D.C. Wharf opens with new amid the old

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEBORAH SIM­MONS

The Wharf has been built, and now the pub­lic and the dol­lars will come. The penul­ti­mate is­sue: Is law en­force­ment pre­pared for the on­slaught?

The shini­est and new­est eco­nomic engine in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal is The Wharf. Lo­cated aside the Wash­ing­ton Chan­nel, it opened to the pub­lic Thurs­day to much fan­fare tout­ing new res­i­den­tial water­front digs, new eater­ies for food­ies and spe­cialty trans­porta­tion op­tions for lo­cals and tourists.

There’s also a new 6,000-seat per­form­ing arts venue called The An­them, where it won’t mat­ter much whether you sat, knelt or stood your ground dur­ing the play­ing of “The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner.”

Yep, The Wharf is a splen did-look­ing at­trac­tion, pair­ing nicely as it does with Mary­land’s Na­tional Har­bor, Vir­ginia’s Ron­ald Rea­gan-Wash­ing­ton Na­tional Air­port and the Na­tional Mall, home to the District’s free tourist stuff.

And come spring, the cherry blos­soms will be in bloom again, the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als be­gin a new sea­son of play and D.C. United starts kick­ing it at its new digs, Audi Field.

The mas­sacre in Las Ve­gas has raised the bar on safety and se­cu­rity, first re­spon­ders, the ho­tel in­dus­try and restau­rants, en­ter­tain­ment venues and res­i­den­tial com­plexes. That’s where D.C. po­lice, fed­eral law en­forcers and Diane Groomes come in.

A high mea­sure of con­fi­dence is placed in Ms. Groomes, who stepped down as as­sis­tant Metropoli­tan Po­lice chief this spring to be­come chief of se­cu­rity and safety at The Wharf. Ms. Groomes, who served in the po­lice depart­ment for 27 years, now over­sees a new com­mu­nity that spans nearly a mile of water­front, 24 acres of land and more than 50 acres of water.

The District has long pa­trolled the Po­tomac River as part of its or­di­nary polic­ing chores and be­gan its Har­bor Pa­trol Unit in 1861. It has come to the res­cue dur­ing such hor­ri­fy­ing dis­as­ters as when, in, Jan­uary 1982, Air Flor­ida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th Street Bridge, then fell into the icy Po­tomac dur­ing evening rush hour. The Har­bor Unit also res­cues peo­ple and re­cov­ers corpses.

Long­time and new South­west res­i­dents ex­pect much from D.C. po­lice and fire/EMS units, who now must tend to their rou­tine emer­gency calls and step them up a few notches be­cause of the new foot, bi­cy­cle and ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic at The Wharf — and Thurs­day’s grand open­ing merely cel­e­brates part of the project. The open­ing of Part 2 is a cou­ple of years down the road.

The black ink ex­pects $92 mil­lion in rev­enue from the cur­rent Wharf project, though, and that can pay for beefed-up po­lice pa­trols and new equip­ment for the Har­bor Unit and fire/EMS.

And if D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Charles Allen has his way, as he usu­ally does as chair­man of the Ju­di­ciary and Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee, D.C. first re­spon­ders will get ev­ery­thing they need and most of what they want.

The late Al Jol­son, Hol­ly­wood’s “can­tor” to Amer­ica, wouldn’t rec­og­nize his old res­i­dence on 4½ Street SW, and Marvin Gaye, who lived on 1st Street SW, wouldn’t be able to find his home be­cause it was torn down decades ago.

What’s gone is gone.

If D.C. of­fi­cials play their 92 mil­lion cards right, the new will con­tinue mix­ing with the old, es­pe­cially the old part that sells such af­ford­able, fresh seafood as salmon, crackers and bushels of crabs.

Re­build it and they will con­tinue to come.

● Deborah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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