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The Southwest Waterfront Neighborhood Guide

Much of DC's smallest quadrant, Southwest, is under construction. While its geographic footprint is small, its impact on the region over the next two years, as its gravity-altering developments deliver, will be enormous.

Rendering of The Wharf's tree-lined waterfront promenade

The Southwest Waterfront contains some of DC’s oldest buildings, which stand in stark contrast to its growing number of new glass-and-steel stock. For the better part of the century after the Civil War, Southwest DC’s landscape was dotted with shantytowns composed of tents and tenements. It primarily housed DC’s lower-income immigrant and black populations.

As photographers captured and publicized pictures juxtaposing Southwest’s derelict façades with the Capitol, visible in the background, the neighborhood became a target for urban renewal around 1950. The plan to revitalize the area was contentious. Many district officials expressed concern about the lack of affordable housing and its implications for residents.

The plan, however, was approved, and the city bought almost all of the land south of the Mall to make room for the envisioned modern architecture, parks and parking. The 21st century brought a wave of new interest and consequent redevelopment to Southwest, with extensive renovations for Arena Stage and the addition of the expansive mixed-use 2.1M SF Waterfront Station and 3M SF The Wharf.

The recreation pier at The Wharf

Their new retail destinations, community events, the preserved historic Maine Avenue Fish Market and boating attract 11 million visitors annually. This figure is expected to increase over the years as the area continues to gentrify and some of the high-profile projects underway deliver. The Museum of the Bible and concert venue The Anthem will open this fall, and the expanded International Spy Museum’s new facility and the new DC United stadium, just three blocks from Nationals Park in Southeast, will open in 2018.