A rendering of the second phase of the Wharf, in Southwest D.C., depicting almost 1.2 million square feet of new buildings — on top of what the developer is finishing this fall. (Courtesy of the Wharf)

For three years cranes have been at work in Southwest D.C. erecting the first phase of a waterfront aimed at putting the city’s smallest quadrant on the map for locals and visitors alike.

Beginning this summer, the fruits of that construction — visible to anyone passing through on Interstate 395 — will be open for business as new apartment towers, hotels, piers, a 6,000-seat concert venue and some of the city’s priciest new condominiums are set to open as part of the city’s largest new development, dubbed the Wharf.

That’s just the start. As the developers enter the final months of the first phase, on Friday they submitted plans for the second, giving the public its first detailed look at what the cranes will start assembling beginning sometime next year.

For those tired of seeing Washington developers building glass boxes downtown the plans for the second phase of the Wharf will come as a relief. There is plenty of glass, sure, but the development team of PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette took pains to avoid a pitfall that has tripped up other mega-developers: excessive uniformity.

Instead of hiring one or two architects and planners to design the project, they hired 11. The Wharf’s master planner, Perkins Eastman, did Battery Park City in New York. Shop Architects, which designed new Fannie Mae headquarters under construction downtown and the Uber headquarters in San Francisco, designed two new Wharf office buildings. Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly’s firm designed the super high-end condos.


At left, a new condo building designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. At right, an office building designed by architect Morris Adjmi. (Courtesy of the Wharf)

The list goes on: WDG, based in D.C., is designing new office space. ODA of New York is designing apartments and retail. New York’s Morris Adjmi is designing an office building. Studios, Hollwich Kushner, S9, Michael Van Valkenburgh and Wolf-Josey all have a hand as well.

“We learned in the first phase that having a different architect for each building provided a nice variety, and our goal was to make the project look not like a project but more organic, like it was built over time,” said Shawn Seaman, senior vice president at D.C.-based PN Hoffman, the lead developer. “Different architecture on each parcel allowed more differentiation of the project and I think it’s more interesting.”

By any measure, the Wharf is one of the biggest developments on the East Coast. It includes about a mile of shoreline, 24 acres of land and 50 acres of water in the Washington Channel, where some 500 boat slips are planned. The second phase alone is almost 1.2 million square feet. There will be 2,600 parking spaces in all.

By relying on such a wide array of design ideas, the Wharf’s developers are hoping to avoid creating a place that will feel like a sterile, outdoor version of a shopping mall — something for which some of the new developments in Tysons Corner or even CityCenter D.C. are sometimes criticized. With the help of $198 million in city funds, they’ve also included public parks, piers and play spaces to encourage the surrounding neighborhood and the rest of the city to enjoy the new waterfront — even if they can’t afford some of the glitzy condos and restaurants.

A recreation pier debuting in October as part of grand opening festivities will offer kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals plus a fire pit and play fountain.


When completed the Wharf will have 500 boat slips. (Courtesy of the Wharf)

Some of the prices for condos and apartments could threaten records in the city for being the most expensive per square foot, because of a combination of there being some micro-units and some condominiums with such high finishes and heretofore unavailable waterfront views. PN Hoffman made its name introducing high-end flats and condos along 14th Street NW before Logan Circle boomed. It is selling some the first phase Wharf condos for more than $1,000 per square foot, prices mostly not seen previously outside of Georgetown.

In the first phase there are reduced-rent apartments mixed among the pricey ones. At the Incanto, a 148-unit building, 47 apartments are being offered to renters at a spectrum of income levels ranging from a couple making less than $26,000 annually (which would pay $661 monthly for a one-bedroom) to a couple making under $105,888 annually (and paying $2,525 monthly for a one-bedroom). At the Channel Apartments, 153 out of 501 units are offered at similarly reduced rents.

Persuading companies to move their offices there was expected to be a harder sell, but Seaman said it has gone well enough that the development team included about 500,000 square feet of office space in the second phase. The office space in the first phase is about half leased or nearly leased, according to PN Hoffman, with firms including the American Psychiatric Association, Washington Gas and the law firm Fish & Richardson having already signed on.

Pending zoning approval, construction on phase two could begin next year.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz