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Harboring Hope

Time stood still for Washington Harbour as ’hoods around it evolved into hotter, hipper spots, but a 2011 flood washed it out of its rut.

Farmers Fishers Bakers anchors a rebirth of Washington Harbour.

John Asadoorian, a DC retail real estate broker who runs Asadoorian Retail Solutions, doesn’t mince words about Georgetown’s Washington Harbour. “As hipper neighborhoods emerged all over town, the Harbour was stagnant. The space got tired.”

Despite its ideal perch on a bend in the Potomac River between the Key Bridge and The Kennedy Center, the development became a poster child of unrealized potential, seemingly remaining frozen in time, circa opening day, 1987. Only in 2011, when a flood wrecked many Harbour businesses, did most Washingtonians even bat an eye at its existence.

How times change. The only deep freeze on the property now is a gleaming new ice rink, part of a $22.5 million renovation unveiled by landlord MidAtlantic Realty Partners. “It’s a natural draw and a unique, vibrant, beautiful area. It will be a year-round luxury experience for people,” says Rick Hoffman, Georgetown branch vice president at Coldwell Banker, a tenant at the Harbour.

In addition to the rink, which will become a Sin City-style fountain of choreographed geysers in warmer months, new and revamped dining options from power players like Fabio Trabocchi will be magnets for traffic.

“Our vision is to draw a bigger and more sophisticated crowd year-round,” says MRP Managing Principal Bob Murphy. “It has always been a nice place for drinks on the water, but now people will be able to enjoy fine dining and family activities.”

Trabocchi will be the biggest culinary name at the Harbour. The acclaimed chef/owner of Fiola in the Penn Quarter will open Fiola Mare, a Mediterranean seafood restaurant, in 2013. The restaurant will
sit on a unique plot at the intersection of the Harbour and the Georgetown Waterfront Park. The North Dakota Farmers Union—you heard that right—is also back in the Harbour action with the expanded Farmers Fishers Bakers, where Senior Executive Chef Joe Goetze has already begun overseeing a bustling kitchen, sushi bar, larder and bakery. The space boasts a contemporary American menu and a modern farmhouse design featuring adornments such as tractor tires, barn woods and antique boat propellers.

As enclaves like this live and die by critical mass and adjacencies, it’s not surprising that not all of the action is anchored at the Harbour. Just down the block on Water Street, the Popal family, which owns Café Bonaparte and Napoleon Bistro & Lounge, will add a new nightlife outpost called Malmaison. “It’s going to feel like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an edgy, industrial place where poets, artists and musicians can come,” says Omar Popal, who also trumpeted unconfirmed rumors that Philadelphia mogul Stephen Starr will open a second DC restaurant—the first of which is expected to be a French bistro opening at 14th and Q streets—nearby on Wisconsin Avenue

“This is going to be an iconic destination,” says Asadoorian, who has been one of the project’s biggest boosters. “There is no other place like it in the city.”