By Derrick Perkins (File photo)
And just like that, the waterfront is sizzling.
A month after restaurateur and man-about-town Jody Manor launched the Waterfront Market adjacent to the Torpedo Factory Art Center, city councilors gave the waterfront pavilion a new lease on life. The former food court will become Blackwall Hitch, an upscale restaurant serving new American cuisine, officials said.
“This is something that is very, very, very … long overdue for that vacant space down at that food court pavilion,” said Mayor Bill Euille on Saturday when the city council approved the plan.
Officials have long sought a single, permanent tenant for the building, which has sat vacant since 2011. That’s when the property’s lessee, Realco — City Hall owns the land — forced out the few remaining vendors and closed the building in hopes of finding a more viable tenant.
The five-person consortium behind the Blackwall Hitch project has another restaurant — by the same name — in the works in Annapolis. While still under construction, it is expected to open next month.
The Alexandria location will boast 450 seats — inside and out — as well as live entertainment. The proposed menu includes seafood, steaks, burgers and specialty items.
And for those curious, the restaurant’s moniker pays homage to a type of knot used to secure a rope to a hook.
The project’s approval comes during a time of transition along the city’s waterfront. Along with the Waterfront Market, economic experts are reviewing plans for the Beachcomber building at the foot of Prince Street. While details about the proposals are scarce, officials have made it clear that they prefer to see the ramshackle structure restored as a restaurant.
At the same time, a Washington-based developer is backing a hotel project along the 200 block of S. Union St. And the Graham Holding Co. — formerly the Washington Post Co. — has reached a deal to offload the Robinson Terminals to a triumvirate of new owners.
Blackwall Hitch will go a long way toward City Hall’s goal of a revitalized and vibrant waterfront, said Nancy Williams, of the city planning department, when the project first emerged.
“Our goal is to activate the waterfront, and one of the objectives is to bring more dining to the waterfront,” she said. “This certainly meets that goal.”
Euille agreed with the planner’s assessment Saturday.
“[Now] we have an opportunity to bring a very upscale, classic type of restaurant that can exist there … but also bring life and vitality back to that particular area,” he said.