Georgetown Waterfront to get facelift

During the next few years Georgetown’s waterfront will be under construction – but the completed product is sure to be “the final jewel” of the area, project planners said.

The National Park Service has been planning a $15 million park on the Georgetown waterfront next to Washington Harbour between 31st and 34th streets for almost a quarter of a century, and the group plans to break ground for the project soon.

The land at the border of Georgetown and the Potomac is currently characterized by parking lots, concrete walls and narrow strips of grass. The new park will curve along 10 acres of waterfront, completing the 225-mile stretch of green space along the Potomac River.

The park will be built in two phases, said Elizabeth Spinweber, spokeswoman for the project. The first phase will include an interactive fountain that parkgoers can run through and around, shaded walkways and stairs that will take wanderers down to the edge of the water for an up-close view of boat races.

The primary feature of the project’s second phase is a labyrinth, constructed with “a blend of landscape design and serene stone paving,” Spinweber said, adding that it should be “a place for quiet contemplation.”

The first phase needs $4 million more before construction can begin, and Spinweber said park partners could be fundraising for the next two years. Spinweber said the timeline for the completion of phase one cannot be estimated until fundraising is complete. Congress has appropriated $5 million for the park, and the nonprofit Georgetown Waterfront Commission has raised $6 million so far.

All the fundraising for the second phase is complete, and the Park Service expects to break ground on it shortly. The second phase should take 18 months to complete.

The National Park Service also owns the front yard of the new Swedish Embassy, between Washington Harbour and Rock Creek, which has been under construction since last year. John Parsons, associate regional director of land, resources and planning for the National Park Service, said the embassy plans on building a trail along Rock Creek, where visitors can hike, to complement the park.

Project planners and city officials believe the beautification of the area will please tourists as well as residents, who can use the park for morning power walks and nighttime strolls. They think the area will draw visitors to the Washington Harbor area, which sports a collection of restaurants, Spinweber said.

The only obstacle to full beautification of the waterfront, many city officials have said, is the Whitehurst Freeway. Many believe the freeway divides Georgetown and think its removal would rid the area of an eyesore. A decision abut the freeway’s fate will be made after the completion of an ongoing study of the freeway by the D.C. Department of Transportation.

Ruth Warner, who attended public meetings about the freeway last month on behalf of Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, said many different options for the freeway’s future are being examined. Some Foggy Bottom residents have come out against the freeway’s destruction because they think it is unnecessary and would increase traffic on residential streets.

Other projects along the waterfront include the refurbishing of Thompson’s Boat Center near the mouth of Rock Creek and the construction of a properly lighted, well-landscaped riverfront walkway that will create a continuous promenade from Georgetown to the Kennedy Center.

Georgetown is one of several waterfront areas throughout the city undergoing renovation as a part of the D.C. government’s plan to better utilize space along the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.