Monday, December 06, 2010

Fish Market Concept Takes Shape, SW Waterfront PUD Application Coming Soon

While developers of the Southwest Waterfront still aren't ready to promise much in the way of architectural specifics or set-in-stone timelines, they've become rather adept at presenting their vision of transformation. Such acumen is attributable to the vivid imagination of the planners and developers amassed from the project partnership between PN Hoffman, Madison Marquette, and design firm EEK. But if practice really does make perfect, their busy itinerary of power point presentations can't hurt either. Last week, Madison Marquette and master planner Stan Eckstut, Principal of EEK, attended the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) meeting to share their most up to date concepts.

While these informational meetings are important, developers expect to truly kick off the planning review process with their Stage One PUD application submittal in late 2010, early 2011. This will initiate a more intensive public communication process, followed by a Stage Two PUD as more details are hashed out, and fingers crossed, a late 2012 groundbreaking. A full build-out will take seven to eight years from the start of the construction. Although not concrete, developers expect a middle portion of the development, including three buildings and the parks and public space surrounding them (it sounds vague because it is), to be the heart of Phase One. Like all phases of the project, construction will be focused on creating captivating public space first, and erecting buildings second. But as buildings do spring up in each phase of development, they will always do so as a balanced mix of office, retail, and residential, never all one or the other. Developers are also hoping that secured financing and improving market demand will allow them to reach as far west as to include the Fish Market and Market Square in their Phase One plans. "As probably the most dynamic and active aspect of the redevelopment, we want the Fish Market to be an early stage part of the project," says Anselm Fusco, Senior VP of Investments at Madison Marquette, "It would really help set the tone and put a flag in the sand."

But what exactly will Market Square be? What will it look like? After listening to Eckstut's NCPC presentation last week, Office of Planning Direct Harriet Tregoning characterized the concept as a "happy collision of pedestrians, vehicles, and bicycles, where everyone is forced to slow down." Angela Sweeney, Vice President of Marketing at Madison Marquette, seconded this appraisal. In an analogy using the redevelopment site as a giant domestic entity, Fusco described Market Square as "the kitchen of the house, the most dynamic, vibrant, and bustling space." Eckstut promised to preserve the unique and gritty character of the Fish Market, saying "we want to keep the same messiness, the same crazy parking scheme."

The goal is "to preserve the integrity of what's there and intelligently augment it," explains Fusco. A trip to iconic West coast marketplaces such as Granville Island Public Market, Seattle's Pike Place Market, and San Francisco's Ferry Building served as inspiration a plenty for the project planners. This indoor-outdoor marketplace will be re-imagined at the Fish Market/Market Square with fresh seafood spread out on 90-foot long blocks of ice, complemented by a seasonal green market where not only neighborhood foodies will frequent for a bushel of fresh produce, but where also local chefs and restaurateurs will come to cultivate long-term relationships with local farmers and producers. "The idea of what was once the Head House will be re-appropriated as Market Hall (think Pike's Place), an indoor space, but a very permeable place that will feature more permanent tenants selling both prepared foods and hard goods," says Fusco. Supplement the water-meets-land Marketplace concept with a plethora of picnic tables, public plazas, piazza lighting, cafes, bakeries, and a standalone microbrewery, then color it with the "whole neon sign thing" of the Fish Market (as Fusco calls it), finally, populate the space with a dynamic demographic of people, and you've got what Eckstut believes will be "a place that feels authentic and alive and real...a jolt from the federal Mall experience." To top it all off (literally) developers intend to accentuate the Marketplace with a large iconic sign, for purposes of place-making and way-finding.

Such a commerce-centric place would go a long way towards meeting the 20% local business minimum requirement of the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA), but developers believe throughout the Waterfront redevelopment, not just at the Marketplace, the retail makeup will skew towards community-based merchants. There will certainly be a mix of local, regional, and national tenants," says Fusco, "The retail experience in each area will vary." Continuing his "rooms-of-a-house" analogy, the 7th Street Park and kayaking pier dubbed The Landing "will have a very different feel: largely green, with lots of trees and landscaping, more like the dining room of the house, formal and quieter." This unique space will feature a different character restaraunt, a boutique, not a nationally franchised, big-boxed retailer, while 9th Street's City Pier will be "larger scaled with a big long, wide pier, a ferry landing, with lots of activity and tall ships coming in." Here is where the national tenants would be more likely to find a home, Fusco postulates. Further down the Wharf to the east we find the M Street Landing, the family-friendly rec room of the house, possibly featuring an ice rink in the winter and big water fountains for children to frolic in the heat and humidity of the summer--a little more fun and less formal than the dining room. Even farther east, a meandering pedestrian finds an expansive well-scaled public park, featuring a large halo of trees insulating a rolling lawn. As Fusco puts it: "It will be a park in the traditionally conceived sense of it, enabling passive recreation, and providing a sense of quiet."

Although it may be sometime before this impressive vision becomes reality, Angela Sweeney promises that her development team is "focused on creating and activating the site before an actual groundbreaking happens. We will continue to offer expanded and enhanced on-site programming." Another reason for optimism is the LDA stipulation that the $198 million tax increment financing promised by the District must be used for public amenities--further emphasizing the developers genuine focus on creating an assortment of vibrant, diverse, and inviting public arenas, not simply a canopy of concrete. So far, developers have proven they can dream big. How these dreams mesh with the practical parameters of the Planning Office and feasibility of the financial climate remains to be seen.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News


IMGoph on Dec 10, 2010, 5:39:00 PM said...

providing a sense of quite what?

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