At Tuesday night’s soccer stadium Open House, representatives from the District government, DC United, and developer Akridge had a series of information stations covering different aspects of the proposal, such as transportation and planning. This Open House follows the forum hosted by SWNA back on September 15. Over the summer, a series of plans and studies have been conducted for the stadium proposal and surrounding Buzzard Point neighborhood, including a Special Events Study, a Transportation Management Plan, and the Buzzard Point Urban Design Framework. Here’s what we now know about the proposal:
The District and DC United propose a $300 million, 20,000-seat soccer stadium at 2nd and R streets in Buzzard Point, about two blocks southwest of Nationals Park. There is a chance that in the final design, the number of seats at the stadium could decrease to 18,000. The District will contribute up to $150 million in a series of land swaps with Akridge and Pepco, as well as infrastructure improvements needed for the stadium site; a tax abatement will be provided to the team over a period of 20 years. The land swaps will allow the District to provide a subsidy for the stadium without breaching the debt limit cap placed on the city. DC United will contribute the remaining $150 million to build the stadium.
Major League Soccer’s season lasts from March to November and most of DC United’s home matches occur on weekend nights. Once the stadium opens in the Spring of 2017, there will be an average of 23 home matches per season with an average attendance of 19,200; five sold-out international soccer matches; three sold out concerts; five community events with an average attendance of 4,000 people; and 10 other events with an average attendance of 6,000 people for a total of 46 events a year.
The Urban Design Framework developed for Buzzard Point will inform and guide public and private development decisions for the next 10 years. A summary of the draft can be found here, but some interesting details were mentioned at the forum and Open House. Development in Buzzard Point will be focused toward the rest of the Capitol Riverfront BID area along Potomac Avenue in order to protect the existing housing north of the stadium site. A riverfront esplanade will connect to Yards Park and a more naturalized shoreline is envisioned. A Maritime Museum is planned for a site that lines up with the axis of the Capitol and the soccer stadium south of the proposed traffic oval on South Capitol Street. The addition of residential units in Buzzard Point will come from new construction on empty lots, but will also come from the repurposing of existing buildings in the area, including the Transpoint Building, 1900 Half Street, and the Buzzard Point Power Plant.
Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells stated at the SWNA forum that “We need to make sure we have the public infrastructure that serves the neighborhood.” The nearest Metro station is over a half mile away and the route that pedestrians would use to arrive at the stadium would need to be upgraded. There are two streetcar routes that are planned to terminate in Buzzard Point – the North-South streetcar line and the Anacostia line. These lines are not scheduled to be completed until 2020 at the earliest; however, the DC Council recently voted to cut streetcar funding for future lines.
The Special Events Study for Near SE/SW concluded that there will be major congestion at key intersections due to vehicular and pedestrian traffic on game days, especially when multiple events are occurring, such as a soccer match, baseball game at Nationals Park, or a concert at The Wharf. In an effort to alleviate traffic in the residential area north of the stadium, there is a proposal to convert Half Street from P Street to Potomac Avenue to a “festival street” during game days similar to Half Street, SE during Nationals games.
During the 2012 MLS season at RFK Stadium, between 37% and 41% of attendees used alternative transportation options to automobiles. It is expected that the non-automobile share will be higher at a Buzzard Point site (65%) despite the longer distance to Metro than at RFK, since parking will be limited nearby and will be more expensive. About 6,400 parking spaces within walking distance have been identified across several lots, many that are also used for Nationals games. Approximately 610 spaces will be located in a parking lot across the street from the stadium at Akridge’s 100 V Street lot until that site is redeveloped as a mixed-use project. Most of the spaces are located in parking lots east of South Capitol Street near Nationals Park. As these lots get developed, parking will be lost, but some will be built as office buildings with parking garages that can be used by soccer patrons.
While the stadium will open in 2017, the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and traffic oval will not open until 2018. Therefore, access to parking facilities near the Anacostia Metro station will be limited. Further improvements along the South Capitol Street corridor will be completed in a later phase.
What about tailgating? According to the Transportation Management Plan:
It is expected that the tailgating culture that exists at RFK Stadium will be replicated in some form at the new DC United stadium. Most likely this will occur at limited tailgating areas, but supplemented with restaurant/bar gatherings, and meet-ups in public spaces such as festival-like street closures. These pre/post-game gatherings are very prevalent at European soccer games and urban MLS venues. Although the stadium design is very preliminary, DC United staff has indicated they plan to designate a portion of the stadium site for this type of game day activity.
Over the summer, the Community Benefits Coordinating Council has been meeting with neighborhood stakeholders to develop a Community Benefits Agreement to ensure that residents who live nearest to the proposed stadium site benefit from the project and are not displaced. Negotiations will soon begin with the District and DC United on the CBA. The initial terms of the CBA include a $5 million community fund for youth activities; workforce development; training for area residents; small business opportunities; housing; and traffic & safety issues.
Council chairman Phil Mendelson was at the SWNA forum and gave some additional color on the proposal from the perspective of the DC Council. There are three committees that will be evaluating the pending stadium bill – Government Operations, Economic Development, and the Committee of the Whole. Hearings have been held on the stadium, but more will be scheduled before any votes are taken. It is highly unlikely that the Council will vote before the November election, but will likely vote before the end of the year. The Council is waiting for consultant CSL International to finish a cost-benefit analysis on the stadium deal before they move forward. According to Mendelson, there are two separate issues before the Council – the stadium serving as an economic development booster and whether the city wants DC United to stay in the city. If the stadium proposal was just for $150 million, Mendelson said that he believes there are enough votes to pass the bill. However, the stadium proposal is complicated, involving a series of land swaps, tax abatements, and other provisions, so the bill's prospects in the Council is uncertain.
Renderings courtesy of DC United, the Office of Planning, and DDOT