Watershed Moment for the Future of the Anacostia Waterfront
Presiding over a conference room of more than 225 developers, real estate professionals, retailers and city officials gathered to listen to the vision and plans of the major developers of the Anacostia waterfront, the realization dawned that the many years of discussions and negotiations over the future of this once-overlooked area of the District had at last yielded to optimism and investment.
Sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) (www.icsc.org) and coordinated by Keith Sellars, Vice President, Development and Retail, Washington, DC Economic Partnership, The Anacostia Waterfront—Emerging Retail Opportunities luncheon program confirmed that the emerging mix of federal government agencies, private business, sports and entertainment venues, residential development, and diversified retail uses are the right mix to capture the dollars and sense of the economic development community throughout the Washington metropolitan region.
The program proved timely following the recent announcement by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation of the selection of the PN Hoffman and Struever Brothers, Eccles & Rouse team—operating as Hoffman-Struever Waterfront LLC—as the Master Developer to transform the District’s 50-acre Southwest waterfront into a vibrant $500 million maritime-themed mixed-use development. Recent news articles about the fruition of the District’s development plans have generated additional interest in the waterfront area.
Panelists included nearly all of the major developers engaged in the revitalization of the southeast and southwest waterfronts of the Anacostia River: Adrian Washington, President and CEO, Anacostia Waterfront Corporation; Monty Hoffman, CEO, PN Hoffman; Bill Krokowski, Vice President, Monument Realty; and Harriet Edwards White, Vice President, Forest City Washington.
Moderating a panel of developers generally involves asking challenging questions while not putting the panelists on the spot. For each of these pioneering developers, the opportunity proved a valuable one to answer the difficult questions and invite additional participation and investment in their respective projects. Harriet Edwards White was keen to note that the ultimate success of the street-level components of Forest City’s projects will depend upon “Point of Difference” retail; that is the inclusion of retailers who will differentiate its project from all others. Bill Krokowski underscored Monument Realty’s vision of the ballpark district as a 24/7, 365 days per year neighborhood, expanding beyond the traditional limitations of a seven-month baseball schedule.
The design elements that contribute to the experience of the public realm still remain in the early thinking phase for all of these plans. Clearly, it will be incumbent on all of the development parties to collaborate so that the energy and excitement of round-the-clock, year-round programming of these new spaces will be differentiated from that found elsewhere in the Washington metropolitan area. Rising above the constraints imposed by homeland security considerations and new federal building guidelines remain both a challenge and an opportunity to successfully integrate public and private uses into a world-class destination district.