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Buzzard Point Development Signs James Beard-Winning Chef, Looks To Build New Pier

Buzzard Point is just beginning to become a destination for D.C. residents, with D.C. United last week finishing its first season at Audi Field, but one development underway in the neighborhood shows that the area has already become a major attraction for restaurateurs. 

Orr Partners' David Orr Baker Tilly's Todd Stokes and Akridge's Chip Akridge

The team behind the $250M redevelopment of the former Coast Guard headquarters on Buzzard Point is still 18 months away from completing the mixed-use conversion, but its 70K SF of waterfront retail space is already 75% leased. 

Orr Partners Chairman David Orr, speaking Thursday at Bisnow's Southwest D.C. & Buzzard Point event, said the River Point team has recently landed a James Beard-award winning chef to open a restaurant at the 2100 Second St. SW development. He was not ready to name the chef but said an announcement would be made in the coming weeks. 

A D.C. chef, The Dabney's Jeremiah Langhorne, won the James Beard Award this year for best Mid-Atlantic chef, and three other local chefs — Centrolina's Amy Brandenwein, Bad Saint's Tom Cunanan and Himitsu's Kevin Tien — were finalists. Jose Andres won the James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award. Bread Furst's Mark Furstenburg, Rose's Luxury's Aaron Silverman and A Rake's Progress' Spike Gjerde have all taken home James Beard awards in recent years as well.

A rendering of Akridge and Western Development's planned River Point project at Buzzard Point.

The River Point development team, which consists of Akridge, Orr Partners, Western Development and Redbrick LMD, has at least two additional food and beverage tenants planned. It reached a deal with Greg Casten and Tony Cibel, the owners of Georgetown waterfront restaurants Tony and Joe's and Nick's Riverside Grill, to open a 12K SF restaurant with outdoor seating in the project. The development will also feature a plant-based food market, Orr said.

When the team purchased the site in 2014, Buzzard Point was full of vacant sites and little activity other than the gravel spewing from its power plant, Orr said. The neighborhood has now welcomed D.C. United's new stadium, but the waterfront area nearly a half-mile south of Audi Field where River Point is under construction remains an unproven retail market.

Orr said what gave the team confidence, and what has helped spur its retail leasing, has been its location at the intersection of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. 

"What we're doing is activating the water," Orr said. "For us it's all about the water." 

Akridge Chairman Chip Akridge

Akridge, in addition to partnering on the River Point project, owns a 5-acre site to the north at 100 V St. SW, where it plans 2M SF of development. Akridge Chairman Chip Akridge said the first phase of that development, which will include 1M SF of apartments, hotel, retail and potentially condos, is expected break ground in the first half of 2020.

The Buzzard Point neighborhood is sandwiched in between the Capitol Riverfront area to the east, where The Yards and Nationals Park have driven significant growth, and The Wharf to the west, where the massive development has sparked new life on the waterfront. Akridge said Buzzard Point has the potential to connect those two neighborhoods.

"Buzzard Point, at this point, is the hole in the doughnut," Akridge said. "The good news is there are only eight private landowners in all of Buzzard Point. We’re all working together to create the community that will be just about the same size as The Wharf, but we have a soccer stadium and a baseball stadium. We think with those things will do pretty well."

While its waterfront location offers prime views, one of the challenges Buzzard Point faces is connectivity. The developers said the team is trying to solve that in three ways. First, it will connect the development to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, a bike and walking trail that runs up the river to Bladensburg. The team is also in talks with other Buzzard Point property owners to develop a circulator shuttle system that could connect to the Metro, Orr said. The nearest stations to the River Point site, Waterfront and Navy Yard, are each about 1 mile away. 

Finally, the team is in discussions with the District and the Army Corps of Engineers about building a new pier that would connect Buzzard Point to the new water taxi system that has stops at National Harbor, Alexandria and The Wharf. The idea has not yet been approved, Orr said.

CityPartners' Geoffrey Griffis, Ruben Cos.' Richard Ruben, Republic Properties' Holly Hull and Mill Creek's Sean Caldwell

The water taxi system that debuted with the grand opening of The Wharf has created a new mode of transportation that other Southwest D.C. developers see as valuable for the area. The Water Taxi had 32,000 riders in the month of October, according to the Southwest Business Improvement District. 

"I think [the water taxi] has a huge effect," said CityPartners Managing Member Geoffrey Griffis, who is developing a mixed-use project at 555 E St. SW. "If you look at other cities that have water frontage, people take it as commonplace. I think we're now introducing that to D.C. and I think it's going to relieve car traffic and evening traffic. I think people are going to start commuting on that and using it to get to events." 

Southwest BID's Steve Moore, Donohoe Hospitality's Thomas Penny, Lee & Associates' Jeff Lee and Cresa's Thomas McBride

The Wharf has also introduced a new system of ground transportation that the Buzzard Point developers are looking to emulate. The Wharf's development team of PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette, in partnership with the District, provides a free shuttle bus that runs in a circle from the National Mall to L'Enfant Plaza to The Wharf.

The shuttle bus was used by 39,000 riders last month, according to the Southwest BID. Southwest BID President Steve Moore attributes the strong volume in part to the entertainment offerings The Wharf provides that have drawn visitors from throughout the region.

"The Wharf itself, separate from how well the restaurants are doing and everything, has disrupted the entertainment business here," Moore said. "They can put 20,000 people on those piers any time they want ... it's a place to be that's entirely distinct from what your experience would be at CityCenter or National Harbor."