The Waterfront region of Ward 6 has become a hub of redevelopment in recent months. The once quiet enclave is turning into the “go to” destination to live, play, and work in the city. However, residents recently halted the erection of a Shakespeare Theater Company offshoot.


Construction was delayed for the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s The Bard establishment, which is planned to occupy the same site as the former Southeastern University on Southwest D.C.’s waterfront. (Courtesy photo)

The Bard – a joint project spearheaded by the Shakespeare Theatre Company and Erkiletian Construction Corporation, a real-estate firm – raised the ire of long-time Southwest residents when the proposed location at 5th and Eye Street SW would have sandwiched it next to the area’s only elementary and middle schools (Amidon-Bowen and Jefferson, respectively), and smack dab in the middle of townhomes.  The protest led to The Shakespeare Theatre Company withdrawing its development application for the mixed-use project on June 30.

“The proposed P U D is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan, with respect to both use and density,” the notice reported. The comprehensive plan was developed by the city and developers that gives guidelines to the design and layout of the Southwest quadrant of the city. “It is also inconsistent with the Southwest Small Area Plan approved by the Council of the District of Columbia in July, 2015.”

Residents are not upset with this halt in development. “I am extremely pleased that the developers have pulled out because Southwest is being turned into a developer’s fantasy and a homeowner’s nightmare,” longtime property owner Marjorie Harris told the AFRO. “We used to take pride in the fact that we knew our neighbors, crime was almost non-existent, and visitors who came to the Waterfront, enjoyed the view and food, and then went home.  Now there are too many drunk and rowdy revelers from Nationals Park and too many outsiders crowding the space.”

The Eye Street location is just a block from the Arena Stage, which underwent a major renovation six years ago, tripling its size. The Bard’s proposed location, the former site of Southeastern University, was purchased by Erkiletian for $6.5 million in 2014. The proposed seven-story Bard plan was to offer a multi-use facility that included administrative, educational, and housing units within the theatre complex.

“Things change and I am hardly against progress, but this corridor has become a dumping ground of project ideas that serve visitors but not residents,” condo-owner Michael Sands told the AFRO. “We have too many seniors and young children in this community for this hodge-podge of buildings. I initially supported several projects that came through the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly community organization, but then I began seeing properties sandwiched sideways in between what were once grassy walkways and much-needed parking structures.”

While the original proposal has been suspended, Erkiletian is expected to submit revised plans to the D.C. Office of Zoning for review.

“Our plan is to continue to educate the community and engage them in the design process,” Chris Jennings, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s managing director told Washington City Paper. “We’re interested in doing this right, and doing this right means continued community engagement and dialogue so we can be good neighbors and good citizens.”