Southwest DC
Southwest Neighborhood Profile
Southwest’s sleepy waterfront and mid-century style are rapidly disappearing. Rising from the Potomac is a new, world-class waterfront. The southwest DC residential scene is transforming, too. Posh new condos and mid-tide equity. It’s time to buy into the Waterfront.
Getting Around in Southwest.
Southwest DC is a walkable neighborhood in Washington DC with a WalkScore of 76. Southwest DC has excellent public transportation with a TransitScore of 87 and is very bike able with a BikeScore of 82.

Metro Station

Waterfront Metro is on the Green line, Federal Center on the Blue/Orange/Silver lines, & L’Enfant Plaza on the Blue/Orange/Silver/Green/Yellow lines.


There are about 10 Bus Lines in the Southwest Waterfront.


There are 8 Capital Bikeshare stations in Southwest.


ZipCar has 6 locations in Southwest.

From waterfront reinvention to a mid-century-to-modern makeover, the once confused Southwest neighborhood has finally figured out what it wants to be–a raucous and posh waterfront playground with a side of subdued residential charm.
Impress a date and your taste buds with dinner at Del Mar. Tip a few at La Vie. Make a friend at Gangplank Marina. Rock at the Anthem. Kick it up late night on Pearl Street at Jammin’ Java and Pearl Street Warehouse. Replenish your caffeine level at Blue Bottle. Watch the giant cranes remodel the riverfront. Jet ski. Paddleboard. Become a yachtie or hire one. Wine all night at Requin. Get some balls from Stefanelli’s. Grab a bag of jumbo blue clams at Captain White’s. Take in a show at Arena Stage. Sip a sunset cocktail at Cantina Marina. Brunch at Station 4. Hold space on the patio at The Brighton. It’s a whole new waterfront. Get your feet wet. Snap up a mid-century barrel-top at River Park and take ownership of the neighborhood.
Southwest DC Schools

Amidon Bowen Elementary

Public • Grades PK-5

342 students • 15 student/teacher

Washington Global PCS

Public Charter • Grades 6-8

100 students • 10 student/teacher

Eastern High School

Public • Grades 9-12

967 students • 12 student/teacher

For a full, updated list of schools, see EBIS. School data from SchoolDigger
Southwest History
The first inhabitants of the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood were indigenous peoples who valued the rich fishing, hunting and farming land. In the late 1700’s, the area was developed into the Federal City. Its first army base, Fort Lesley McNair, was constructed in 1794. The neighborhood grew into a busy industrial shipyard with warehouses and outdoor markets. Fishermen sold catch from their boats until the turn of the century, when a market was opened. The 1801 Maine Avenue Fish Market remains the oldest continuously operating open-air fish market in the nation. Its lunch room building, where fishmongers and shoppers eat their freshly prepared seafood, was constructed in 1916 and the oyster shucking shed was added in the mid-1940s.
The Southwest Waterfront was part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original city plan. The area includes some of the oldest buildings in the city, including the Wheat Row block of townhouses, built in 1793 and Fort McNair, established in 1791. Following the Civil War, the Southwest Waterfront became a neighborhood for the disadvantaged Washingtonians. It was divided in half by Fourth Street (then 412 Street), The Scottish, Irish, German, and eastern European immigrants lived west of 412 Street, while freed blacks lived to the east.  The Waterfront had a thriving commercial district with grocery stores, shops, a movie theater and several  elaborate homes, but most of the neighborhood was a poverty-stricken shantytown filled with tenements, shacks and tents. These areas, some of them in the shadow of the Capitol, were frequent subjects of published photographs captioned “The Washington that tourists never see.” City planners working with the Congress in the 1950’s, acquired nearly all land south of the mall (except Bolling Air Force Base and Fort McNair), through purchase or eminent domain. They evicted residents and businesses. destroyed many streets, nearly all buildings and landscapes. Opposition, primarily from the Southwest Civic Association and John Ihlder, Director of the Alley Dwelling Authority, centered around the plan to replace an entire community with luxury housing rather than supplying low and moderate income dwellings for existing residents. Despite their objections, the redevelopment plans crafted by architects Louis Justement and Chloethiel Woodward Smith including modernist buildings, green spaces and parking, were popular with city residents and officials. Only a few buildings were left intact; the Maine Avenue Fish Market, the Wheat Row townhouses, the Thomas Law House, and the St. Dominic’s and Friendship churches. The Southeast/Southwest Freeway section of Interstate 395 was constructed where F Street, SW, had once been, separating the quadrant’s business district from the residential Waterfront neighborhood. Waterside Mall was a small shopping center and office complex mostly occupied by a Safeway grocery store and satellite offices for the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Arena Stage was built a block west of the Mall, and a number of hotels and restaurants were built on the riverfront to attract tourists. Southeastern University, a tiny college chartered in 1937,  established itself as an important institution in the area. The residential aspect of the project began with a large apartment complex and park called Potomac Place, located on 4th Street between G and I Streets. The community still stands today, converted to condos during the building boom in the early 2000’s.
Architect I. M. Pei developed the initial urban renewal plan and was responsible for the design of multiple buildings, including those comprising L’Enfant Plaza and two clusters of apartment buildings on the north side of M Street (Town Center Plaza). Famed modernist Charles M. Goodman designed the River Park Mutual Homes complex. Harry Weese designed the new building for Arena Stage and The Tiber Island complex  was designed by Keyes, Lethbridge & Condon. It won an American Institute of Architects Honor Award in 1966.
But urban renewal didn’t succeed for everyone in Southwest. Areas of the neighborhood remained dilapidated, residents were low-income, and the streets were somewhat dangerous. Crime worsened during the 1980s and the 1990s, when Washington had among the lowest per capita incomes and highest crime rates in the nation.
On March 19, 2014, PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette broke ground on the massive redevelopment of DC’s Southwest Waterfront into a mixed-use complex named “The Wharf.” Twenty-four acres of land and 50+ acres of water will feature more than three million square feet of residential, office, hotel, retail, cultural, and public spaces including waterfront parks, promenades, piers and docks. Phase I of the development delivered in Fall 2017.
Neighborhood information on this site is believed to be accurate but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice.