The DC Council unanimously approved the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Act of 2014 on second reading earlier today, which sets things in motion toward building a new stadium for DC United at 2nd and R streets on Buzzard Point. If things go as planned, the stadium will begin construction before the end of 2015 and will open in time for the 2017 MLS season. The city will use a combination of borrowing and a land swap to pay for its portion of the stadium, which covers land acquisition, environmental remediation and infrastructure improvements. One obstacle that is still left is how the city will acquire a two-acre parcel in the stadium footprint owned by Akridge. Since the land swap for the Reeves Center has been removed from the legislation, the city will need to purchase the parcel, by eminent domain if necessary.
The road leading to this vote was a long one. Chatter about DC United’s interest in Buzzard Point first surfaced during the Great Recession in 2009, after plans to build a stadium at Poplar Point fell apart. DC United has been looking for a new home; the team currently plays at RFK Stadium, an aging multipurpose venue that lacks the intimacy or upgrades that are found in modern soccer-specific stadiums. Akridge’s 100 V Street parcel was eyed as a potential stadium location. At the time, Akridge was marketing the nine-acre site as a secure office complex for a federal tenant, but there was little interest from office tenants. Then in 2011, a land swap was proposed with Akridge, but not for a soccer stadium – it was to swap land in Hill East that houses the DC Jail for the 100 V Street parcel to build a new jail; however, this proposal never moved beyond the discussion phase.
Several sites around the city were considered by DC United for the stadium, but ultimately Buzzard Point won out. Mayor Gray and DC United team owner Jason Levien signed a term sheet in July of 2013 to locate a new, 20,000-seat stadium on a portion of the 100 V Street parcel on Buzzard Point. Other landowners in the stadium footprint include Pepco, Super Salvage, and Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein. In the agreement, the city would contribute about $150 million for land acquisition and infrastructure improvements while the team would pay $150 million to build the stadium. In addition to the stadium, the team plans to eventually build a hotel and some retail space within the stadium footprint. Legislation was introduced to the Council last spring and a series of hearings were held over the summer and early fall. Some components of the deal announced last year have changed, including the Reeves Center land swap and some of the tax incentives offered to the team, but most of the deal’s original terms have remained intact. A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was added to the Council legislation at the behest of the CBCC and other local organizations, which includes restoration of Circulator service with an extension to Buzzard Point; funding for improvements to Randall Recreation Center; and a workforce intermediary to connect ANC 6D residents with stadium-related jobs. A separate CBA will be signed with DC United.
This largely industrial section of Southwest will likely be transformed as a result of the stadium. An Urban Design Framework draft for Buzzard Point released by the Office of Planning over the summer will inform and guide public and private development decisions in the area for the next 10 years. The new stadium’s location, less than three blocks southwest of Nationals Park, will facilitate the creation of a stadium district in the area, since Potomac Avenue will link the stadia. There is the potential for over 10 million square feet of development on Buzzard Point, including up to 4,000 residential units, a maritime museum, marinas, and an esplanade along the Anacostia River.
Next up: DC United will need to go before the Zoning Commission in 2015 to get approval for the stadium’s design. Vamos United!
Renderings courtesy of DC United and DC Office of Planning