Southwest D.c. Gears Up For More Redevelopment (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio


Southwest D.C. Gears Up For More Redevelopment


Our next story is about the future of a part of D.C. that's been called the little quadrant that could. I'm talking about Southwest D.C., which a century ago was a bustling, working class, waterfront neighborhood. But in the 1950s the area's fortunes started to slide. And so planners decided to tear down many of the homes and businesses and, you know, start all over again. These days Southwest is in the middle of yet another round of renovations. Renovations that supporters are hoping will finally make the neighborhood a waterfront destination. Sarah Ventre brings us this story on what these changes mean for the quadrant's residents and for the district as a whole.


Cara Shockley has always been fond of Southwest D.C.


When I was a kid, I pointed at a building and said, Mom, Dad, I want to live there when I grow up. And my mother was absolutely horrified. Oh, no. You don't want to live in a neighborhood like this.


That building she was pointing at when she was nine years old is the one she lives in now. And while Southwest has changed a lot since her childhood, it's about to change even more. In the coming years, the littlest quadrant will see a number of large-scale development projects aimed at making the waterfront a destination and a desirable neighborhood in which to live.


The way to keep it going is to have development. Are we going to lose things? Yes. But without the retail coming in, the neighborhood's going to die.


I think one of the biggest things that we've always kind of tried to do here is to really bring down to the waterfront.


Matt Steenhoek is the associate development director of PN Hoffman, one half of the Hoffman-Madison waterfront development team. His company is responsible for the major planned project in the area, The Wharf. The Wharf will completely revamp the part of Southwest closest to the water, brining a new residential and office space, as well as hotels, dining and retail. And in this neighborhood where most of the businesses are geared toward federal workers, a lot of residents, like Bob Craycraft, think neighborhood retail is key.


I am most looking forward to increased retail and food and beverage outlets. You know, like everybody, I'd like to have a neighborhood bar to hang out in.


Bob is sort of an ambassador for the quadrant. We met in one of the neighborhood's most popular restaurants, Station Four. And he told me that Southwest is great for lots of reasons, especially its location.


The unique advantage of the Southwest waterfront is its proximity. You're right, you know, four blocks off the National Mall. Yet by Metro, you're four stops from National Airport if you want to fly away for the weekend. You're right in the heart of the city without being in the congestion of the city.


And while he and Cara Shockley clearly love their neighborhood, they both mentioned wanting things like restaurants that stay open after government workers go home, as well as hardware stores, locksmiths, grocery options. But you may remember that the Southwest waterfront has already tried a massive redevelopment effort with some of these things in mind. During the 1950s and '60s, much of the neighborhood was razed and rebuilt. And this meant displacing many of the low-income residents. So how is this time around any different? Ward 6 councilman Tommy Wells represents the neighborhood in the City Council.


We're creating more affordable housing in this area than almost anywhere in the city. What I envision is really enlivening the waterfront. That we're a city that was built on the convergence of two rivers, but over the past 100 years almost all of the development is focused towards downtown and not utilizing the waterfront as an asset of what makes Washington special.


A key part of bringing Washington to the waterfront is using the water itself, which means big changes for people living in the water.


Hey, thanks.


Karen Anderson is the new president of the Gangplank Slipholders Association. It's sort of like the homeowners association for people who live on houseboats in the Gangplank Marina. Part of the development vision is to create more room for boats to dock for shorter stays, but in order to do this, the houseboats need to move. Soon they'll only take up about half as much space as they do now, which is a big change.


It's, are my power cables long enough? Is my winter water hose long enough to go to the new spigot on my new dock? Are my drapes opaque enough when there's somebody right next to me?


Right. So many changes on such a large scale mean big adjustments for everyone, losing views, the demolition of businesses, less privacy and a louder, busier neighborhood. And while there are plans to keep homes and apartments reasonably priced, no one can predict what will happen in the decades to come. But one thing is for sure, change. Bob Craycraft says that he's ready for it and that it's only natural.


I think a city, a healthy city, is a living organism. It evolves. And it changes constantly.


I'm Sarah Ventre.


You can see the developer's sketches of The Wharf on our website, And if you live in a neighborhood that's on the cusp of redevelopment, we want to hear about those changes. Send us an email. Our address is
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