Maine Avenue Fish Market upgrades preserve history, add new options

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a five-part series on D.C.’s new Southwest Waterfront development, The Wharf.

WASHINGTON — D.C.’s Municipal Fish Market, also known as the Maine Avenue Fish Market, hasn’t changed in decades.

“It’s got its own character and it’s authentic, and we don’t want to ruin that. We love that. We’re embracing it,” Monty Hoffman, founder and CEO of PN Hoffman told WTOP.

Hoffman’s company, along with Madison Marquette, are the developers behind the massive mixed-use project along D.C.’s Southwest Waterfront called District Wharf.

And the Fish Market plays a key role, as the “gateway” to the entire development.

“It’s a valuable piece of property and offering that we are turning a lot of attention to, and we are doing it carefully and hopefully doing it great,” Hoffman said.

Dating back to 1805, the Fish Market is the oldest, continuously operating, open-air fish market in the nation. But changes are coming as part of the redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront.

Although some customers aren’t even aware of it, the seafood businesses operate from barges parked in the Washington Channel.

Hoffman said the barges will stay, although he hopes to add a few new ones including one from Boston that will serve lobster.

Near the barges, a century-old oyster shed and lunch room will be overhauled and reopen as a Rappahannock Oyster Company restaurant.

Traveling along Maine Avenue, and easily seen from the road, is Nicholas Stefanelli’s three-story Italian market, restaurant and lounge.

The Southwest Waterfront seafood market, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Southwest Waterfront seafood market, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Washington. As the gateway to D.C.’s redeveloped Southwest Waterfront, the Maine Avenue Fish Market is set for some upgrades. The changes aim to preserve the history of the 212-year-old market and offer some new food options. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (AP/Andrew Harnik)
From the eating area set aside for customers of Captain White's, you can see the marina slips available for recreational boaters near the Maine Avenue Fish Market in this Sept. 7, 2017 photo. Improvements to the market are expected to wrap up sometime next spring. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
From the eating area set aside for customers of Captain White’s, you can see the marina slips available for recreational boaters near the Maine Avenue Fish Market in this Sept. 7, 2017 photo. Improvements to the market are expected to wrap up sometime next spring. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
It's in bad shape now, but the historic oyster shed and lunch room will be renovated and become home to a Rappahannock Oyster Company restaurant. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
It’s in bad shape now, but the historic oyster shed and lunch room will be renovated and become home to a Rappahannock Oyster Company restaurant. Built between 1916 and 1918, the lunch room and oyster shed served the market’s workers and were one of several auxiliary buildings built adjacent to the municipal market building, which was torn down in the 1960s, according to the D.C. Historic Preservation Office.  (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
From Maine Avenue, construction on Nicholas Stefanelli's Italian market, restaurant and lounge, can be seen. A new office building sits behind the market. The improvements are part of the mile-long redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront called The Wharf. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
From Maine Avenue, construction on Nicholas Stefanelli’s Italian market, restaurant and lounge, can be seen. A new office building sits behind the restaurant site. The improvements are part of the mile-long redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront called The Wharf. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Another view of what will be a 3-story Italian market, restaurant and lounge from chef Nick Stefanelli. The restaurant sits between the Maine Avenue Fish Market and a new office building that was constructed as part of The Wharf redevelopment project. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Another view of what will be a three-story Italian market, restaurant and lounge from chef Nick Stefanelli. The restaurant sits between the Maine Avenue Fish Market and a new office building that was constructed as part of The Wharf redevelopment project. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
This new building is going up across from Salt Water Seafood at the Maine Avenue Fish Market. The construction and improvements to the market are part of the massive redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, known as The Wharf. A new office building will sit adjacent to the market, which has been operating since 1805. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
This new building is going up across from Salt Water Seafood at the Maine Avenue Fish Market. The construction and improvements to the market are part of the massive redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, known as The Wharf. A new office building will sit adjacent to the market, which has been operating since 1805. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Another look at the new building - with massive garage-type doors - going in across from Salt Water Seafood. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Another look at the a building that will have large, garage-type doors. The building is under construction across from Salt Water Seafood at the Maine Avenue Fish Market. Upgrades to the market include more seafood sellers and efforts to preserve part of the 1900’s era municipal market. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Bings Godoy puts a lid on a basket of crabs at Captain White's Seafood City at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, as unseasonably warm temperatures rise into the 70's on Christmas Eve. The open-air market was filled with customers picking out crabs, oysters, shrimp and fish for a traditional Christmas Eve meal.    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Bings Godoy puts a lid on a basket of crabs at Captain White’s Seafood City at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. As the gateway to D.C.’s redeveloped Southwest Waterfront, the Maine Avenue Fish Market is set for some upgrades. The changes aim to preserve the history of the 212-year-old market and offer some new food options.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jerry Wright stacks baskets of blue crabs from Crisfield, Md., at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, Wednesday morning, June 1, 2016. Blue crabs, which thrive in the nearby Chesapeake Bay, are a summertime seafood favorite in the mid-Atlantic region. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jerry Wright stacks baskets of blue crabs from Crisfield, Md., at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, Wednesday morning, June 1, 2016. As the gateway to D.C.’s redeveloped Southwest Waterfront, the Fish Market is set for some upgrades. Construction is expected to wrap up next spring.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(1/9)
The Southwest Waterfront seafood market, Friday, June 19, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
From the eating area set aside for customers of Captain White's, you can see the marina slips available for recreational boaters near the Maine Avenue Fish Market in this Sept. 7, 2017 photo. Improvements to the market are expected to wrap up sometime next spring. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
It's in bad shape now, but the historic oyster shed and lunch room will be renovated and become home to a Rappahannock Oyster Company restaurant. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
From Maine Avenue, construction on Nicholas Stefanelli's Italian market, restaurant and lounge, can be seen. A new office building sits behind the market. The improvements are part of the mile-long redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront called The Wharf. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Another view of what will be a 3-story Italian market, restaurant and lounge from chef Nick Stefanelli. The restaurant sits between the Maine Avenue Fish Market and a new office building that was constructed as part of The Wharf redevelopment project. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
This new building is going up across from Salt Water Seafood at the Maine Avenue Fish Market. The construction and improvements to the market are part of the massive redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, known as The Wharf. A new office building will sit adjacent to the market, which has been operating since 1805. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Another look at the new building - with massive garage-type doors - going in across from Salt Water Seafood. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Bings Godoy puts a lid on a basket of crabs at Captain White's Seafood City at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015, as unseasonably warm temperatures rise into the 70's on Christmas Eve. The open-air market was filled with customers picking out crabs, oysters, shrimp and fish for a traditional Christmas Eve meal.    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jerry Wright stacks baskets of blue crabs from Crisfield, Md., at the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, Wednesday morning, June 1, 2016. Blue crabs, which thrive in the nearby Chesapeake Bay, are a summertime seafood favorite in the mid-Atlantic region. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Another new building, that will house Todd Thrasher’s rum distillery, will include a distinctive smokestack.

“It’s a really creative way to vent the rum-making process out. In old-fashioned tradition, we’re going to paint letters on the smokestack. I think we’re going to paint ‘Make Rum Not War.’ That would be just cool,” said Hoffman.

As construction at The Wharf advanced, parking at the Fish Market became increasingly difficult, but customers can now use The Wharf’s recently opened underground garage.

For those interested in visiting by boat, a marina with 44 slips is being added where boaters can stay a little while, or overnight. It has electrical and water hookups, as well as bathrooms.

Visitors will soon hear more than just the sounds of fishmongers calling to customers.

“Inside the Fish Market itself is a plaza area where we expect to have live performances and entertainment,” Hoffman said.

During the winter, an ice skating rink will operate nearby.

“The whole composition is going to be a lot of fun, and will draw, I believe, a lot of people,” said Hoffman

An office building, offering premium office space, is going up next to the Fish Market. Hoffman said 80 percent of the building is pre-leased.

“One of the things that tenants are asking, prospects are asking is, ‘Is the fish market staying?’ They’re asking all these same questions. They want to make that part of their lifestyle, for their employees and staffing.”

Stan Kiser, sales manager at Jessie Taylor Seafood, thinks the changes will boost business.

“(If) you get hungry, there’s a place to eat that’s close by. If you can walk, you don’t have to deal with the traffic. That’s big,” he said.

“It’s going to be really nice when everything’s all done,” Kiser added.

But not all of the businesses at the Fish Market are pleased with the project.

Three businesses, including the owner of Captain White Seafood City, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the District and the developers arguing that the District breached its contract with the businesses and that the construction, which reduced the market’s parking lot, would hurt their business. The case is ongoing.

The grand opening of Phase 1 of The Wharf is Oct. 12, but construction in the Fish Market area will take longer to finish.

“I would say April (or) May. Maybe earlier. I’d love it to be earlier. I’d love for it to be at Cherry Blossom Festival (time). But in this particular case it’s better to be right than fast, and we want to get it right,” said Hoffman.

Read more of WTOP’s coverage:

Part 1: DC’s most ambitious redevelopment project set to open

Part 2: Examining The Wharf’s environmental impact

Part 3: Restaurants, retail and entertainment venues take center stage

Part 4: Will The Wharf be a traffic nightmare?


Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2017 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up