Businesses, Residents Excited, Anxious About Wharf Project

The Wharf developmental display located on the marina. Photo courtesy of Erika R. Whitehead.

WASHINGTON — Hop off of the train at the Waterfront Metro stop, walk down by the marina and popular Washington fish market and take in the sights of a newly changing neighborhood. On a Saturday afternoon, the fish market is alive with crowds bargaining for fresh seafood, boats bob serenely in the water in the nearby marina and residents stroll leisurely around the harbor.

The scene is going to get a lot bigger and, many say, better with The Wharf Development, a $220 million multi-phase developmental project that began last year and will include space for 150 boat slips to the current marinas, 20 restaurants, three piers and a host of bars and cafes on the 27 acres of land and 50 acres of water in the Washington Channel.

Phase One has already launched and is set to be completed in 2017.  It is dedicated primarily to the creation of home living, office space, three hotels and a handful of clubs and bars.  

Those in the area expressed differing feelings about the development. Business owners see the promise of increased revenue. Some residents are excited that the finished product could improve their neighborhood, while other residents worry that African-Americans—who make up 41% of the population in Ward 6—may not reap the rewards that they so desperately need.

Denny Clifford, a 64-year-old Virginia resident, started his new sailing business on the Washington Channel back in April. He said he is banking on the income potential of the finished project, while trying not to focus on the slow development process.

“It’s just the timing,” Clifford said. “It’s expected to launch Phase One. I guess there are two phases to it, in October 2017. I’d like it to be a little earlier. As long as it’s on time I think it will be okay. They’re working hard at it though.”

Clifford said he is confident that the completion of the project will be a boom for his business.

“I’m looking for hotel business to come down for my business here, and just in general, I think on a broader perspective, it’s terrific for D.C.,” Clifford said.

The creation of new restaurants, parks and other family-style attractions opens the waterfront up to a wider range of people, developers, workers and business owners say. Parents with younger children will be able to enjoy more that the waterfront has to offer, as opposed to saving the fun primarily for

Phase one building construction along the waterfront.
Photo courtesy of Erika R. Whitehead. 


Dylan Fleming, a Virginia resident and employee on the waterfront, said he is pleased that the addition of family-style attractions could bring more parents and their children, and that could mean good things for the community as a whole.

“People come here and it’s late at night and they have kids with them,” Fleming said.  “I can’t really let them in after 10:00 p.m. They’re like ‘is there anywhere else?’ I’m like really there’s not. But once this gets done, there will be more things that are more family oriented.”

Some long-time residents view the new changes with apprehension.

Thaddeus Knight, 49, was born and raised in the area. Knight, an employee on the waterfront, said he views the changes in the community through a different lens.

“I have been a resident of the D.C. area all of my life,” Knight said. “I've seen it come, seen it go, seen it change, seen ups and downs. It’s a wonderful city to live in. There’s no other place I’d rather been raised.

“Ever since I can remember, as a child, this is where grandma would come and get the seafood, come and get the fish for dinner. Grandad would have fish cleaned.”

But even as Knight welcomes the change, he has his concerns.

"Being an African-American, I hate to see all these buildings and developments going up and African-Americans don’t have much say so about it, or don’t even know about it until construction is actually going on," Knight said. "I’m asking myself, ‘How is anything being done on The Wharf benefitting me as an African-American or benefitting the community I live in?’”

For more information on The Wharf Development plan, calendar dates and updates, visit http://www.wharfdc.com/community-updates/ or http://www.thewharfproject.com/.