Ward 6: 'the Wharf' Aims To Redefine D.c's Southwest Waterfront (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Ward 6: 'The Wharf' Aims To Redefine D.C.'s Southwest Waterfront

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir, and as we continue today's "State of the City" show, we head now to Ward 6. Fascinating thing about Ward 6 -- it's the only ward to include bits of all four city quadrants. So, you've got everything from Penn Quarter and Chinatown in northwest D.C. to Kingman Park and the H Street Corridor in northeast D.C., to Nationals Park and RFK Stadium in southeast D.C., to the Waterfront in southwest D.C.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:39
And just last week, the Southwest Waterfront was the place to be as the city broke ground on a project that will inevitably transform the neighborhood again.

MR. SHANNON VAUGHN

00:00:49
So, if we go back in the history of Southwest, we look back to the late 1950s and we see that Southwest was raised and we were blocked off. They took away the old F Street and they threw in a big highway.

SHEIR

00:01:02
Shannon Vaughn wasn't in Southwest for the urban renewal that replaced row houses and shops with massive office blocks and high rises and sent thousands of low income residents packing. No, the Georgia native is just 30-years-old and has only been here since 2009.

SHEIR

00:01:16
And what made you want to move to this particular part of Washington?

VAUGHN

00:01:18
It finally felt like home. It was a small neighborhood, yet it was in the heart of the nation's capital.

SHEIR

00:01:25
But as the Editor-In-Chief of the Southwestern Newspaper, Vaughn has immersed himself in his neighborhood's history. In fact, he and I are, in a way, immersed right now, as we sit in his spacious and kind of echo-y four bedroom condo on M Street near the Waterfront Metro. The building's monolithic concrete exterior is classic Brutalist, the imposing architectural style that's come to epitomize the Southwest of urban renewal. But the newly broken ground near 7th Street epitomizes a whole new Southwest.

MR. MONTY HOFFMAN

00:01:53
What would you like to do?

SHEIR

00:01:54
How about if do a little walk around the model...

HOFFMAN

00:01:56
OK. We'll do a walk around.

SHEIR

00:01:57
And you can point out what will be happening over the next 42 months.

HOFFMAN

00:02:01
Yeah. All right.

SHEIR

00:02:01
Developer Monty Hoffman and I are in a multi-room construction trailer near 7th and Water Streets. The main room contains a massive model of the two billion dollar project his company, PN Hoffman, is heading up. The Wharf.

SHEIR

00:02:14
All right, so, what do we see here?

HOFFMAN

00:02:15
OK, what we're seeing here is a mile long shoreline that begins over at the 14th Street Bridge, near the fish market, and goes all the way over to the Fire and Rescue Pier, which is near Fort McNair.

SHEIR

00:02:28
In between will be hotels and office buildings, apartments and condos, restaurants and bars, not to mention a movie theater, a jazz club and a concert hall with room for 6,000 people. But fear not, Hoffman says, even with all this development, you will still be able to see the water.

HOFFMAN

00:02:44
This is the other thing, too, the departure from the Brutalist architecture and the land planning of the 60s, which is all auto-centric, and that's when the traffic engineers were left to run amok. Right? We're not about that. These are mini-blocks with alleys and streets and view cones in between all of them. So, it's very porous.

SHEIR

00:03:03
Hoffman's company was awarded the project in 2006 after three acts of Congress, approval from more than two dozen government agencies, and, I kid you not, hundreds of community meetings.

HOFFMAN

00:03:14
In all seriousness, we had probably 500 public meetings over the past eight years.

SHEIR

00:03:20
Phase one is finally on its way. It starts at 7th Street and extends northwest to the fish market.

HOFFMAN

00:03:25
The fish market itself, we want to preserve. We love the barges and the grit and the history, so we want to embrace that and put on the land side a food market, along with a distillery and microbrewery.

SHEIR

00:03:39
Other Southwest stand-bys that will stick around are Jenny's Asian Fusion Restaurant, Gang Plank Marina, the largest live-aboard community on the east coast, and Cantina Marina.

HOFFMAN

00:03:47
In fact, they're not only gonna keep that, but they're gonna add another restaurant. So, they're expanding, so to speak.

SHEIR

00:03:53
Phillip's Seafood will relocate L'Enfant Plaza and the historic Channel Inn will make way for one of four new hotels. I recently met long time Southwest resident Eve Brooks in the Channel Inn's old fashioned lobby, right near Pier 7 Restaurant with its classic mahogany and red leather d├ęcor.

MS. EVE BROOKS

00:04:09
Well, this has been a place where a lot of D.C. Pols have gathered, almost every night in the bar here. It had a nice restaurant -- reminds me of my first dates in the 50s and 60s.

SHEIR

00:04:25
Brooks calls herself a 60s activist who continues advocating for low income individuals, especially here in her neighborhood.

BROOKS

00:04:31
To this day, we have the highest concentration of public housing in the city. So, as we look at the plans to tear down much of what was built in the 60s, along the Waterfront, and to redevelop it into a modern, bustling waterfront, those of us who came in in some way related to that '60s philosophy are concerned that not all the residents will equally benefit from this huge investment.

SHEIR

00:05:02
The modern, bustling wharf will, of course, include plenty of housing, roughly 360 condo units and a little more than 1,000 apartments. But how many of those units will be considered affordable? Monty Hoffman says in phase one alone, about 200.

HOFFMAN

00:05:16
And actually, I would say we're doing one better. We not only have affordable housing, but we have workforce housing, as well. So, if you're a school teacher, if you're a firefighter, and you're in the sort of middle income bracket, there's housing for that, as well. And then, there's a category we call unaffordable housing, right? That's market rate. But there is a nice mix.

SHEIR

00:05:35
Back in that roomy condo on M Street, Southwester Editor Shannon Vaughn says a good mix is important. And he's eager to see what will happen when phase one of the wharf opens in summer or fall of 2017. Though he has reservations about how it might alter the character of his tucked away neighborhood in the heart of the nation's capital.

VAUGHN

00:05:52
This is something that's gonna change our community, unlike anything we've seen since the late 1950s. The great thing about Southwest is we know renaissance. We're not just about building new. It's about true rebirth, and we adapt to it while maintaining our history.

SHEIR

00:06:17
Don't wanna wait to see what phase one will look like? We have renderings of the entire wharf project on our website, metroconnection.org.
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