The plan to restore D.C.’s historic Maine Avenue Fish Market

As featured on WTOP

The plan to restore D.C.’s historic Maine Avenue Fish MarketThe team behind the Southwest waterfront overhaul is pitching a major renovation of the historic Maine Avenue Fish Market, eyeing a retail-and-restaurant-dominated addition it hopes to have open in less than two years.

Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, developer of The Wharf, has submitted to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts a concept plan for the fish market’s renewal. The landmark open-air, barge-based market at 1100 Maine Ave. SW will be refreshed, with utility and accessibility upgrades, and several new structures will be added in the shadow of I-395 12th Street offramp.

“By and large, we love the way it is, and we’re embracing it and we plan to add more on the land side,” said Monty Hoffman, CEO of PN Hoffman, which has teamed with Madison Marquette to develop The Wharf.

Hoffman-Madison holds a 99-year lease on the fish market. While technically not part of The Wharf, Hoffman said it has essentially been annexed.

The fish market proposal includes the restoration of the historic oyster shed, the relocation of the fish cleaning building, and the addition of a distillery building, a large market hall and two smaller retail additions — a market shed and market pavilion. A plaza and piers will offer more than 10,000 square feet of outdoor seating space.

Check out renderings and a site plan of the fish market project in this gallery.

The CFA, which got its first look on June 18, found the concept to be “a convincing approach to address the difficult issues of scale, character, and topography presented by this project,” according to its letter to the development team. At the same time, the panel “cautioned against trying to recreate this random, energetic character in the architecture of the new buildings, which will inevitably result in a falseness made obvious by the authenticity of the existing context.”

The Maine Avenue Fish Market, in continuous operation in one form or another since the early 1800s, is the oldest open-air market of its kind in the United States. The Municipal Fish Market that opened there in 1918 was razed in the 1960s as part of the Southwest urban renewal effort, and the vendors, who refused to vacate, were pushed into the Washington Channel on the floating barges where they remain today.

Next door to the market, Hoffman-Madison is 15 months into its $1.2 billion redevelopment of the Southwest waterfront. Parcel 1 of The Wharf, the closest parcel to the fish market, is planned for an office building over retail.

The fish market site plan is fairly detailed. The oyster shed will be renovated as an oyster bar. The distillery will feature a tasting room, a retail store and event space. The market pavilion will offer coffee, pastries and sandwiches. The market shed may offer fresh-cut flowers, gifts and pottery. And Hoffman-Madison envisions a wine bar, market food, beer wine shop, full-service dining and an Italian butcher in the large market hall.

“We believe this is an iconic opportunity,” Hoffman said of the market, which he hopes to have open in time for the 2017 Cherry Blossom Festival kickoff. “It’s the gateway coming into The Wharf. It’s visible from 14th Street and 295. It’s the first thing you see when coming over from the Jefferson Memorial. It’s the oldest operating fish market in the United States. We look at it with a great deal of responsibility, to position it such that it’s world-class when it’s done.”

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