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A Look Back At The Decade-Long Effort To Develop The Southwest Waterfront

PN Hoffman's Monty Hoffman and Madison Marquette's David Brainerd looking at a model of The Wharf in 2011

In 2006, the Anacostia Waterfront Commission selected PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette out of 17 bidders as the finalists to develop a major mixed-use project on the Southwest Waterfront. Now as the developers deliver the project more than a decade later, Bisnow took a look back at how the megaproject came to life. 

"This is the beginning of a fluid process," PN Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman told Bisnow in August 2006 after winning the bid. "We will be talking with stakeholders and we know our plans will adjust. It’s vital that we balance stakeholder interests with the greater good of D.C." 

Madison Marquette Chief Investment Officer David Brainerd, in a 2006 Bisnow interview, said he thought the development might break ground in two years. It would end up taking six years longer than that, and the design went through several iterations before the shovels finally hit the ground. 

PN Hoffman's Shawn Seaman and Mark Dorigan with an early model of The Wharf in 2008

In July 2008, D.C. approved $198M in public financing for the project. At the time, groundbreaking was still scheduled for 2010. 

By 2010, one thing was open on the site: a farmers market. Running every Thursday, the market featured fresh produce, baked goods, gourmet hot dogs, barbecue and other offerings. At a 2010 Bisnow event, Hoffman said the team has 42 consultants and expressed some concern about overplanning.

"It's like with golf or a teenager, the harder you try, the worse it gets," Hoffman joked in 2010. 

A 2010 sketch of the vision for The Wharf

Hoffman in 2011 signed an agreement with the Washington Kastles to open a tennis stadium on the site. The temporary stadium opened in summer 2011, hosting Venus Williams on July 5, and then closed in 2013 to make way for the mixed-use development. 

The developers signed a deal with Carr Properties in 2011 to build a 268-room hotel luxury hotel, which opens this week with the InterContinental flag. Also in 2011, the year developers began calling it The Wharf, they announced The Graduate School USA had signed on for 190K SF as the first tenant, but that deal fell through.

On Feb. 7, 2012, PN Hoffman submitted its Stage 2 PUD application for The Wharf's first phase to the Zoning Commission. The plans called for 1,200 residential units, 400K SF of office, three hotels totaling 750 rooms, 200K SF of retail and 12 acres of parks. Hoffman told Bisnow at the time he thought the groundbreaking could come by Q1 2013.

D.C. approved the project in January 2013, and Hoffman had moved that groundbreaking projection back to late summer. He said at the time he was in talks with "institutional and association" group for office tenants, deals he would later sign. 

Monty Hoffman at The Wharf's groundbreaking in 2014

The groundbreaking finally came in March 2014. In attendance were then-Mayor Vincent Gray, council members Jack Evans, Tommy Wells and Muriel Bowser, each of whom were running for mayor at the time, with their primary less than two weeks away. 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz, who is opening the 6,000-seat concert venue The Anthem Thursday night, was also at the event. 

Canadian pension fund PSP invested $220M in equity in The Wharf ahead of the groundbreaking. By the time the shovels hit the dirt, Hoffman said 500 community meetings had been held on the project. 

Cranes at The Wharf's construction site in April 2015

Crews were in full excavation mode by April 2015, hauling out more than 30 truckloads of debris per day. 

Vio, the 112-unit condo building at The Wharf, launched its sales effort in spring 2015. The units would achieve top-of-market prices between $1,300 and $1,400 per SF.

The developers signed The Wharf's first office tenant, the American Psychiatric Association, for 63K SF at 800 Maine Ave. SW in July 2015. The next month, the developers signed Hyatt House and Canopy by Hilton for a dual-branded hotel at The Wharf.

In September 2015, the developers closed on their final financing round for Phase 1. The $400M in debt was provided by six banks: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, SunTrust Bank, United Bank, BB&T and M&T Bank. 

The first vertical construction permits for The Wharf's office buildings were issued in November 2015. 

The Wharf unveiled a series of big-name restaurant users in March 2016. Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, the team behind Fiola Mare in Georgetown, signed on to open Del Mar. The other restaurants announced that month included Requin by Mike Isabella, Hank's Oyster Bar, Potomac Distilling Co., Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Kirwan's Irish Pub, Taylor Gourmet and Dolcezza Gelato. 

In July, The Wharf announced four new retail tenants: French Mediterranean restaurant La Vie, District Hardware and Bike, Cordial Craft Wine, Beer and Spirits and CVS Pharmacy. 

Monty Hoffman and Stu Van Coyoc surveying a model of The Wharf in May 2016

Nearly a year after landing an association as the first office tenant, the developers in May 2016 signed a lobbying firm as the second. Van Scoyoc Associates agreed to move from 101 Constitution Ave. NW to The Wharf's 800 Maine, occupying 21K SF on the eighth floor.

Then in June 2016, MakeOffices signed on to open a 45K SF co-working space at The Wharf. Fish & Richardson became the first law firm to sign on at The Wharf in November 2016 when it leased 60K SF at 1000 Maine Ave. SW, the deal that spurred the start of construction on the final piece of Phase 1, the trophy office building.

The Wharf's Phase 1 construction, taken at an event in November

Construction on The Wharf's first four buildings topped out in November 2016, less than a year from its grand opening. 

The second live music venue at The Wharf was unveiled in February 2017 when the owner of Southwest D.C. restaurant Cantina Marina, Bruce Gates, announced he would open the 300-person Pearl Street Warehouse. Another restaurant user signed on that same month, with chef Roberto Santibañez opening Mexican restaurant Mi Vida. 

Another major office tenant signed on in April 2017, when Washington Gas decided to move its HQ, also at 101 Constitution, to The Wharf's 1000 Maine. 

In June, the developers unveiled another live music venue. Union Stage, from the owners of Vienna's Jammin' Java, will have a 450-person capacity. Then, in July another office tenant, Cornerstone Government Affairs, signed on for 15K SF at 800 Maine. 

A spate of new retail tenants were unveiled in August: bookstore Politics and Prose, rooftop bar Whiskey Charlie, a new restaurant from chef Kwame Onwuachi and then a series of soft goods retailers

The developers who toiled for years to take The Wharf from proposal to reality, PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette, joined the group of companies locating at the office buildings they constructed. Both developers announced this summer they would move their HQs to The Wharf, with PN Hoffman occupying 20K SF in one of the residential buildings and Madison Marquette taking 26K SF in 1000 Maine.

This 11-year marathon of planning, developing and leasing will culminate Thursday when The Wharf celebrates its grand opening. 

Hoffman will talk about this journey and the next steps at Bisnow's Future of Southwest D.C. and The Wharf event on Nov. 30.