Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront

The riverfront neighborhoods are two of DC’s hottest. Here’s what you should know about them right now.

About Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront

The riverfront neighborhoods are two of DC’s hottest. Here’s what you should know about them right now.

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Good Sports

Nats Park transformed a desolate slice of DC by sparking a building boom on surrounding streets. Is Audi Field poised to do the same? Developers are banking on Buzzard Point—the spot that juts into the Anacostia River, just south of the stadium that DC United unveiled last summer—as the city’s next waterfront destination. Currently, four mixed-use projects are either planned or under construction, including a redevelopment of the former Coast Guard headquarters into 416 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space. Other big projects in the works include a 12,000-square-foot restaurant from the team behind Georgetown’s Tony and Joe’s, a Spike Gjerde restaurant, and an entertainment concept from Wharf developer PN Hoffman.

Straight Outta Brooklyn

Williamsburg’s Smorgasburg—the popular outdoor food market that sets up every weekend in the Brooklyn neighborhood—debuted in Navy Yard this summer. The free-admission festival closed temporarily in August but is scheduled to continue every Saturday in September and October at Yards Park’s Tingey Plaza. It includes a full bar and more than 30 vendors, such as Roy Boys (for oysters and fried chicken), Rebel Taco, Arepa Zone, and Pinch Dumplings. Bonus: Dogs are allowed, and 100 percent of its waste is compostable.

Straight Outta the Bronx

Though Navy Yard spots such as the Mexican restaurant Mission have morphed into popular hangouts for young Trumpers, the neighborhood’s most locally beloved new resident is undoubtedly Democratic superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The congresswoman representing parts of Queens and the Bronx, however, seems to have some mixed feelings about her DC home. When late-night hosts Desus and Mero asked her earlier this year about her choice of digs, she replied: “Since we’re always working, I got a place within walking distance. But am I a gentrifier?”

I Spy

You’ve probably seen the new, red-lit International Spy Museum at L’Enfant Plaza from the freeway. It’s accessible up a long flight of stairs from the Wharf. The eye-catching building opened in May, tripling the museum’s collection of espionage artifacts from its former Penn Quarter location. On display now: James Bond’s Aston-Martin.

Brewing Fight

The owners of Dacha—the popular beer garden in Shaw—opened a second venture at Dock 79 this spring, but the restaurant/bar is already in trouble. One of its suppliers sued in June, alleging fraud and unpaid bills of nearly $300,000. On top of that, Dacha’s building was slapped with two separate liens for unpaid electrical and sound-system work. Adding to the PR crisis: a spate of employees who say they were never paid out for their tips, despite an 18-percent automatic gratuity on all checks. Dacha denies the various allegations.

Building Bridges

The District’s largest-ever transportation project is under way on the Anacostia riverfront near Nats Park, where the aging Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is being replaced by a striking new six-lane bridge. The old one—also known as the South Capitol Bridge—has spanned the Anacostia for 79 years. Seventy thousand drivers use it daily, but it’s notoriously unfriendly to bikers, pedestrians, and dogs. The upgraded version will have pedestrian overlooks, above-deck arches, and accommodations for bike and foot traffic. It’s scheduled to open in 2021.

Yet another bridge will add even more connectivity between the west and east sides of the Anacostia. The 11th Street Bridge Park, whose western entrance will be about seven blocks up from the Yards, won’t be open to cars. Rather, it’s designed for pedestrians as an elevated outdoor recreation and cultural space over the river. Construction won’t start until 2021, with the park expected to be finished in 2023.

Wharf 2.0

In March, developer Hoffman-Madison Waterfront broke ground on the second half of the Wharf, which will bring 1.25 million square feet of additional office, residential, hotel, marina, and retail space to the glitzy development. When it’s complete, the Wharf will span a mile of waterfront along the Washington Channel. The second phase will include Pendry Hotels & Resorts’ first property in the District, the new home of the Williams & Connolly law firm, and a 1.5-acre park. All of it should be done by 2022.

Walled Off

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News uncovered a Defense Department proposal to erect a 14-foot-high flood wall around the Washington Navy Yard to protect it from rising waters due to climate change. The problem for the high-end developments springing up alongside the military site? Such a wall could push more water toward them, increasing their flood risk. So far, the project is just an idea. If it ever becomes something more, you can bet DC’s NIMBYs will put up a hard fight against it.

Pet Project

The Humane Rescue Alliance is planning its future dream home, the National Animal Center, for the corner of 11th and M streets, Southeast, adjacent to the historic Navy Yard. When it’s done, the state-of-the-art space will be a dramatic improvement, for staff and adoptable pets alike, over the group’s deteriorating cinder-block building on New York Avenue, Northeast. (Its second location, on Oglethorpe Street in Northwest, will continue to offer some services even after the new headquarters opens.)

The alliance, which manages all the District’s animal affairs, says in addition to shelter for homeless dogs, cats, and other pets, the building will include classrooms and training spaces, affordable veterinary services for low- and median-income families, and retail. The group has raised about 40 percent of the funds needed to build the new headquarters; it plans to break ground once it has raised two-thirds of the money.

Things to Do in Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront

All the best things to do and places to see in Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront.


Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Bikers and runners love the continuous 20-mile path that runs along both sides of the Anacostia River—including through the Wharf, Nats Park, and Navy Yard and stretching to the National Arboretum.

Anthem. The 6,000-seat concert hall is big (and glam) enough to host stars such as Kacey Musgraves and Lizzo but intimate enough that there’s not really a bad seat in the place.

Arena Stage. The theater where Broadway hits such as Dear Evan Hansen have gotten their start celebrates its 70th anniversary this season. August Wilson’s Jitney runs September 13 through October 20.

Canal Basin at Yards Park. Splash, wade, and chill in the über-popular, one-foot-deep pool and waterfall. (Yes, it’s chlorinated.)

Crafty Bastards. Previously held at various other sites around the city, this longtime local craft fair will set up shop this year on Buzzard Point near Audi Field, September 28 and 29.

Municipal Fish Market. Pick up bushels of crabs and oysters at the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the United States.

Nationals Park. Even if the Nats don’t make it past the regular season, there are still ways to enjoy the ballpark later in the year: On November 2, it will host the DC Beer Festival, with 80 breweries, live music, and lawn games. Then comes the holiday market, “Enchant” (November 22 through December 29), with light displays and ice skating.

Pearl Street Warehouse. The club from the team behind the sorely missed Cantina Marina hosts rock, R&B, country, folk, and bluegrass shows almost nightly, often for free.

TSNY (Trapeze School New York) Washington DCIf flying through the air isn’t your thing, you can also learn to juggle or somersault on a trampoline. The school is moving to its new location (given here) next to the Navy Yard in September.

Photos of Navy Yard and Southwest Waterfront

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