On the waterfront

a pier on a channel of the Potomac River. Those who do locate it will discover ... to gain control of the waterways and shoreline.” It was worth it. Today, The Wharf ...
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On the waterfront A major redevelopment of Washington DC’s Southwest neighbourhood has transformed a remote, seafood market into what could be this year’s hottest waterside destination. We send Tim Ebner to investigate Photographs Jennifer Chase


MAY 2018


MAY 2018



n most days, you can smell the Maine Avenue Fish Market before you see it. That’s because this iconic, outdoor seafood market – the oldest in the United States, opened in 1805 – is hidden beneath a busy overpass, on a series of floating barges that line a pier on a channel of the Potomac River. Those who do locate it will discover a spirited scene, as vendors haggle heartily with shoppers over the freshest seafood in Washington DC, pulled from the Atlantic Ocean. Their wares include oysters, clams, scallops, shrimp and salmon, laid out on shelves of ice like a colourful tapestry. It’s also the place to find Maryland’s famed Chesapeake blue crabs, some of which are crawling in crates while others are being steamed and doused with Old Bay ‒ the spicy seasoning traditionally used for the crabs ‒ whose smoky scent wafts through the air. But the Maine Avenue Fish Market didn’t always look, sound, or smell so alive. For the last 50 years, this narrow stretch of waterfront was cut off and mostly parking lots and industrial space. Despite some city planners having good intentions for the area – there are several buildings in the region designed by world-renowned architect I.M. Pei – planning mistakes separated the community from


Clockwise from left: Monty Hoffman, founder of PN Hoffman developers; Vendoreatery Captain White Seafood City operates at the Maine Avenue Fish Market; oysters at the new Kith and Kin

DC’s thriving downtown core. It’s why, in 2014, developer PN Hoffman decided it was time for a solution: a multibillion dollar redevelopment of the area, spanning 50 acres of water and 24 acres of land, known as ‘The Wharf’. “A few years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that could serve you along the water,” says company founder Monty Hoffman. “This area needed something exceptional and worthy of the view. Southwest needed a place by the water to call home.” Keen to preserve the fisherman’s market and the neighbourhood’s past, while also opening up opportunities for new local businesses, Hoffman says it was about finding a balance between the old and the new. “The initial challenge was getting everyone to believe in

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Clockwise from the bottom of this page: Spanish-style restaurant Del Mar; Pearl Street Warehouse is one of two new music venues in the area; the redevelopment is attracting a younger crowd; Kith and Kin specialises in African and Caribbean cuisine; Maria Trabocchi of Del Mar restaurant; a seafood dish with a Spanish twist at Del Mar

Southwest again,” he continues. “There were these conditions at the waterfront where doing nothing was the status quo. So getting everyone to believe that this could become a robust and thriving village by the water took great time and effort, including four acts of Congress to gain control of the waterways and shoreline.” It was worth it. Today, The Wharf has been transformed into what is now pipped as Washington’s hottest new destination for 2018. In the process of being unveiled in two phases, the first – launched in October last year – has brought an urban waterfront environment to the area, with outdoor parks, piers, restaurants, retailers, bars, entertainment and docking facilities for yachts. Phase two, expected to be completed by 2022, will bring another 457,200 square metres of mixed-use development. The fresh design has pumped a new vitality into the area, blending glass and steel buildings with old-world aesthetics, such as cobblestone streets and boardwalkstyle piers. It’s also attracting a younger, trendier crowd. Visit on a sunny day, and you’ll now find kayakers on the water; groups of 20-somethings sipping craft beer on the decking and children screeching happily as they fly back on forth on the site’s oversized, feature swings. Able to be accessed by land or sea ‒ a new fleet of yellow water taxis can take you here from Georgetown, National Harbor, and Old Town Alexandria ‒ The Wharf has also, unsurprisingly, attracted dozens of new business owners. They include DC’s homegrown Politics & Prose Bookstore; sweet sensation Harper Macaw, a local chocolatier that sources cocoa beans from Brazil and reinvests a portion of each sale into rainforest conservation; and Whiskey Charlie, a rooftop bar which features 360° views of the city’s famed monuments and cityscape, while serving up craft cocktails such as strawberry shrub Moscow Mules. As for the Maine Avenue Fish Market, despite The Wharf’s construction temporarily hindering customer access ‒ causing some contention ‒ those troubles have been offset by an influx in business that comes from the seafood market now being the primary gateway into the new neighbourhood. It now stays open until 9pm every day. The link to the market has also brought a wave of seafood restaurants in The Wharf. At Del Mar, a new Spanish-style restaurant from restaurateur Maria Trabocchi and chef Fabio Trabocchi, the menu touches upon the couple’s island homeland of Mallorca, with a summer menu that revolves around fresh, simple fish dishes, like white asparagus served with smoked salmon, a runny egg, Meyer lemon, and topped with trout roe. “We are excited to be part of this new development in what is now a storied and vibrant neighbourhood of our city,” says Maria. The 3,505 square-metre restaurant, is the largest in the Trabocchi empire of eateries. It’s been designed by Barcelona designer and architect, Lázaro RosaViolan, who added saturated hues of blue and green giving


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“The Wharf feels like a neighbourhood that was resurrected overnight. It transports you to a place other than DC, and that’s an attractive reason to visit” the space a marine vibe, plus mermaid mosaics and naval charts and maps on the walls. Next door at Kith and Kin, chef Kwame Onwuachi – of Bravo’s hit show Top Chef fame – showcases the best in African and Caribbean cuisine. This includes several seafood dishes like scallops piri piri garnished with lily buds and cashew snow, and citrus-cured salmon crudo topped with green tea and apple nage. “The menu is a direct reflection of who I am,” explains Onwuachi. “I grew up with a Trinidadian and Creole mother and an African

and Jamaican father. I wanted to cook food that was rooted in those traditions and provides diners with a way to experience cultures that they may not have been familiar with before.” As a second chance restaurant for the TV chef, following the closure of his first DC restaurant Shaw Bijou after just three months, it would be understandable for him to be nervous about how well this one will do. However, Onwuachi says he’s more confident, thanks to the extra card he has up his sleeve: being located in The Wharf. “The Wharf feels like a neighbourhood that was resurrected overnight,” he explains. “I know that it took a decade or so to actually transform, but I feel as if it transports you to a place other than DC, and that’s a really attractive reason for people to visit.” It’s not just seafood that The Wharf is becoming known for. The waterfront and surrounding Southwest area have also quickly become one of the premier destinations for live music, entertainment and the performing arts. That effort began in earnest in 2010 with the renovation of Arena Stage, a $100 million (€82 million) investment that brought a second act to a world-class theatre known for its American playwrights, including avant-garde works, dramas, and musicals.

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Clockwise from below left: The Wharf is easily accessible thanks to a fleet of yellow water taxis; The Whiskey Charlie bar serves up craft cocktails and features panoramic views of Washington DC’s most famous monuments

Then, just last year, The Wharf gained two new music venues: The Anthem, a 42,672-square metre concert hall run by the owners of DC’s legendary rock club – the 9:30 Club – and Pearl Street Warehouse, an intimate stage featuring a rotation of local acts specialising in Americana, rock, folk and bluegrass music. “The Southwest Waterfront has been a lot of things in the last two centuries,” says Bruce Gates, who runs Pearl Street Warehouse and ran a legendary Southwest Waterfront restaurant and bar, called Cantina Marina, which closed last year and will reopen with The Wharf’s phase two development. For now, a much smaller concession stand and bar, called Cantina Bambina, channels the old restaurant’s soul. “It’s gone back and forth between being vibrant and dead,” he continues. “But, almost universally true throughout that time was that there was limited access to the water. We were disappointed to close Cantina Marina after a 15-year run, but we’re excited about a future that will make our business stronger and more vibrant.” Music was also something that Gates, as a young restaurateur, had always dreamt about incorporating into his businesses. “Ironically, we tried music before at Cantina Marina, but the water and space made for bad acoustics,” Gates says. 80

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“Now, with Pearl Street Warehouse and Cantina Bambina, we are really at the centre of a live entertainment district that focuses on excellence.” Part of that excellence also comes from The Anthem, a larger venue that opened in October. The opening night headliner was a Northern Virginia native, Dave Grohl, and his band, The Foo Fighters. “The Foo Fighters was obviously the ultimate dream show in what’s now my dream venue,” says Anthem co-founder Seth Hurwitz, who is also chairman of I.M.P., an independent DC-based concert promotion and production company. The Anthem has not stopped rocking since. This summer, the venue will feature headline acts from Jack White (May 29-30) and Vance Joy (June 12). It will also play host during DC’s Jazz Fest, a celebration of local Jazz musicians from 8-17 June. “For the summer, we’re also planning to have outdoor performances and music on the street to bring people together,” Hoffman adds. “We really wanted to hit a sweet spot that could appeal to a wide variety of fans. Music brings an excitement factor that’s new for this area.” It’s an energy that’s also new for the Maine Avenue Seafood Market. Whereas before, come sundown, there’d only be a few seafood vendors left in the market: busily cleaning their stands and counting last sales, these days, business is brisk. A young crowd is likely to be found eating steamed shrimp and crab cakes around wooden standing tables before hitting The Wharf’s biggest entertainment that eve. It’s a pleasing blend of old and new that is transforming this stretch on the water. wharfdc.com FLY TO WASHINGTON DULLES SIX TIMES WEEKLY


The Wharf : Le nouveau quartier branché

Un réaménagement majeur du quartier sud-est de Washington DC en a fait une des destinations au bord de l’eau les plus recherchées de l’année. Tim Ebner visite.

Niché sous une bretelle routière où le trafic est dense, sur une série de péniches amarrées le long d’une jetée sur le Potomac, le Maine Avenue Fish Market s’est imposé comme un lieu incontournable bourdonnant d’activité, connu pour le poisson et les fruits de mer les plus frais de la ville. Pourtant, le marché n’a pas toujours été aussi populaire. Durant 50 ans, de multiples erreurs d’urbanisme ont coupé ce bord de fleuve du centre-ville très animé. C’est pourquoi en 2014, le promoteur PN Hoffman s’est lancé dans une réhabilitation à plusieurs milliards de dollars de cette zone, baptisée The Wharf. Soucieux de préserver le marché de pêcheurs et l’histoire du quartier tout en ouvrant des opportunités de développement aux commerces locaux, le fondateur de l’entreprise, Monty Hoffman, voulait trouver un équilibre entre l’ancien et le nouveau. « Il a fallu beaucoup de temps et d’efforts, y compris quatre décisions du Congrès, pour prendre le contrôle des voies navigables et de la rive. » Mais le jeu en valait la chandelle. The Wharf a connu une transformation drastique, dévoilée

en deux temps, pour devenir en 2018 le nouveau quartier branché de Washington. La première vague d’octobre a révélé un espace urbain en bord de fleuve, avec des parcs, des restaurants, des magasins et lieux de loisirs. La deuxième phase, qui sera livrée en 2022, viendra y ajouter plus de 100 000 m² de constructions à usage mixte. Accessibles par la terre ou le fleuve, ces aménagements ont naturellement attiré des dizaines de nouveaux commerces. Citons notamment la librairie Politics & Prose, le chocolatier local Harper Macaw, le bar rooftop Whiskey Charlie et Del Mar, nouveau restaurant à l’espagnole qui, comme bon nombre d’autres récemment ouverts près du marché, sert des spécialités de poisson. Quant au Maine Avenue Fish Market, il bénéficie d’un afflux renouvelé de clients grâce à sa situation à l’entrée principale du quartier. Ce bord de fleuve est également en train de devenir une destination majeure pour la musique, les arts et la culture. Cet effort a débuté en 2010, avec la rénovation pour 100 millions $ du théâtre Arena Stage. Ensuite, l’an dernier, deux nouvelles salles ont ouvert : The Anthem et ses 13 000 m² et Pearl Street Warehouse, scène intimiste accueillant des artistes locaux. « En été, nous prévoyons aussi d’organiser des spectacles en plein air et de la musique dans la

Le look renouvelé du Wharf avec ses espaces ouverts innovants attire un nouveau public Het frisse ontwerp en de innovatieve open ruimtes van The Wharf trekken een nieuw publiek

rue pour rassembler les gens, explique Hoffman. Cet enthousiasme est nouveau dans le quartier. » Cette énergie est particulièrement nouvelle pour le Maine Avenue Seafood Market. Alors qu’auparavant, le soir venu, les poissonniers comptaient les ventes sur les doigts de la main, aujourd’hui les affaires sont florissantes, avec des clients plus jeunes qui s’y retrouvent pour déguster des crevettes et des crab cakes. C’est l’alliance de l’ancien et du neuf qui a insufflé une nouvelle vie à ce bout de Washington en bord de fleuve. wharfdc.com

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MAY 2018

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The Wharf: de nieuwe trendy wijk

De grondige herontwikkeling van het zuidwesten van Washington DC heeft geleid tot misschien wel de populairste bestemming langs het water van dit jaar, zegt Tim Ebner

Verborgen onder een viaduct, op een reeks boten langs de pier van de Potomac-rivier, is de vismarkt van Maine Avenue tegenwoordig een bruisende, beroemde plaats waar je de meest verse vis van de stad kunt kopen. Maar de markt is niet altijd zo

populair geweest. Door allerlei fouten in de planning was dit stukje langs het water de voorbije 50 jaar gescheiden van het drukbezochte stadscentrum van DC. Daarom besloot ontwikkelaar PN Hoffman om het gebied The Wharf vanaf 2014 grondig te herontwikkelen, een investering van meerdere miljarden dollars. Oprichter Monty Hoffman wilde koste wat kost de vismarkt en de geschiedenis van het gebied behouden, maar ook nieuwe mogelijkheden creëren voor lokale bedrijven. Hij moest dus een evenwicht zoeken tussen oud en nieuw. “Het kostte veel tijd en moeite. We passeerden zelfs vier keer langs het Amerikaanse Congres om de waterwegen en de kustlijn te mogen aanpassen.” Maar het was de moeite waard. Vandaag is The Wharf de populairste nieuwe bestemming van 2018 in Washington DC. Het project wordt in twee fasen ontwikkeld. In oktober jl. werd een stadswijk aan het water geopend, met parken, restaurants, winkels en entertainment. Tegen 2022 komt daar nog eens 1,15 miljoen vierkante meter bij voor allerlei doeleinden. Het gebied is bereikbaar via het land en via de zee en heeft uiteraard tientallen nieuwe bedrijven aangetrokken, zoals boekhandel Politics & Prose, lokale chocolatier Harper Macaw, de op een dak gevestigde bar Whiskey Charlie en Del Mar, een

nieuw Spaans restaurant dat net als vele andere restaurants in de buurt van de vismarkt gespecialiseerd is in vis. De vismarkt van Maine Avenue zelf verkoopt plots veel meer, dankzij de passanten die via deze belangrijkste toegangsroute The Wharf bezoeken. Het gebied langs het water profileert zich ondertussen ook als een van de belangrijkste bestemmingen voor muziek, kunst en cultuur van de stad. In een eerste fase werd in 2010 100 miljoen dollar geïnvesteerd in de renovatie van het Arena Stage-theater. Vorig jaar werden twee nieuwe muziekzalen geopend: The Anthem, een concertzaal van 13.000 vierkante meter, en Pearl Street Warehouse, een gezellig zaaltje waar lokale bands optreden. “Deze zomer organiseren we optredens in openlucht en muziek op straat om mensen samen te brengen”, zegt Hoffman. “De buurt zal helemaal opleven.” Dit soort evenementen is een echte nieuwigheid voor de vismarkt van Maine Avenue. Vroeger stonden de vishandelaars ‘s avonds hun inkomsten te tellen, maar nu blijven ze verkopen aan de nieuwe, jongere klanten die gestoomde garnalen en crabcakes komen eten. En het is een mix van oud en nieuw, die deze strook langs het water nieuw leven heeft ingeblazen. wharfdc.com

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