Navy Yard dwellers have been feuding with people who live in Capitol Riverfront. Denizens of the Ballpark District are tussling with residents of Southeast Waterfront. The South Capitol Hill crowd is getting into it with folks from the Yards. The weird thing? All of these are part of the same neighborhood. The problem, it seems, is that nobody can figure out what to call it.
The area is currently known by at least seven monikers of varying degrees of officialdom and popularity. When Whole Foods recently opened a branch there, the debate heated up, with some neighbors feeling slighted by the store’s claim that it’s in South Capitol Hill. “It’s a pretty blatant marketing approach for who they think their target audience is,” says Michael Stevens, head of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District. “They’ve overlooked our 9,000 residents.”
Most people probably think of the neighborhood as Navy Yard. That’s what’s on the Metro stop, after all. But the BID prefers Capitol Riverfront because it better describes the location. The term is SEO-friendly, too, as tourists often search “Capitol” and “riverfront” online when looking for things to do. “No one is going to search ‘Navy Yard,’ ” says Stevens.
But restaurateur Fritz Brogan, who recently opened the Mexican spot Mission Navy Yard, didn’t use Capitol Riverfront because he didn’t want to mislead guests into thinking they were right on the water. He shied away from Ballpark District—a name his building’s developer favored—because it might dissuade customers from coming in the off-season.
Meanwhile, Forest City, the developer behind the Yards, is trying to push its own name. The Yards, which somewhat confusingly refers to just part of the larger neighborhood, was carefully chosen as a modern play on Navy Yard, says president Deborah Salzberg.
That seems unlikely to stick, however. “If you told me you were going to the Yards, I don’t know where that is,” says Alan Popovsky, who nixed Navy Yard, the Yards, and Capitol Riverfront when christening his restaurant, Declaration Nationals Park. “If you told me you were going to Nationals Park, at least I’d know that’s a place. Honestly, all the names are creating a lot of confusion.”
This article appears in the December 2018 issue of Washingtonian.