In the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood in the District, you can easily walk or bicycle to the water’s edge, shops, Metro station, library and playground. Residential streets are peaceful and tree-lined. Squirrels dash across sidewalks and birds chirp.
“I like living in Southwest,” said William Rich, a 12-year resident and founder of the neighborhood’s news blog with the quirky name “Southwest . . . The Little Quadrant That Could” ( www.swtlqtc.com ). “It’s close to downtown, close to Capitol Hill. It’s in the city but not in the thick of it.”
Southwest is the District’s smallest quadrant. Still, the area has a big attraction.
“One of the reasons I like living here is to brag to people how close I am to the water,” said Nick Nigro, a nearly five year resident.
Fishing off the pier, docking a boat, jogging by the Gangplank Marina and looking over the Washington Channel are pleasures of the harbor. The Capital Yacht Club is there, and so are the Sequoia, Spirit of Washington and Odyssey cruise boats.
And there’s a floating neighborhood of about 90 houseboats and more than 100 inhabitants. “People recognize us as boat people who are part of the neighborhood fabric,” said Jason Kopp, who has called a 40-foot boat home since he moved from Monterey, Calif., in 2007.
Up and coming: “The neighborhood is a product of 1960s urban renewal,” said Nigro, referring to a contentious process that ultimately leveled much of the quadrant. The modernist architecture that replaced what was there still predominates, including Charles Goodman’s 1962 barrel-roofed townhouses of aluminum and glass, though four 1790s townhouses known as Wheat Row avoided the wrecking ball.
But the scene is changing, and that’s what drew Jennifer Nicole Rice, who moved into a rental in July after leaving Indianapolis. “I like watching the transition of a neighborhood,” she said.
The recent redevelopment began around 2003 with new townhouses. The mixed-use Waterfront Station development opened in 2010. Two former Environmental Protection Agency towers were reconfigured into the Sky House apartments, and Waterside Mall was rebuilt into offices housing D.C. government agencies.
“Fourth Street between M and I streets was reopened, but traffic-calming measures were put in place to slow down cars, and the wide sidewalks make it pedestrian-friendly,” Rich said. A plaza designed by D.C.-based Oculus with seats, trees and tall grass was built around the entrance to the Waterfront Metro station.
Four large parcels on Fourth Street await the construction of two office and two residential buildings.
Meanwhile, a more extensive redevelopment project is getting underway along Maine Avenue. The Wharf, on 27 acres of land and 50 acres of the channel, is being built by P.N. Hoffman and Madison Marquette in partnership with the city.
A forest of cranes crisscrosses the sky and piles are being driven for the first phase of construction. Condominiums, apartments, offices, hotels, music venues and shops are on the drawing table. Waterfront Park, in rough form now, will stretch three-to-four acres between the Wharf and existing neighborhood. The Maine Avenue Fish Market will be refurbished and expanded to include produce. “The waterfront will be a destination like Navy Yard,” said Nigro.
For now, the retail offerings are meager but improving. Waterfront Station is home to a Safeway, a CVS, a Starbucks and Waterfront Cleaners. Dining options there range from Subway and Z-Burger to the more upscale Station 4 and Masala Art. A few blocks to the southwest, Cantina Marina juts out over the water — “a nice vantage point to watch the sun set,” Rich said.
M Street Yoga is on the ground floor of the Carrollsburg condominium building. Arena Stage is on Maine Avenue SW. East Potomac Park, popular for golf, tennis, bicycling, jogging, fishing and picnicking, is just across the channel.
Living there: The Southwest Waterfront is bordered by the Southeast-Southwest Freeway to the north, South Capitol Street to the east, P Street and Fort McNair to the south, and the Washington Channel to the west.
“Southwest Waterfront has been experiencing an extremely strong competitive real estate market, primarily driven by low inventory and increased demand,” said Andrew Turczyn, principal broker with Slate Properties. “The most intriguing change is that prospective buyers know Southwest,” he said. “In the past we had to explain all the advantages of living there, but now people are keenly aware and well informed.”
The housing stock consists largely of townhouses and high-rise buildings with co-op, condo and rental units, some of them subsidized. According to Zillow, 29 properties are on the market, at prices ranging from $125,000 for a one-bathroom studio co-op to $1.4 million for a three-bedroom, three-bath condominium.
Twenty-one properties are under contract, Turczyn said, ranging from a $149,900 one-bedroom, one-bath unit to an $899,900 three-bedroom, three-bath unit.
In the past year, 185 homes sold, from a $124,000 one-bedroom, one-bath unit to a $696,750 four-bedroom with four baths.
Transit: The Southeast-Southwest Freeway (Interstate 395/695) runs north of the waterfront and joins the Anacostia Freeway east of the Anacostia River.
South Capitol Street leads south to Nationals Park and north to Capitol Hill. “I hop right out of my street and in half-mile I’m at Hains Point or on the National Mall,” said Nigro.
The Waterfront Metro station on the Green Line is at Fourth and M streets SW, at the Safeway’s doorstep, as is a Capital Bikeshare station.
Schools: Amidon-Bowen Elementary, Jefferson Middle, Eastern High.
Crime: In the past 12 months, according to D.C. police, there was one homicide, 35 assaults with a dangerous weapon, 28 robberies and 19 burglaries.
Audrey Hoffer is a freelance writer.