The emerging Southwest: Transformation underway

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 26, 2010; E07

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.

The new waterfront buildings will vary from six to 12 stories because of zoning restrictions. Many would have narrow profiles to avoid "slab"-type buildings and minimize shadows. A hotel with possibly 400 rooms could be situated near Market Square. At the other end of the project site, a large museum or other cultural tenant could occupy the lower floors of the building. A 100,000-square-foot Navy museum, focused on the District's maritime history, might also be relocated there.

In between Market Square and the museum building, two-story base, mixed-use residential and ground-floor retail (primarily restaurant) structures would be constructed. Parking would be under the buildings and would be hidden from view.

In 2008, the city agreed to provide $198 million to help pay for infrastructure including parks, piers and a bulkhead for the project. The Federal City Council, an influential group of business leaders, has undertaken an effort to improve 10th Street to encourage Mall visitors to walk to the site. A water taxi and ferry system is planned. The historic Fish Wharf will be renovated. The development project is led by PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette.

Waterfront Station

Location: Fourth and M streets SW

Estimated cost: $760 million

Status: With the first phase completed, the next two legs of Waterfront Station are awaiting financing deals

Estimated completion date: Unknown

Developers are trying to remake the intersection of Fourth and M streets into the "neighborhood center" of Southwest. Eight free-standing buildings will include 1.2 million square feet of office, 1.2 million square feet of residential, and 140,000 square feet of retail and parking.

The site of the former Waterside Mall, a new Safeway and CVS have already opened at 1100 and 1101 Fourth St. Two new office buildings, fully leased by the D.C. government for the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and flanking the newly reopened Fourth Street, were opened in April. A Waterfront Cleaners location will open this fall.

A Subway restaurant was slated to open in September. D.C.-based Z Burger and Station 4, a new tablecloth restaurant by the owners of Ulah Bistro on U Street NW, will open this fall.

Two apartment buildings, 1150 and 1151 Fourth St., will be renovated and include 360 residential units, about 20 percent of which will be affordable to households earning 80 percent of the average median income or less.

Three larger office buildings, at 10 or 11 stories each and with ground-floor retail space, are slated for 375 and 425 M St. An underground parking garage is being considered at the largest building, at 1001 Fourth St., which could be turned into a residential property.

The developer is Waterfront Associates, a joint venture of Forest City Washington Inc., Bresler & Reiner Inc. and Vornado/Charles E. Smith.

Randall School

Location: 850 Delaware Ave. SW (new address will be 65 I Street SW)

Estimated cost: $150 million

Status: New plans have been publicly presented and are awaiting D.C. Council approval before the project moves forward

Estimated completion date: 2015

The historic Randall School, shuttered in 1982, was slated to become the home of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's College of Art and Design. But financial pressures prompted the Corcoran to sell the 14,000-square-foot building to the development firm Telesis and art collectors Mera and Don Rubell's CACG Holdings in February. New plans call for a 25,000-square-foot museum of contemporary art, a 125-room boutique hotel and 200 residences. A sit-down restaurant is being considered in the old school's auditorium space. The museum could be similar to the Rubell Family Collection museum in Miami, which opened at a former Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse in 1994. The Rubells own the nearby Capitol Skyline Hotel. The architect and design team includes Bing Thom, Oehme van Sweden and EHT Traceries.

The View at Waterfront

Location: Sixth and M streets SW

Estimated cost: $75 million

Status: It is unclear when, or if, developers will begin working on this project or something similar at this site

Estimated completion date: Unknown

Two residential buildings, with 325 apartment units, have been planned for the north and south ends of the site facing M and K streets to replace surface parking lots, while two 48-year-old I.M. Pei-designed buildings -- at 1100 and 1000 Sixth St. -- have been undergoing extensive renovations.

Between the two Pei towers, facing Sixth Street, developers were planning a small public park. A restored central garden could anchor the development and an amenities building of perhaps 12,000 square feet could flank the opposite end, with a pool, gym, lounge and business center.

The two buildings, each with underground parking, were proposed to be built about 112 feet tall and feature an "S"-shaped design. The south building could have 8,900 square feet of ground-floor retail along M Street. Titex Real Estate Advisors purchased the site at foreclosure in August 2009, and these plans are still very much in limbo.

St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church

Location: 222 M St. SW

Estimated cost: $50 million

Status: The old church was demolished in August 2009, and plans are working their way through the approval process

Estimated completion date: Unknown

A 20,000-square-foot church will incorporate 200 apartments, most of which will be affordable and workforce housing, and the Thurgood and Cecilia Marshall Southwest Community Center, which could include a coffee shop, day-care center, computer lab, thrift shop, classroom, outreach center and choir room. Church officials also plan to open a fellowship hall in the church for community meeting space and a sanctuary for performances. Trammell Crow Co. and CSG Urban Partners are the developers. Shalom Baranes Associates is the architect.

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