Built along a recreational marina, the Wharf ties federal Washington to the waterfront. Concerts and public performances draw visitors. The site includes new green space and seating areas. Crowds stroll among the restaurants and shops along the curbless streets. (Hoffman-Madison Waterfront)

Type: Mixed use
Uses: Office, retail, restaurant, entertainment, hotel, residential, civic, parks, marina
Developer: Hoffman-Madison Waterfront
Designers: Perkins Eastman; Studio MB; Kohn Pedersen Fox; Fox Architects; Rockwell Group; BBG-BBGM; Handel Architect; WDG; Cunningham Quill; SmithGroup JJR; MTFA; SK&I; Landscape Architecture Bureau; Lee & Associates; Nelson Byrd Woltz; Michael Vergason Landscape Architects; Parker Rodriguez; ZGF; Moffat & Nichol; RicheyWorks
Size: 74 acres (30 ha)
Date acquired: March 2006
Date started: March 2014
Date opened: October 2017

Land uses:

  • Buildings: 14.8 acres (6 ha)
  • Street/parking: 1.48 acres (0.6 ha)
  • Open space: 50 acres (20 ha) (includes land and water)
  • Total: 74 acres (30 ha)

The Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, more commonly known as the Wharf, occupies a mile-long (1.6 km) stretch along the Washington Channel in Washington, D.C. The District of Columbia had become largely disconnected from its waterfront in recent years, but the Wharf is changing that by bringing restaurants, housing, and entertainment venues to the neighborhood.

The Wharf has created a sustainable, mixed-use neighborhood that honors the city’s history. It has preserved the nation’s oldest operating open-air fish market, aims to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Neighborhood Design Gold certification, and exceeds many of D.C.’s Green Building Act requirements. The development includes 2,340 square feet (217 sq m) of constructed floating wetlands, and handles 100 percent of stormwater on site, preventing further pollution of the channel.

The Wharf includes 10 acres (4 ha) of public parks and open space and is well connected to multiple forms of transit. Year-round events and programming such as Petalpalooza and Pride on the Pier draw in visitors, and the Anthem, a 6,000-person concert and event venue, presents many sold-out concerts.

The Wharf is an example of the dramatic transformation that public/private partnerships and reconnecting to a city’s forgotten waterfront can produce.

Multiple piers extend into the channel, allowing public access. (Hoffman-Madison Waterfront)

This article is one of 11 highlighting this year’s winners of the ULI Global Awards for Excellence.