If they build it, you will come.
At least that's what developers banked on when they scooped up waterfront and waterview properties along the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. in the early 2000s, ahead of construction of the city's major league baseball park.
Now, tighter lending practices have dampened commercial development in the neighborhood. But the promise of a new condo or townhouse within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol and the stadium is bringing in residents, according to a recent Washington Post story.
The dream of developing Washington's waterfront into an energetic corridor of shops, homes and businesses -- from Anacostia around Hains Point and on to Georgetown -- is not new. For years, Washingtonians have seen development dreams and plans come, go, and run astray.
Prime example: the 1950s urban renewal project on the Southwest waterfront that brought in architects such as I.M. Pei and Harry Weese to design a mid-century modern mix of housing, businesses and entertainment venues.
The neighborhood still exists: a quiet area seemingly cut off from the rest of the city -- with condos, a lovely marina, a row of seafood houses popular with bus tours, but little else.
Will the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, as the renewed Navy Yard/Nationals Park effort is known, be different?
Perhaps, says John McIlwain, senior housing fellow at the Urban Land Institute, but not because of its river views or proximity to Nationals Park.
The area, bounded by Interstate 395, the river, the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street, is just five long blocks to the U.S. Capitol. That proximity just might be the key to its success, he says.
"You've got Capitol Hill as a business destination and the newly revitalized 8th and I area. Those are the attractors in that area," McIlwain says.
And according to the Post story, that's happening: proximity of the Nationals Park neighborhood to workplaces -- including the Navy Yard and its supporting contractors; the Department of Transportation; and the Hill -- is drawing first-time homebuyers, empty-nesters and investors.
But the chance to walk to work on the Hill or to the restaurants of Barracks Road (along gritty sidewalks under the Interstate) doesn't come cheap: a one-bedroom, one-bath condo in the Velocity, a hi-rise development with Capitol, stadium or river views is listed for $365,900. The first phase of the new townhouse development known as Capitol Quarter sold out, with market-rate homes selling from $635,000 to the mid-$700,000s.
Full development of the area, including new riverfront trails, and a commercial center with bars, restaurants and shops, is likely a decade away, McIlwain says.
"One of the problems with Washington, D.C.'s waterfront is that it's cut off from the city. Washington hasn't been geared toward the water since it moved away from Georgetown 200 years ago," McIlwain said.
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