Development Means Positive Attention for the Anacostia Riverfront

The District Source

Kayaks arrive at the new Kingman Island docks. Photo: Tyrone Eaton, Anacostia Watershed Society

Marinas with several hundred boat slips, docks with access for paddlers, and several miles of boardwalk promenades will increasingly spot the Anacostia River in the coming years, bringing with them a renewed vigor for the waterfront as thousands gravitate toward DC’s eastern river. Even with the recently announced year-end closure of the Buzzard Point Marina, the Anacostia River will have nearly 1,000 boat slips spread across The Wharf DC mega development, a new marina at Yards Park, and existing facilities like James Creek and the Gangplank Marina.

Developers building along the Capitol Riverfront in Southeast and at The Wharf in Southwest are looking not just to land but also to water as they design and program their new residential and mixed-use projects. Yards developer Forest City Washington announced that their50-slip marina, designed by Moffatt & Nichol, should deliver by spring 2016. The marina will include space for short-term and long term slip usage for boats as large as 125 feet in length. “The development of the marina will put The Yards more in touch with one of its best assets, the river,” said Deborah Ratner Salzberg, president of Forest City Washington, in a prepared statement. The Wharf is slated to offer 550 boat slips, an increase of more than 200 slips.

As developers turn to the Anacostia, river enthusiasts see a positive impact from the influx of new buildings and people. “People who live [near the river] have a lot more vested interest in it,” said Trey Sherard, outreach coordinator/program assistant for the Anacostia Riverkeeper (ARK). “It may be a counter-intuitive example of development actually helping drive conservation.”

Marinas and boat slips are not the only alterations. Boardwalks and promenades are also bringing people right to the river’s edge. “There’s literally thousands more people walking that stretch of the river than used to,” said Sherard.

The Yards Park, completed in 2010, is the product of a public/private partnership between developer Forest City Washington, the General Services Administration, and the District government. In addition to green space, concessions, and land-based water features, the Yards includes a boardwalk and an award-winning sculptural bridge that continues the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail along a 1.5-mile stretch of the river.

Seizing on Forest City’s success, development by MRP Realty and Florida Rock Properties is also providing connectivity to the river. The developers expect to deliver the first phase of a four-phase project at a site south of the Nationals Ballpark adjacent to the South Capitol Street Bridge on the waterfront by early summer 2016. The first building to deliver, Dock 79, will feature access to a boardwalk that connects to the riverside promenade that already stretches from the Yards Park to Diamond Teague Park.

When the entire master development is complete, MRP’s Riverwalk will be 800 linear feet. The riverwalk will be accessible for paddlers from the river; no formal kayak or canoeing concession is planned. Later phases may include boat slips, though the idea is very much in its infancy, according to Kristian DeMeo, a project manager at MRP realty.

MRP is also working with the Anacostia Watershed Society toward the goal of a swimmable Anacostia by 2025. “We are doing our part to make sure that our project is safe and clean,” said DeMeo.

Getting people from land and onto the water is critical and increasingly possible, according to Sherard. The concession at Diamond Teague, run by the same company operating kayak and canoe rentals in Georgetown and National Harbor, has opened water access to the other side of the city, according to Sherard.

There are also access points like the Anacostia Community Boathouse where area crew teams practice and new public kayak and canoe docks at Kingman Island, “christened” in October by the Anacostia Watershed Society, the National Park Service, and the DC Department of Energy and Environment. “It’s great to get people walking next to the river. It’s a whole other thing to get people actually on the river,” said Sherard. “It really hits people what an asset it is when they can get physically on it.”

Change does not come without cost. Live-aboard communities like those at Buzzard Point Marina have been told they will have to move their homes elsewhere. “Closing the marina is not a decision that was made lightly,” National Park Service Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in a statement announcing the marina’s closure.

Live-aboards at the Southwest waterfront worked out an agreement to keep their slips when the new Wharf development opens, but anticipated rent increases could have some owners looking for friendlier waters.

The return to the river is gradual, as projects like The Wharf and the MRP/Florida Rock development deliver in phases, but also immediate as new residents gather in waterside parks or rent kayaks for an afternoon. The Anacostia River is ready, beyond ready, for the attention it has long-deserved.

A rendering of Dock 79 just south of Nationals Stadium.

Shaun Courtney is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of District Source, a DC real estate and neighborhood news blog supported by Compass real estate. Shaun has been a District reporter since 2009 and has called the city home since 2002. She lives in Kingman Park with her husband and son.


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