News & Politics

It Took 4 Acts of Congress and 22 Architecture Firms to Make the Wharf Happen

Who said building a gigantic, ambitious retail-and-residential project like the Wharf would be easy?

Rendering courtesy of the Wharf.

After more than a decade of planning and work, the Wharf, the waterfront mega-development in Southwest DC, will finally open October 12. The sprawling collection of apartments, restaurants, hotels, shops, offices, and music venues is essentially a whole new neighborhood. So far, developers have spent in excess of $1.2 billion—it won’t be entirely finished until at least 2021—and initial offerings include restaurants from the likes of Fabio Trabocchi and Mike Isabella, outposts of Shake Shack and Dolcezza Gelato, and a new Politics and Prose bookstore. Here’s some of what it took to launch the place.



The developers are revamping the site’s historic Maine Avenue Fish Market, which will be incorporated into the Wharf complex. But in a two-years-and-counting federal court battle, the White family—which operates about half of the market’s seafood stalls—has accused the development firm Hoffman-Madison of trying to force them out. The developer has countersued, claiming that the Whites don’t have valid leases, among other arguments. Though the litigation slogs on, the renovated market is set to open this spring.


Acts of Congress

Before shovel could hit dirt, the federal government had to vote to overcome a series of bureaucratic obstacles, including authorization of the property’s sale to a private developer. The Wharf also necessitated seven DC Council votes and more than 800 meetings with Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and other community groups.


Architecture Firms

The project’s master planner, Perkins Eastman, worked alongside a wide variety of collaborators with different aesthetic visions to spearhead this first wave of buildings and green spaces. The idea is to make it feel authentic and organic rather than contrived and overly uniform.


Apartments and Condos

With four buildings offering a variety of living spaces to rent or buy, the Wharf will instantly import a significant population to the previously desolate waterfront area. The most buzzed-about residence is the Channel, which offers bocce courts and a dog run, among other enticements. Its glass-bottomed infinity pool looks down into the lobby of the Anthem, a music venue in the building’s lower level.


Dollars Spent on Soundproofing

That’s right, there’s a major rock performance space right under a high-end apartment building. No matter how much the Channel residents may love Foo Fighters—who are playing on opening night—nobody wants to deal with wall-shaking noise in a $5,025-a-month flat. Developers didn’t hold back when it came to muffling the din.

This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Washingtonian.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.