Yesterday on the Waterfront
In the booming Capitol Riverfront, home to loads of natural resources, developers are including swankier and swankier amenities in each new building. But the Godmother of the area doesn't think they are entirely necessary. Deborah Ratner Salzberg, the president of Forest City Washington, says the amenity in her development at The Yards is the neighborhood itself.
“Walk out your front door, that’s the amenity,” she told a crowd of more than 550 people this morning at Bisnow’s “On the Waterfront” event at Arena Stage. The Yards includes a Vida Fitness gym; a riverfront park and boardwalk; and tons of restaurants—including Bluejacket Brewery; and is starting to attract soft good retailers. Because that’s all outside the front door at Forest City's Foundry Lofts and Twelve12 apartment buildings, they have “high-quality but not tremendous amenities,” Deborah says. Nevertheless, they’re functionally 100% occupied.
Maybe that's why PN Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman is including a 6k SF concert hall at his $2B The Wharf development, the second-biggest mixed-use project on the East Coast. On top of the Wharf Hall's lobby will be a swimming pool with a glass floor, functioning as both a skylight and a (hopefully PG) show before the actual show begins. "This city needs more fun," he said, and that's the heart of his massive project. There's more to life than a rooftop pool and fitness center, after all.
Amenities are the crux of WC Smith's developments in the Capitol Riverfront area. SVP Brad Fennell is on the team developing three buildings with 1,150 units in the area, each with its own unique amenity. Park Chelsea, opening this fall, has an indoor lap pool, and the other two buildings will have a demonstration kitchen and full-court indoor basketball court, respectively.
No matter whether the amenities are in or out of the building, the key piece spurring the billions of dollars of development in southwest and southeast is the water. "Water is magic," Capitol Riverfront BID president Michael Stevens said repeatedly in his opening remarks, echoed by Monty and others during the event.
The Wharf—a JV between PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette—is certainly all about the water. It will have multiple piers and marinas when completed, a water shuttle to Hains Point for golfers and, Monty hopes, an Uber-like water taxi service connecting it to Georgetown, Old Town, the riverfront and National Harbor. "It's really going to be a destination and attraction Washington's never had before," Madison Marquette SVP Daniel McCahan says.
To help people get to, and stay at, the new attraction, Carr Hospitality is developing an InterContinental hotel at the Wharf. Carr was represented on the panel by principal Austin Flajser (to the right of moderator Christopher Naughten, a VP at Fidelity National Title). The hotel will have all the upscale trappings of Carr's signature property, The Willard, but will have a distinctly modern feel when it opens in 2017.
Pairing with Carr's hotel and the 1,735 residential units coming to the Wharf will be nearly 1M SF of office space, which Cushman & Wakefield, led by senior MD Brian Dawson, will be in charge of leasing. Dawson said he's surprised by how many inquiries he's received already, from companies located in strong markets downtown, in Arlington and in Tysons.
All of that is music to Southwest Waterfront BID president Steve Moore's ears. Moore attended an ANC meeting last night about The Wharf (everyone *cough* loves those) and said one commissioner hit the nail on the head when he said "we're building a city here."
That's why this morning's event was the hottest ticket in Bisnow history, with 125 sign-ups within 24 hours of the event's announcement. Having heavy hitters like Monty and Deborah on the panel didn't hurt, but the interest and intrigue in the banks of the Potomac and Anacostia is strong.
One of the later investors into the Capitol Riverfront has been Skanska. The international developer, represented this morning by EVP Rob Ward, sees similarities in DC with tourist-attracting Scandinavian cities like Copenhagen and Stockholm, where the developments on the water bring in throngs of visitors every year.
Grosvenor's Don Capobres says "the perception of Washington, DC, overseas is still a bit negative," but every speaker agreed the waterfront developments have the potential to completely reverse that.
Don, snapped here with panel moderator Todd Stokes of Baker Tilly, is developing F1RST on the Riverfront, the only building that will actually have views of the Nationals Park field (and rooftop stadium seating) when it delivers its 325 units in early 2017.
MRP Realty founding principal Frederick Rothmeijer is proof that early faith in the "Water is magic" principle of real estate pays off. His waterfront property, Dock 79, will have 25k SF of retail when it delivers next year, part of the 1M SF of retail in the Capitol Riverfront at full build-out.
Water is magic and water is money, so financiers like United Bank (repped by SVP Ross Draber, who gave opening remarks today) are drooling at the water prospects. Considering the Wharf is getting closer by the day and Capitol Riverfront still has dozens of projects in the pipeline, it's no wonder Don says we're only in the third inning of the area. "In the ninth inning," he says, "you won't believe what's going to be happening."