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If you’ve pored through the recently-submitted second-stage zoning application for the massive redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront—-hey, some of us do that for fun—-you won’t have seen anything regarding a key component of the plan: The Maine Avenue Fish Market, a collection of seafood wholesalers and eateries tucked underneath I-395.
That’s because the Fish Market redesign isn’t ready yet, and will move forward outside the rest of the planned unit development process. The nearly 200-year-old Fish Market is an interesting beast, having moved from its original location during the redevelopment of Southwest in the 1960s. It’s now owned by the District, which leases space to purveyors on land and on the barges that support the back part of the market. The Wharf developers have submitted a plan to the city, and will assume a master ground lease once that’s squared away.
I don’t have specifics on that plan yet, except for one thing: The currently unused Oyster Shucking Shed and Lunch Room, a pair of ramshackle buildings surrounded by vending machines and ice boxes, will become a “centerpiece,” according to a spokesman for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. They’ve submitted an historic landmark application for the seemingly nondescript structures, which were built in 1916 and are now literally falling apart inside. They retain enough integrity, though, to “serve as reminders of the Southwest Waterfront’s historic commercial and maritime industries.”
According to the application, the Lunch Room was home to the Cadillac Restaurant from the 1940s through the 1970s, while fish dealers used the shucking shed to prepare their catch for sale. The Army Corps of Engineers drew up plans to renovate the buildings with new public toilets in 2005, but never followed through. The Virgo fish cleaning business occupied it until 2010, but has moved out, leaving the building vacant.
If it’s preserved, the building will be one of the few historic elements in the whole development, since urban renewal wiped away most of what existed in the early 1960s.