Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Council Approves Amended DC United Stadium Deal


At yesterday’s legislative meeting, the DC Council unanimously approved the DC United stadium deal, although a second reading of the bill is scheduled in two weeks for final passage. If the bill receives final passage and is signed by the Mayor (the latter is uncertain due to issues with the funding scheme devised by the Council), it will allow the city to move forward with purchasing land to build a $300 million, 20,000-seat stadium at 2nd and R streets on Buzzard Point. The city’s contribution would be capped at $150 million. The stadium could open in time for the 2017 MLS season if all goes well, but there are still several hurdles left before we see fans walking down Potomac Avenue. 

Included in the legislation is a method to pay for the stadium, which Council Chair Phil Mendelson stated from the dais that Mayor Gray had not provided when he submitted the legislation back in May. After the Council removed the Reeves Center land swap from the deal, a roughly $62 million funding gap emerged since proceeds from the swap would have contributed to land assembly costs. Now, the city will need to purchase a two-acre parcel on Buzzard Point from Akridge either outright or by eminent domain, in addition to the land purchases already agreed to for other parcels in the stadium footprint (a land swap with Pepco will still proceed). 


Also included in the bill are community benefits specific to the area near the proposed stadium, negotiated between the Council and the CBCC, a member of the Winning Goal Coalition. For instance, $4.9 million in operating dollars from the FY 2015 budget will be provided to restore the Convention Center – Southwest Waterfront Circulator route (earlier than the FY 2020 estimate in DDOT’s DC Circulator Transit Development Plan), but the route will be extended south into Buzzard Point. Funding was already in place to extend the Navy Yard – Union Station route into Southwest in FY 2015. Although streetcar routes are planned to eventually serve Buzzard Point, the Circulator will bring transit to the area sooner and funding for expanding the streetcar network are in limbo. The city will also provide $121,000 for a workforce intermediary to connect residents of ANC 6D with employment opportunities during construction of the stadium and for the first two years of operations. In addition, $250,000 will be provided to renovate the Randall Recreation Center building and provide programming beyond 2015 since funding was set to run out for programming on September 30, 2015. Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells also expressed his commitment to preserve the mix of affordable housing in the area near the stadium and if any redevelopment of those communities were to proceed, a "one-to-one" replacement of the affordable units should be achieved. Additional community benefits are still being negotiated separately with DC United which may include summer jobs for local youth, United Soccer Club programming at local schools, scholarships for soccer day camps, free tickets for local youth, meeting space and use of the stadium for community events, among other things. 

While it appears that Akridge got the raw end of the deal by not getting the Reeves Center in the land swap, most of the news yesterday was good for the developer, which might help the city get the Buzzard Point land without the need for eminent domain. Akridge will likely get more money for the Buzzard Point land than it would have received in the land swap, since the price per square foot that Pepco and Super Salvage have agreed to receive for their parcels is higher than the previously agreed amount between the city and Akridge during the land swap negotiations. After Akridge sells its two-acre parcel for the stadium, it will still have seven acres just to the south of the new stadium. At one point, the 100 V Street parcel was planned as a 2.7 million SF secure office enclave to entice a federal agency; however, with a soccer stadium adjacent, those plans have likely changed (and if they haven’t they should!). There have been rumors that at least multifamily and hotel uses are being planned for the site, but Akridge has not made their intentions public yet. 

Also included in the financing package for the stadium, funding for the “Hopscotch Bridge” on H Street, NE has been moved up to the FY 2015 budget so the new bridge will be completed by 2018. The lifespan of the current bridge is near its end and a new bridge will allow several planned projects to move forward: 
  • The H Street streetcar line can extend west past Union Station and go all the way to Georgetown. 
  • Amtrak can increase rail service (whose trains run below the bridge) and expand Union Station. The placement of the columns on the current bridge is preventing Amtrak from moving forward with its expansion. 
  • A multi-block air-rights development behind Union Station called Burnham Place can move forward, which is being developed by Akridge. 
On the same day that the soccer stadium deal was approved, a separate deal was approved by the Council for Akridge to renovate the historic Stevens School in the West End for a special needs school and will allow the developer to build an office building on adjacent land. 

With the Reeves Center swap out, the proposed Anacostia Reeves Center complex is also on hold. As Council Chair Mendelson put it, the city may choose at some point to sell the Reeves Center on the open market and use the proceeds to build a new municipal complex in Anacostia; however, it will not be included in the DC United stadium deal. The second vote on the stadium deal will be on December 16, the last legislative session of 2014 for the Council.

Rendering courtesy of DC United