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The History of the Southwest Waterfront


Once utilized by settlers for farming and other economic pursuits, the Southwest Waterfront has been an important piece of Washington, DC’s framework since before the actual city was formed. 

As with all developing areas, access to waterways is a key growth driver, and proximity to both the Potomac and Anacostia rivers allowed DC to eventually flourish into both our nation's capital and an economic and cultural hub.

While the area was once the catalyst for growth and prosperity, it would ultimately become a lower-class neighborhood after the Civil War.

In the post-Industrial Revolution world, the population of the neighborhood grew to 35,000 by 1905. The home of Scottish, Irish, German and other European immigrants was not equipped for the rise in population and the District labeled it as a “problem area” as the century progressed.

In an effort to revitalize the area, the Southwest Waterfront was included in the Urban Renewal process, which ultimately sealed the area off from DC proper.

At the turn of the millennium, DC began to organize a concerted effort to reimagine and restore the Southwest Waterfront and now, PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette are spearheading the task of reintroducing the waterfront to the heart of DC.

Their project, The Wharf, is the second-biggest mixed-use development in the country. It is bringing major commercial tenants and upscale residential living to what Hoffman-Madison Waterfront describes as a “truly vibrant neighborhood.”