall School, upscale apartment complexes and new community centers.

Southwest Waterfront

Location: 500 to 1000 Water Street SW

Estimated cost: $1.5 billion

Status: A final master plan is set to be unveiled for the public in late September, and construction is set for late 2012

Estimated completion date: December 2017

A private-public partnership, the Southwest Waterfront will turn 26 acres along Maine Avenue into three hotels, 800 apartments and condominiums, new offices, a marina, underground parking and almost a mile's worth of parks and promenades looking onto the Washington Channel.

Developers have proposed removing Water Street and adjacent parking lots to double the size of the waterfront area between Maine and the channel. Maine would then become the primary waterfront street, possibly a "grand urban boulevard" in the same vein as Massachusetts or Connecticut avenues.

As proposed, a bike path would be located next to Maine, with another to the northwest, under Francis Case Memorial Bridge (Interstate 395 ramps).

The development would have several major gathering places: Market Square, at the northwest end, across from the 10th Street Overlook and next to the Fish Wharf. It would be a hard-surfaced square similar to Portland's Pioneer Square or Seattle's Pike Place Market, designed to accommodate markets, festivals and performances. The 10th Street Overlook, an eight-acre hill created with landfill excavated from the construction of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway, could be the site of a multilevel parking facility, hidden from view by stores along Maine.

Across from Market Square on Maine, a visitor and transportation center could be built, where visitors could transfer to a taxi or buses or walk to the promenade or Fish Wharf, developers say. A grand public staircase could be constructed from the overlook down to Maine.

Civic Park, another gathering place, may be renamed M Street Landing and expanded, replacing parking lots and incorporating a grand public pier. Located at the southeast end, near M Street and Maine, the area could also be the home of a memorial or monument. Developers envision a park similar to New York's Battery Park. Other piers could connect to the street-end plazas at Seventh, Ninth and N streets and south of St. Augustine Church, similar to Fells Point in Baltimore.

Outdoor restaurants would be located along the 60-foot-wide Southwest Waterfront Promenade, which currently is two-thirds that size and extends from P Street north to the Fish Wharf.

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