WASHINGTON — As the District continues to develop its waterfront areas, the D.C. Council is considering legislation that would dedicate resources to keeping waterways safe and orderly, giving city officials the ability to more closely manage increased traffic and growth.
“With the opening of The Wharf last week, we’re already seeing more boats, kayakers and water taxis on the water,” said D.C. councilmember Charles Allen, who introduced the bill Tuesday. “I love seeing more District residents utilizing and enjoying these waterfront spaces, and we are going to see even more people getting out onto the water in the months and years ahead.”
The Wharf, the city’s largest new development project, opened Thursday along D.C.’s Southwest waterfront.
It adds an entire community to the area with shops, restaurants, condos, apartments, piers, a boardwalk along Washington Channel and hundreds of boat slips.
There is also a 6,000-person music venue, called The Anthem.
Construction continues next year with the groundbreaking of another phase of the $2.5 billion project, which is expected to be completed around 2022.
“As the prominence of our waterfront continues to grow across our entire city, we must ensure that the growth is strategic and that we are convening all the relevant stakeholders,” Allen said.
Allen’s bill would create a District Waterways Management Office within the Office of the City Administrator that would be responsible for leading the city’s efforts regarding safety, environmental and recreational needs as it relates to waterways and adjacent properties.
The office would advise the mayor’s office and the city council.
Also, the legislation would establish a District Waterways Management Commission that would be tasked with developing plans and strategies for continued safety, environmental preservation and economic growth.
The commission would have 11 voting members along with several other ex officio members that would represent local and federal stakeholders.
Allen’s bill will be considered by the council’s Committee on Government Operations.
Before Monty Hoffman, CEO and founder of PN Hoffman, redeveloped The Wharf, the Southwest Waterfront shoreline sat, for the most part, unused for decades, despite its proximity to the National Mall.
“On the water, here, where we developed, was really large, flat, plain parking lots and clubs that were left here. That was sort of a tired, old-school use for the water,” Hoffman said.
“And meanwhile, while other cities were refurbishing their waterfronts, changing manufacturing to residential or merchandising, this city didn’t do that. And so, we’re catching up, frankly, to what other cities have already started doing.”
Hoffman is expecting the The Wharf to attract about 15 million visitors each year, and he sees that as 15 million opportunities to show off the Potomac and raise awareness about the importance of keeping it clean.
“The Potomac River is our greatest natural resource, and I think when people see it and they get on it and they’re part of it, aware of it, then the conscious level of cleaning it up and doing other things in our environment goes way up,” he said.
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WTOP’s Rachel Nania contributed to this post.