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How The Wharf Will Turn DC Into A Waterfront City

As he's traveled around the world, looking at cities from Toronto to Hamburg, Madison Marquette CEO Amer Hammour says the common trend he sees is a mass rush to the waterfront. One of the lead developers behind The Wharf, Amer aims to make DC the next great waterfront city. 

Madison Marquette Chairman Amer Hammour and Southwest BID President Steve Moore at a 2016 Bisnow event

"What I find fascinating is how people have moved to water," Amer said at Bisnow's Future of Southwest DC and The Wharf event yesterday. "Over the past 20 years, it has been all over the world. People are paying more to live near the water, enjoy water views, and cities are working on large projects to take advantage of waterfronts."

His team at Madison Marquette, along with PN Hoffman and several other firms, is less than a year from delivering The Wharf's first phase, which will include 1.4M SF of condos, apartments, hotels, offices and a 6,000-person concert hall on the 24-acre Southwest Waterfront site.

But Amer and the others spearheading the project say the underappreciated secret of The Wharf is how it will activate the Washington Channel and make DC a true waterfront city

Amer, snapped with Southwest BID president Steve Moore, says walking out onto The Wharf's piers, kayaking and paddle boarding will allow people to experience the river in a new way. 


People will also be able to take ferries and water taxis from The Wharf not just to Georgetown and Alexandria, but further south to National Harbor, where the MGM Resort & Casino opens next month. PN Hoffman SVP Shawn Seaman, left, says the beauty of the river views and the potential for water activities are "our little secret," and he thinks it will fundamentally change the way District residents and visitors view the city.

"It's unlike what's out there today or how you may have experienced the southwest waterfront in the past," Shawn says. "It will become sort of the central waterfront, and potentially civic destination, for the District of Columbia."  

JLL's Brian Dawson, right, says the Wharf will also draw office tenants looking to be near the water, or even on it. 


The Wharf will include the first office space in DC that sits out over the water. Pier 4, rendered above, is a 28k SF office building sitting out on the pier, adjacent to the 3.5-acre Waterfront Park. 

"That building is so unique," Brian said. "It's going to attract users who will say 'this is an irreplicable asset.'"

Brian also points to 1000 Maine, the Wharf's 250k SF trophy office building that sits next to Market Pier. He says the building has stunning views of the water and the design features water treatment on the exterior.

"When you walk into the building you're going to feel the water," Brian says. "You’ll be able to see through the totality of the lobby and it pulls you into the four-story atrium that looks out and really brings you to the Wharf." 


Carr Hospitality is building a 278-room hotel on The Wharf that Carr president Austin Flajser, right, says will use the waterfront as the main draw. Guests staying in the corner suites, he says, will be able to wake up and remotely draw back the curtains from two walls with floor-to-ceiling glass that will reveal a view of the District Pier. He also says every seat in the bars and restaurants will have a view of the water, as will the rooftop lounge, 17k SF of meeting space and the 12k SF ballroom

"If you're a wedding planner touring every subterranean ballroom in DC and come up to see the two stories of glass looking out at the District Pier activity," Austin says, "it will be tough to leave the hotel and not book an event there."


As the Wharf turns DC into a waterfront city, several other developers are contributing to the transformation of Southwest DC, which they discussed on the event's first panel. 

Mill Creek's Josh Posnick, left, is leading the development of the 276-unit View At Waterfront's Phase 2, which will include 3,900 SF of retail.  

Forest City Washington VP David Smith, second from right next to moderator Ezra Weinblatt, is working on Waterfront Station, a multi-phase project that will ultimately have eight buildings totaling 2.5M SF

Republic Properties Corp CEO Steven Grigg, second from left, developed The Portals, one of Southwest DC's first major urban renewal projects that includes roughly 1.5M SF of office space, much of it leased by the federal government. 


Speaking of the federal government, the event began with a spotlight interview with GSA national capital region administrator Julia Hudson, right, interviewed by former GSA exec and current Lincoln Property Group SVP Elaine Clancy.

The federal government occupies 110M SF of office space in Southwest DC, roughly 55M SF of leased space and 45M SF of properties it owns. This makes up 27% of the GSA's DC portfolio. 

Next week, the GSA will begin giving tours of the Cotton Annex, the 118k SF Southwest DC office building it put up for auction last week. 


The event, attended by nearly 300 real estate professionals, was held at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.