Writing the New Story of Southwest
For decades, a chain link fence almost a mile long stood between the people of SW and the Washington Channel. Although many who grew up here tell stories of swimming across the Channel on hot summer nights to sleep in the cool breeze on Hains Point, the waterfront for most was something of no great value. It was apart. Walled off.
In the late 1940s, Southwest was a poor neighborhood. Forgotten. Tight-knit, but struggling. A massive urban renewal plan in the 1950s leveled most of the dwellings, stores and buildings here. A generation later, the new development and important partnerships described on these pages seek to learn from our shared history and maintain the sense of community that makes SW a unique corner of the city.
What is happening here is an extraordinary rebuilding. A celebration of what has been and the shared adventure of watching all of this new change unfold. The yacht club here is almost 130 years old and will move into its new home in a year. The Maine Ave Fish Market, almost 200 years old, is being stabilized. The churches here, Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist and Methodist, are all re-envisioning their place in the community and looking forward to welcoming their
congregations in new spaces.
The Friends of the SW Public Library are now convening around the design and purpose of a new library for Southwest. The design process begins this fall and the Friends group is passionate about building a place for reading and learning like no other.
The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, possibly the oldest and largest neighborhood association in the District, has new leadership, a new young leaders group and a new role as a catalyst for the SW as a creative place for both families and those aging in place.
Yes, there is extraordinary growth underway here. There are five new hotels here, two museums, a collection of the most sought after restaurants in the region, waterfront apartments and condos with views never before available, a new music hall and public space for time with family and friends.
Even more remarkable is this area’s deepened sense of self. The growth and change described on these pages have solidified the Southwest as a place and a people. Not subtracted from it. Southwest is genuine, determined and clear about what does and does not belong here. The conventional language of branding and redevelopment is inadequate here. This is bigger. More significant. Not emerging or transforming, but a fusion of old and new. A remix.