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Developer Q&A: PN Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman

The grand opening of The Wharf's 1.4M SF Phase 1 is set for Oct. 12 and the megaproject is poised to transform the Southwest DC neighborhood. The first phase alone will deliver two office buildings, 900 residential units, 691 hotel rooms, a 6,000-seat concert venue, plenty of shops and restaurants, and four piers on the water. We spoke with PN Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman about how The Wharf is coming together. 


Bisnow: You recently signed Washington Gas to move its headquarters to The Wharf’s 1000 Maine office building. How have you successfully attracted companies from such a variety of industries and what does this say about the impact this development will have on the DC market?  

Hoffman: I think it’s a paradigm shift in the market. I think we’re creating a whole community here, we’re adding to the Southwest community and its waterfront. We have got a variety of tenants coming in. We are creating a community in the office space having law firms, lobbyists, corporate HQs with Washington Gas and we have a couple of others that we’ll be able to announce soon that will be really impressive coming in here. It’s because we provide a trophy office space. It’s the only office with 10-foot ceilings and the views are breathtaking. You have that along with 23 restaurants we’re adding in Phase 1 alone and all the other entertainment places, concert halls and music venues along with all the water activity. There is nothing comparable.  

Bisnow: You’re now about 50% pre-leased at 1000 Maine and 65% pre-leased at 800 Maine, is this ahead of where you expected to be at this point? 

Hoffman: We’re ahead of schedule on office pre-leasing and retail and condos. All product uses are ahead of schedule. As I said we’ve got a couple LOIs moving toward leases and when those are accounted for at 1000 Maine we’ll be at 70% counting those. We’re already ahead of schedule and building up steam. We’re trending upwards.  

Bisnow: Another new announcement last week was the hiring of MPD’s Diane Groomes as head of The Wharf’s security program. How critical is security when you’re opening a development of this size?

Hoffman: Of course we’re thrilled to have Diane with us and couldn’t be more proud and excited for her to be leading our security here at Wharf. We are going to be drawing a lot of people to The Wharf and want everybody to be entertained and socialized and have an extraordinary time and also want them to be safe. We want to do it in a way that isn’t so overt so that people just can focus on enjoying themselves here and not have to worry about anything else. We have pretty robust security plans for the entire Wharf community. We have our protocols in place, we have security teams, we are working with DC and the police force. We’re actually building a substation for the police force inside of The Wharf, and you’ve got the fire and rescue pier that’s already here. 

Bisnow: The Wharf is less than six months from the Oct. 12 grand opening. What should visitors expect to see on that opening night? Describe the sights and sounds and different entertainment options available for people of different ages?  

Hoffman: It really is all different ages. It is a community. We’re not just fixated on opening night, it's really opening season. It starts Oct. 12 and goes all the way until the Cherry Blossom Festival in April 2018. We’re going to be very active in our programming all through that period. For opening night itself, IMP has already booked a concern at The Anthem. We have other concerts earlier in the day at different places on The Wharf. We will have some food festivals, we’ll be opening some restaurants. Not all restaurants will be open on Oct. 12 but most of them will. We’ll have a variety of different events for all ages coming in. Our apartments will actually be starting to rent and populate the apartment buildings by latter part of August and same with the condominiums. And our office tenants will have already started their tenant fit-out early in the summer, some are beginning now, so we’ll have office space occupied too.

Bisnow: There are plenty of fast-growing neighborhoods in DC that have had new developments deliver every year and have become hot spots over a period of time, but what you’re doing is essentially trying to create a new hot neighborhood all at once. Do you feel a lot of pressure to deliver on that? Is there risk involved in this type of placemaking?  

Hoffman:  I think a year from now, next year people will say, "Oh, that was obvious because it’s along the waterfront." But yes, there is a lot of pressure and there is a lot of risk. We’ve taken lessons from 14th Street and the Logan Circle area and other parts of the city and try our best to apply them here. We brought in a lot of talent from all over the country to help compose a real community. One of the benefits of doing a project of this scale is you get to work with a lot of talented, creative people. So just really composing all of their talents and putting all that together has been a very exciting adventure. Yes, I suppose there’s some pressure but we feel very confident in what the team is doing and everybody that’s here that is doing their part. 

Bisnow: In January, you announced the architects for each component of Phase 2. Can you talk about what the next part of this project will look like and what the timeline is? 

Hoffman: We are in the process right now of preparing our submission to the office of planning and we’ll be doing that soon and plan to present to the Zoning Commisson probably by September. There are so many steps before that. We continue to work with the community so they have a part in this process and making sure we’re optimizing the site to its potential, and doing it in a way that’s accretive to the existing neighborhood. We have our full team led by Shawn Seaman that is pursuing this and has been for quite some time. We are on schedule for refining Stage 2 of our entitlements and we believe and hope that we’ll be breaking ground on it by Q3 2018 and proceeding accordingly. That’s on the presumption that the pre-leasing and pre-sales continue at least in the trends and pace that we’re going now.