Greater Greater Washington

A DC United stadium is likely to be truly urban

Last week, Erik posted that DC United is in discussions about small sites in the District for a 20-25,000 seat soccer stadium. The constraints of both Buzzard Point and the Florida Market sites guarantee that the stadium would be a celebrated urban stadium rather than a mini-FedEx Field.


Photo by Lil' El on Flickr.

In February 2009, I outlined characteristics of a successful urban stadium. Either of the sites would meet all 6 of those criteria.

Whenever stadium discussions come up, financing is one of the first subjects to be broached. It's no secret that the District of Columbia is having fiscal challenges, just like most other local governments.

DC United's ownership would have to pay for a new stadium, similar to how the Washington Wizards ownership paid for constructing the Verizon Center. Without government subsidies (outside of sewage access) the team ownership would be as cost-conscious as possible and still provide a good fan experience.

No surface parking

Parking garages are extremely expensive. Neither Buzzard Point nor the Florida Market have the space for acres of RFK-style surface parking. Without any government support in the form of road building or eminent domain, it wouldn't make fiscal sense for DC United's ownership to spend lots of its own money on parking structures when both sites are proximate to Metro stations.

It took government intervention back in the late 1950's to subsidize building all the parking lots at RFK Stadium. Other un-urban stadiums like Detroit's Ford Field took government support in the form of zoning and road building. Neither DC United site would require altering the existing street grid and both sites appear to be selected because they wouldn't require road costs to the District.

Integration with the street grid

Because the District has no interest in offering subsidies in the form of rebuilding streets, the new soccer stadium would have to be designed around existing infrastructure. The celebrated human-scale L'Enfant Plan would be largely undisturbed.

Proximate transit access

The Florida Market site is a five minute walk from the NY Avenue Metro station on the Red Line. The Buzzard Point site is a 10-15 minute walk from the Waterfront and Navy Yard stations on the Green Line.

Pedestrian-friendly connection to transit

South Capitol Street is too wide in places with too-fast traffic. However, it is safe to cross at M St. because the faster traffic is in a trench. The walk from the Waterfront station down Delaware Ave. SW and 2nd St. SW is very safe. They are small neighborhood streets with 25 mph speed limits. The Florida Market site is along Florida Avenue NE. It's a little wide but the there is enough activity to slow down the traffic. It's not a suburban arterial or a partially grade-separated street.

Frequency of events

Between its Major League Soccer regular season games, U.S. Open Cup, CONCACAF (North American) Championships, and friendlies, DC United holds approximately 30 games during the season. Other events would want to use the facility too, such as the U.S. National Men's and Women's soccer teams, concerts, college sports, other pro sports, etc. 60 events a year is a reasonable estimate. The schedule for the Los Angeles Galaxy's soccer stadium, the Home Depot Center illustrates the diversity of events held.

Vibrant surrounding urban area

The Florida Market site is within close proximity to the H Street, NE nightlife area. The coming streetcar on H Street will better connect the stadium with existing popular restaurants and bars.

On the other hand, Buzzard Point is a largely forgotten corner of the city. It's been cut off by I-395 since the 1960's. Because of its remote location, it would be politically easier to build there because of the lack of potential anti-neighbors. This location represents an opportunity to bring attention and real estate demand to a forgotten corner of the city.

The Buzzard Point site has many things in common with the area around the Navy Yard Metro before the construction of Nationals Park in Near Southeast. While the area surrounding the baseball stadium hasn't magically become Dupont Circle, it is no longer forgotten. Real estate demand near the Navy Yard Metro is now far greater than before it hosted the ballpark.

The main thing holding it back from progressing towards its potential is the tight global financial environment. While I'm not a baseball fan and think the District got a bad deal on the financing of Nationals Park, I think it's unfair to say that the redevelopment of the stadium's surrounding environs "failed." The redevelopment process is going to take years and will ultimately be for the better.

Looking back into history, some of the best pre-WWII stadiums in the United States also displayed excellent urbanism. They added a sense of place to their surroundings and were considered jewels in their cities. Those great stadiums were built under similar circumstances to a new DC United stadium; they received little government support. They had to use existing infrastructure and squeeze their footprint into existing city blocks. In both the pre-war stadiums and a new DC United stadium, necessity is the mother of invention.

Disclosure: I'm a member of Barra Brava an iconic independent DC United supporters' group.

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Cavan Wilk became interested in the physical layout and economic systems of modern human settlements while working on his Master's in Financial Economics. His writing often focuses on the interactions between a place's form, its economic systems, and the experiences of those who live in them. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

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What is the zoning of the two sites in question and what needs to happen politically or otherwise to make it a reality, assuming DCU is able to foot the bill for the stadium.

by William on Jan 24, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

A very helpful post, as were last week's discussions. I think the lower chance of residents' resistance can't be overstated as a plus for the Buzzard Point location. (Also, I happen to like capitol city market quite a bit.) One question -- does anyone know if there's any thinking out there concerning a link from the SW Waterfront to this site if this should happen? Contrary to what one commenter wrote last week, Fort McNair is not open to civilians, even on foot. I live a block away and have asked the guard before.

by cab1 on Jan 24, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

I'm also a member of Barra-Brava, and live within walking distance of RFK Stadium; however, I've noticed that there are very few of us who do so, and that it seems a majority of the club drives in from Virginia and Maryland.

I'm Wondering the author's personal thoughts on how to successfully transfer the pre-game atmosphere from lot 8 to a "no surface parking" stadium. It's going to be a tough thing to lose, so I'm looking to see if there are any creative thoughts on the matter!

by Alex on Jan 24, 2011 2:16 pm • linkreport

If you take the current state of the economy into consideration, then the development surrounding Nationals Park is definitely a success.

by Ron on Jan 24, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

Cavan,

Excellent post. I'd like to float the notion that a 30,000 person stadium could theoretically get a few more events a year by hosting high school football. Historic high school football rivalries like Gonzaga-Saint John's have outgrown their schools' venues.

Also, I'd love love love to see a stadium in a similar style to Portland's PGE Park, which for my money is the best municipal stadium of that size in the US.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/PGEParkpano.jpg

by Dave Murphy on Jan 24, 2011 2:28 pm • linkreport

Less gov't subsidy/intervention = better urbanism and more frequent use of new construction as developers are more cost and revenue conscious? What is this, greatergreaterteabagger? :)

by NAB on Jan 24, 2011 2:33 pm • linkreport

Alex, if you look at our tailgates, most people are in a 30 yard by 30 yard area. The rest of the space at the back of Lot 8 is taken up by cars. Let the Barra Brava (and Screaming Eagles and District Ultras) keep their tailgating equipment in a locked shed or locker like now. People will bring their own food and drink on the Metro just like Barra members like myself who currently take the Metro to games. Give credentials to the one or two supporters' group leaders who bring in the bulk of the common supplies. A tailgate is just a pre-game gathering. You just need a little space for that. The cars aren't essential. I hate to give too many props to Seattle Sounders fans but they are onto something by gathering in a nearby small urban park. They then march to the stadium just like we do from
Lot 8.

The key is a modest gathering space with a shed/locker. It just so happens that RFK provides such a space in the form of a parking lot. The space is what matters, not the parking lot. And you don't need that much of it to make a good pre-game party.

by Cavan on Jan 24, 2011 2:36 pm • linkreport

At the very least, you shouldn't have to worry about noise complaints from 3 sides of the Florida Market site. Industrial neighbors to the north, a railroad and daytime offices to the west, and Gallaudet to the East.

The folks in Near Northest to the South may be opposed, although in all honesty, I wouldn't expect a particularly fierce opposition. Florida Ave seems to be a fairly effective "insulator" for that neighborhood. I live nearby, and although my gut instinct is to be opposed, I think it could be a good thing for the neighborhood overall, especially if they managed to keep the market intact, as I proposed in the previous thread (although economic forces could very well push the market to a new location if a stadium is built). The nearby location of the NY Ave metro station and Brentwood railyards are a HUGE plus for transit accessibility at the site.

Buzzard Point risks being turned into a "stadium ghetto" if a stadium gets built without corresponding development around it. I'm also not sure that the residents of SW would be terribly keen about 30,000 people filtering through their streets on the 15 minute walk to the stadium before each game.

by andrew on Jan 24, 2011 2:39 pm • linkreport

Dave, PGE in Portland is definitely a good example of an urban stadium. It's so successful the expansion (in DC United's league) Portland Timbers have renovated it into a soccer stadium:

www.portlandtimbers.com/stadium-renovation

by Cavan on Jan 24, 2011 2:45 pm • linkreport

@andrew: you shouldn't have to worry about noise complaints from 3 sides of the Florida Market site ... Gallaudet to the East.

I see what you did there.

by Tim on Jan 24, 2011 2:47 pm • linkreport

A additional 'pro' for the Buzzard Point location is the availability of the parking garages at Nationals Park for United games. Granted, there will be some overlap between the two sports, but not much.

by Alan on Jan 24, 2011 3:02 pm • linkreport

Also, maybe the NHL could use the stadium for a Winter Classic. If they wanted to choose DC, they wouldn't have to choose among a baseball park, an antique stadium or an inaccessible suburban stadium.

by Tim on Jan 24, 2011 3:14 pm • linkreport

"Buzzard Point risks being turned into a "stadium ghetto" if a stadium gets built without corresponding development around it. I'm also not sure that the residents of SW would be terribly keen about 30,000 people filtering through their streets on the 15 minute walk to the stadium before each game."

And.....how would that be any different than all the Nats fans wandering through the 'hood to get to the park?

by SW on Jan 24, 2011 3:20 pm • linkreport

@SW

Because when you go to the Nats game you're not walking through a residential area to get there.

by MLD on Jan 24, 2011 3:39 pm • linkreport

Indeed. That part of SW isn't so much "Hood" as it is "Industrial Park"

Also, for the benefit of the people who *do* live there, please stop calling it the "Hood." I get that enough with my part of town, which, despite having a lower average income that most of Northwest, is quite safe thankyouverymuch. (Seriously wanted to slap the woman at DC9 over the weekend who was very loudly complaining about how dangerous H St is)

by andrew on Jan 24, 2011 3:59 pm • linkreport

For all of the people who keep saying that Buzzard Point is 15/20 minutes from metro, don't forget that two streetcar lines are set to terminate at the potential location of the stadium.

http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/DC-Streetcar-Plan-Map.jpg

(On the map, they are blueish and yellowish)

by thedofc on Jan 24, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

Delaware avenue is the 'hood' and I would not feel safe walking next to the Greenleaf housing project. Suburbanites would be easy prey for the bands of roaming hoodlums.

by snowpeas on Jan 24, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

I hope you good folks don’t mind me asking a question that is not entirely related. But then again it could be.

I did some searching at the Washington Post (via ProQuest) and found that early on, there were five candidate spots for a new ballpark for the Expos, if and when the franchise transfer would take place. The Post handicapped them, in order, North Capital, Mount Vernon, RFK, Bannecker and usually last was Near SE.

Therein lies a paradox. The site chosen has a lot going for it, the tear down factor, near Metro, riverfront, etc.

So why was it usually almost an afterthought during the site discussions?

Thanks so much.

by Jay on Jan 24, 2011 4:27 pm • linkreport

Real estate demand near the Navy Yard Metro is now far greater than before it hosted the ballpark. I'm not sure that is true. And even if it were, I'm not sure it has anything to do with the baseball stadium. See my thoughts on this here.

by David C on Jan 24, 2011 4:57 pm • linkreport

I hate anti-neighbors almost as much as I hate anti-matter. :)

by David on Jan 24, 2011 5:10 pm • linkreport

Just a naive question so as to not get the cart before the horse: is the owner(s) of DC United in a position to pay for the stadium? We have a lot of these hypothetical convos (of which I love and think are great - just like the Metro expansion ones), but we don't talk about financing.

And I ask that only in interest for the convo. I'm not putting down soccer, DC United or soccer fans. I would love to see a stadium like this and think the locations are fantastic.

by Shipsa01 on Jan 24, 2011 5:58 pm • linkreport

The headline is right, the stadium will be urban, but it's still way too politically cited to make it the best use of resources. The near NE option is pretty solid, but it seems pretty obvious to me that the market would put the stadium closer to union station.

There are still a ton of parking lots between the VZ center and union station, and a small footprint stadium makes sense as a development there. Easy metro/walking for dc residents, VRE and MARC options for people coming as far away as baltimore, and pretty decent freeway access to a huge garage that's going to be fairly vacant for weekend and evening events.

Not using that resource, and coming up with workarounds for parking or metro access is just inefficient. Plus, we should really be getting as much bang for the buck as possible from that eyesore of a garage.

by Mike on Jan 24, 2011 6:02 pm • linkreport

@Andrew - I expect that the opposition to the Florida Market site will be driven by people who do not want to see the market go away. I think that's the bigger obstacle than opposition from Near Northeast residents concerns of noise. Some of the past plans for the land at the market involved maintaining some market uses on the land. A stadium would probably nuke those past plans entirely and cause uproar among some.

by Paul S on Jan 24, 2011 6:11 pm • linkreport

We also need to look at how it will effect the locals who work and live in the area.

1 Will this create problems for transit.

RFK/Stadium Armory
Having lived around RFK before I know that when there are games all of the transit gets packed with people from the game leading to crowded buses and trains for the locals

FedEX/Morgan Blvd
You have problems with crowded trains and people who get on after (Addison Rd, Capitl Hgts, Benning Rd etc to L'Enfant Plaza have to do with packed trains and sometimes waiting for 2 or 3 trains to pass before being able to board.
F14, A12, A15 bus routes always get stuck in the traffic.

At Nationals Park, people get on buses and then ask the bus drivers where the bus goes; train riders from stations after/before Navy Yard suffer with packed trains causing them to wait.

2 Will it clog up streets around the area

RFK you have streets clogged up all around, people illegailly parking, double parking. Buses can not get around this making the passengers suffer through long waits
East Capitol is always packed for miles.

FedEx everything around there is packed creating huge problems for the locals, cars on Landover Rd, 214 and other roads,

3 What has been done to solve 1 and 2

by kk on Jan 24, 2011 6:52 pm • linkreport

DC United has always said it would pay for its own stadium. It just needs the District to pay for any street or utility upgrades around the stadium. That was the deal at Poplar Point, granted, building an entirely new street grid and infrastructure would have been significantly expensive. Building a stadium in existing infrastructure should be much cheaper for the city.

BTW, I look at the parking lots around Howard University and near Metro stations for two lines, and think: sure would make a tidy pitch. Think 9:30 Club's new neighbor. And anyway, that's where the Senator's Griffith Stadium used to be.

by crin on Jan 25, 2011 6:58 am • linkreport

Again with the pot shots at Detroit. As a native of the area, let me assure you that Ford Field is welcome improvement, even with the parking structure.

Why not combine the market and the stadium and parking? Put a couple levels of below grade parking, ground level market area, and the field on the 'roof' of the market. The mass of an NFL stadium might not work, but with soccer, I think it could. Plus it would keep the area in use at most times and bring in some extra folks to food vendors around game times. Markets are most busy in the mornings and most games occur int he afternoon or evening.

by dano on Jan 25, 2011 9:28 am • linkreport

@kk

We're talking about a period of 40 minutes to an hour after a game is over that the stadium is going to create transit "problems." At Navy Yard it usually takes three to four trains going through the station in order to clear things out - and Metro sends extra trains straight there to deal with the crowding.

What do you do to solve 1 and 2? Encourage people to take transit to games/matches (to avoid traffic congestion), and then increase metro capacity after the match is over in order to deal with the crowd.

This is just a false argument - it's going to be an issue no matter where you put the stadium. All you can do is make transit access better and then increase service to deal with crowds. And it's not a big deal except during the hour or so after an event is over.

by MLD on Jan 25, 2011 10:33 am • linkreport

@kk

Like I mentioned, the Florida Ave site is actually *perfect* for this, because the Red Line is equipped to handle (mostly 8-car) trains with 90-second headways, and has the benefit of being directly adjacent to a railyard, which means that a train dispatched at the final buzzer of the match would actually *beat* the crowd to the station.

If you're really concerned about crowds, you'd even be able to hypothetically build a 3rd platform at the station (the tracks are already there, but are presently abandoned).

by andrew on Jan 25, 2011 12:04 pm • linkreport

I say keep the stadium on the smaller side, smaller than 18,000 seats, and by doing this, make sure it can be used at least 200 days a year -- like the size and usage of the Verizon Center.

This probably means it needs to consider being a closed building (like the Verizon Center), or having a retractable roof, so you can host basketball/hockey games when there are conflicts at the Verizon Center, you can host college games and tourneys, arena football, etc. I don't know of any examples of these types of smaller arena-stadiums off the top of my head, but I'm sure they exist.

Average attendance at DC United/MLS games last year was 14,500 or so (they were in last place, economy sucks, etc.) -- ten years ago they had a high average attendance of 21,500 (they were in first place, economy didn't suck as bad, etc.). Let's say we can expect an average attendance of about 18,000 (depending on how much they suck, our now-ruined-for-forever economy (thanks, Baby Boomers!), etc.) -- so, if you build a 24,000-seat stadium, it would only be about 75% used/efficient, and that's on game days for what would allegedly be the main use/draw of the stadium. So, 24,000 seats was just a number that DC United owners threw out there, knowing that they'd get knocked down to something that wasn't completely insane -- 18,000 seats might not be too high, and they might be able to construct it in such a way that they could get another couple of thousand seats for playoff runs, etc. They can also just raise ticket prices -- you know, supply and demand and 'performance pricing' and all that.

There should be at least a 3-mile walkshed around the stadium, and a 6-mile bikeshed -- full-on, top-notch, excellent facilities that offer dignified non-motorized transportation options. I mean, what if folks want to do a little land-paddling or skateboarding or biking? We need to give non-motorized transportation the priority it deserves. We should not have people skating and scooting and paddling and riding on our sidewalks -- we need to give them dignified options, and that means we need to reclaim some space from cars/trucks/buses/trains/etc.

I think it'd be cool if Barra Brava and the other supporters groups launched some 'ride to the game' initiatives (sort of like the Portland Trailblazers supporters did), and were in touch w/ DC United and WABA to make sure there was enough bike parking, maybe even valet bike parking, like the SF Giants do. hey, if you want to win a championship, provide valet bike parking - that's all i'm sayin. and have awesome pitching. ;) ¡Vámonos!

FC Copenhagen gets about 18,000 folks per game, and thousands of them get there and back by bike. The same is possible in DC, but we can't just exhort people to walk and ride -- we have to make it possible. And if you _don't_ make it possible -- if you try to force people onto trains and buses and into cars, then you just strip everyone of their dignity and make everyone angry, and that's no way to build a stadium.

by Peter Smith on Jan 25, 2011 6:30 pm • linkreport

How about Hechinger Mall? Is that site large enough for a stadium? Quite convenient to the existing H St bar scene and easily accessible by the trolley and busses.

@Peter Smith: I think sizes of the playing surfaces of soccer vs. hockey/basketball are so dramatically different that a full time multi-sport indoor facility would be very hard to do.

by jindc on Jan 25, 2011 9:28 pm • linkreport

The Buzzards Point site is good for a lot of reasons, but it looks to be too narrow. It's about 400ft curb-to-curb going east-west. From the curb on 2nd Street across 1st to the fence around the power plant, the distance is 450 feet. I'm pretty certain the stadium wouldn't be permitted to encroach on both 1st and 2nd, and 2nd is probably out anyway for security reasons for Fort McNair. A stadium could be jammed into an area 400 or 450 feet wide, but doing so would really cut down on the sideline seating.

by PeakVT on Jan 26, 2011 12:37 am • linkreport

@Peter Smith:

maybe even valet bike parking, like the SF Giants do. hey, if you want to win a championship, provide valet bike parking - that's all i'm sayin. and have awesome pitching. ;) ¡Vámonos!

You don't even have to go all the way to Godless San francisco: Nationals Park has a free bike valet. Great resource.

by oboe on Jan 26, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

David C - might want to update your list. Stadium Ghetto - how is that a ghetto? You build the stadium in SW and you will see Near-SE fill-in with retail/bars and then you will see SW transform on the SE side and along the rest of the point. Metro, buses and street cars would help with the flow plus any fans coming from east of the river would have easy access over the bridge to the stadium site via car. One day the stadium ghetto known as SW/SE will be a much larger and better Verizon Center/Gallery Place.

by Mike on Jan 28, 2011 3:43 pm • linkreport

Mike, it's still up-to-date. I checked it.

The idea that a stadium brings bars is not really accurate. There aren't any near Fed-Ex, Nationals Stadium or the old Capitol Center. Verizon has them because it's in downtown, not because of the stadium.

by David C on Jan 28, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

Were there any bars around the Verizon before it was built? Rather bars you would want to visit?

I wouldn't compare Fed-Ex Cap Centre to Nats Stadium, they are in the middle of nowhere especially when one was built before there was any good urban planning. Once Akridge gets off their asses and starts Half-Street, things will be different. While it hasn't happened overnight, the stadium is a big draw/helped with redevelopment not the Navy Yard.

by Mike on Jan 28, 2011 3:57 pm • linkreport

There were some bars downtown before the MCI center opened. But in general the area has boomed because all of downtown has - not because of the MCI/Verizon center.

Which buildings do you think were drawn to the area by National Stadium? Many of the office buildings were built because the Navy Yard created a rule that required all contractors to have office space within some very short distance. So I'd argue that Navy Yard, the metro and the build out of other neighborhoods accounts for about 98% of all the development in JD Land.

by David C on Jan 28, 2011 4:03 pm • linkreport

@David C

Verizon helped catalyze life because it was urban, not specifically because it was downtown. The same thing will happen eventually with Nats Park, again, because it is urban.

FedEx and Cap Centre are not urban sites at all. RFK is essentially a suburban design in an urban location.

by Alex B. on Jan 28, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

lost my response but anyway, how much is NY and how much is stadium? 98%? Except for the public housing known as Capital Quarter and CHT, the rest of the residential appear to be baseball related? Would you say Half st is NY or stadium? Florida Rock? The water taxi concept? Plaza on K appears to be marketing towards a new K St since it is close to the House offices.

Baseball didn't move here overnight so when whispers of the team's move popped up there was some behind closed door discussions on where it was going and I'm pretty sure some land was bought to be potentially near the stadium.

I'm pretty sure 12 years ago MCI was almost as rough as Near-SE was and the draw you see today (MCD, Chipotle, Rocket Bar, RFD, etc) is because of the MCI/Verizon Center and not because it is downtown. Go a few blocks from that area and it is still ghetto.

Discussion on redeveloping the yards area started around 1988 and took a long time to develop so to say 98% is NY is probably a bit high. End the end, it will be the stadium(s) not the NY that support that area. If SW/SE both have stadiums that corridor across S Cap St will be a retail (food and booze) hotspot.

by Mike on Jan 28, 2011 4:40 pm • linkreport

Alex B, I'm aware of the popular storyline about MCI/Verizon center. I just don't think it's accurate. The Stadium opened in 1997, and the Green line was completed in 1999. There was a lot of other development - opening of the hotel across the street - that was in the works before Verizon Center. And much of the development that occurred, including the shopping center, had almost nothing to do with Verizon. Your answer is right there, Verizon was in an urban area. Urban areas nationwide rebounded. That area would have blown up with or without (and perhaps it did so in spite of, rather than because of) the VC. Same with near SE. It will continue to develop in spite of the baseball stadium, not because of it.

by David C on Jan 28, 2011 6:44 pm • linkreport

David C, I've had this exact same conversation with Richard Layman in the past. There was a small amount of activity going on in Chinatown before the MCI (now Verizon) Center was was completed. However, that activity was very, very, very, slow. It was slower than what we have been seeing on H St. NE for the past five years. The Verizon Center was the bright shiny object that signified to potential investors that it was time to pull the

Remember that the 7 St. corridor was destroyed by the riots in 1968. It took a big deal and a lot of government intervention to replace the empty lots in Columbia Heights with thriving retail and nightlife. The same was true on 7th St. with government tax incentives for business and the exponential increase of foot traffic and regional awareness with the Verizon Center.

My last point is that before the Verizon Center, the conventional wisdom was that urban places were done and were relics of some past that was best forgotten. The banking and development industries mostly ignored urban projects because they thought that the market only wanted car-oriented suburbanism. The Verizon Center was one of forerunners and catalysts that showed the banks and developers that the market was there in spades for urban projects.

I'm going to say this, knowing that it's going to come off as a shot at you in text while it wouldn't it face-to-face conversation. Please accept my apology for how it will come off in advance because I intend my following remark to be in the usual civil tone of this website... The only people I've ever talked to who claim that the Verizon Center had nothing to do with revitalizing downtown are people who actively don't like sports in general and don't think that any land should be given for stadiums regardless of who pays. Is that where you're coming from?

Richard Layman used to think this way. While he still is not a sports fan, his thinking has since modified to the view that while the Verizon Center wasn't the only reason for downtown being as beautiful as it is today, it certainly was a big piece of the puzzle. While he isn't as pro-stadium (as long as the government doesn't pay for it) as I and other sports fans are, he does recognize that it can have benefits to the greater good if done right.

by Cavan on Jan 29, 2011 11:19 am • linkreport

Except for the public housing known as Capital Quarter and CHT, the rest of the residential appear to be baseball related?

Not true. The majority of housind (and Capital Quarter is huge) was in the works before the stadium. How, BTW, is housing baseball related?

Would you say Half st is NY or stadium? Florida Rock?

Part of the half street development was being planned before baseball. Florida Rock is still a gravel pit and it may have been planned before baseball - it was not a gravel pit in the Anacostia Waterfront plan.

The water taxi concept?

In the Anacostia Waterfront plan that predates baseball

Plaza on K appears to be marketing towards a new K St since it is close to the House offices.

You're making my point for me. This is about proximity to the House, not baseball.

Baseball didn't move here overnight so when whispers of the team's move popped up there was some behind closed door discussions on where it was going and I'm pretty sure some land was bought to be potentially near the stadium.

Not really, there was a small pop in buying land after the stadium site was selected, but before that the location of the stadium was very much up in the air. Most of the land bought post-site selection has not been developed.

I'm pretty sure 12 years ago MCI was almost as rough as Near-SE was and the draw you see today (MCD, Chipotle, Rocket Bar, RFD, etc) is because of the MCI/Verizon Center and not because it is downtown. Go a few blocks from that area and it is still ghetto.

Where is the ghetto? See my previous response.

Discussion on redeveloping the yards area started around 1988 and took a long time to develop so to say 98% is NY is probably a bit high.

I said NY, the metro and other non-baseball related development, not just NY. Most of the projects in that neighborhood were already underway when the baseball stadium was announced. Unless you think it would have all come to a screeching halt without the stadium (in the middle of a real estate building boom in DC) then some of what came later would have happened anyway. What good the stadium did came from shutting down the strip clubs, not opening the baseball stadium. I just don't see which development is related to baseball.

[In] the end, it will be the stadium(s) not the NY that support that area.

No. People come to the games and then leave. It might support a bar or restaurant. But jobs and housing will be what supports that area.

If SW/SE both have stadiums that corridor across S Cap St will be a retail (food and booze) hotspot.

We'll see. And if it is, it may have nothing to do with baseball and soccer.

by David C on Jan 29, 2011 1:09 pm • linkreport

Cavan, Richard Layman is who got me to question the Verizon-center-as-catalyst story.

I'll tell you that I'm a big sports fan. I used to be a Nats season ticket holder. My criticism is not with sports, but with the heavily tilted deals pro sports now negotiate for themselves. The problem with the Verizon story and the fact that it isn't accurate is that it was used to sell Nats stadium, which was an awful deal for the District. I'm fine with pro sports builing stadiums, and I'm even OK with some public support (but more in the sense of insurance than a giveaway) - but nothing like what DC gave baseball. What really drives me nuts is that the same people who think we shouldn't subsidize transit are often willing to bend over backward to build a shiny new billion-dollar football stadium. Verizon center probably helped a little bit, but it way more complicated than "the area was rundown, then Verizon came in and as result it is now the new hot spot." That misses so much of the real story, and it becomes a dangerous justification for bad deals.

Verizon Center is part of the story of Gallery Place, but it is certainly not all of it. Like I said, you have the green line completed in 1999 and that runs right through there. Mayor Williams replaced Mayor Barry in the same year and that gave investors confidence. The whole area north of there was rezoned to allow denser buildings which prodded owners to sell to developers who would build.

From the wikipedia entry on Williams:

"By 2001, real property values were climbing steadily and Washington D.C. was experiencing a real estate investment boom in the residential, commercial and retail markets. Congress dissolved the Financial Control Board in September 2001. In 2002 the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE) named Washington, D.C. the top global and U.S. city for real estate investment. "

Are you going to tell me that Verizon Center caused all that? If Gallery Place developed while other areas didn't, I'd believe it. But development happened city-wide. And not just in this city, but cities nationwide.

Some development around there predates Verizon Center. The two buildings at Navy Memorial opened in 1990. I think the Hotel Monaco planning started before Verizon opened. Again, the whole city was booming in the '00s, that isn't Verizon center.

As far as nationals stadium goes, that was $1B once all was said and done. As well as use of eminent domain on a large scale. I can't help but think that if we'd spent that exact same amount of money, and used that same power in that same neighborhood, we'd have something more vibrant, that creates more revenue than a baseball stadium used 90-100 times a year.

by David C on Jan 29, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

So the stadium has nothing to do with SE development? Couldn't find anything that Half St was a pre baseball site?

So soccer stadium won't help that area around SW develop? then what will?

My point is 98% of SE is not from the metro and NY.

So in the development of DC run down areas Nats Stadium and MCI had nothing to do with it?

What does residential have to do with development? A way to keep people from leaving the game is to build houses, bring people to live/stay and then the rest will come. So in a way DOT and NY and metro should have made SE boom right?

But in the end you are saying the stadium has nothing to do with SE redevelopment? But planned and stalled projects lead me to believe there wasn't a draw from the metro NY and DOT? so do you think a stadium will be a draw to Plaza K or the metro/DOT?

by Mike on Jan 29, 2011 2:50 pm • linkreport

So the stadium has nothing to do with SE development?

Maybe, but very little.

Couldn't find anything that Half St was a pre baseball site?

The monument half street project was in the works pre-baseball.

So soccer stadium won't help that area around SW develop?

Outside of the stadium itself? No.

then what will?

Apartments, condos, houses, offices, retail.

My point is 98% of SE is not from the metro and NY.

I disagree and I don't think you've made your point.

So in the development of DC run down areas Nats Stadium and MCI had nothing to do with it?

Not much.

What does residential have to do with development?

When people live some place they spend money there. How much money do you spend within 1 mile of your house? How much within 5 miles? Now how much do you spend in the neighborhood around sports stadiums?

A way to keep people from leaving the game is to build houses, bring people to live/stay and then the rest will come. So in a way DOT and NY and metro should have made SE boom right?

Yes.

But in the end you are saying the stadium has nothing to do with SE redevelopment?

Very little, yes.

But planned and stalled projects lead me to believe there wasn't a draw from the metro NY and DOT?

I don't follow you. Projects were planned before the baseball stadium and most of them were built or are being built. More were planned after and some of those were built. Some were not - mostly due to the economy. Little is being built anywhere. My point is that most of the development there happened citywide and was happening there with or without the stadium, now it has stalled for reasons that, again, are citywide. If there is anything unique about this neighborhood it's that NY required office space and the Metro line that ran through it was finished. But no neighborhood is recession-proof.

Either this neighborhood is doing better than others, which I would attribute to NY, DOT and Metro, or it isn't in which case the baseball stadium has not had the impact you're claiming it did.

so do you think a stadium will be a draw to Plaza K or the metro/DOT?

The metro mostly. This is one of the few under-developed areas that is only a few stops on the metro from major employment areas. In the end, that's why people chose to live there. Not because they want to live next to a baseball stadium.

by David C on Jan 29, 2011 4:55 pm • linkreport

You seem to be the urban know it all, you are right, stadium has little to do with SE.

by Mike on Jan 29, 2011 5:09 pm • linkreport

There is no need to make this personal. I've tried to be very respectful while I disagree. There is no need to call me a "know it all". If you have an argument to make, then make it or walk away. But no need to take a cheap parting shot. I don't see how that helps.

by David C on Jan 29, 2011 5:18 pm • linkreport

It's not personal, you seem to be right in everything you offer up and say verizon/MCI didn't do anything and SW bpoint will develop from it's current state without a catalyst (stadium) who wants to live there without something there. There won't be a streetcar w/o stadium or some draw.

Metro opened in 1991 why the 20 year lag to develop?
Half street land was purchased in 06 by monument? Were the 'plans' before that?
Stadium was heading towards SE in 04 right? Or rumor?
If I'm developer I can lobby the city to build where I'm gonna build. Kinda like akridge is doing in sw with their new apartment submittal.
To say the stadium is 2% is out in left field. Once half st is built which centers on the stadium it will help the rest of the other. Why are the Camden apartments being built? To be next to the uhaul and Chinese takeout or is it 7-11?
Is that a better ending?

by Mike on Jan 29, 2011 5:40 pm • linkreport

There won't be a streetcar w/o stadium or some draw.

If what is needed to get people to live in SW is a streetcar, then why not just build that? Building a stadium to get a streetcar seems like swalling a spider to get a fly.

Metro opened in 1991 why the 20 year lag to develop?

1991 is when the first section of the Green Line opened. The last section didn't open until 2000.

Half street land was purchased in 06 by monument?

Actually they consolidated the land in 2005, but I think they owned some before that. I can't find that info so I'll just concede the point. Let's just say that half Street will be developed entirely because of baseball. That's one city block.

Stadium was heading towards SE in 04 right? Or rumor?

Yes, the end of 2004.

If I'm developer I can lobby the city to build where I'm gonna build. Kinda like akridge is doing in sw with their new apartment submittal.

I don't understand your point.

To say the stadium is 2% is out in left field.

It's not the conventional belief. True.

Once half st is built which centers on the stadium it will help the rest of the other.

For example?

Why are the Camden apartments being built? To be next to the uhaul and Chinese takeout or is it 7-11?

No, because - as they put it "The supply and demand fundamentals are now back where you can start to make sense of new development, by the time we deliver there will be a bit of a [housing] shortage." And DCMud adds "With near southeast nearly at capacity within its completed projects - both commercial and residential - the development of southwest has an obvious logic. And with no other projects south of the Capitol building - SE or SW - near construction, Camden will have the only new building on the market, with enviable marketing exposure to large crowds, new parks all around, and possibly a long bike trail wrapping around it."

by David C on Jan 29, 2011 6:41 pm • linkreport

Mike, In fact your questions have led me to think of another thing. If Nats Stadium was the main catalyst, we'd expect to see development start in the areas adjacent to it and radiate away over the years. But we've seen the opposite. here we are over 7 years after the site was selected, and not one of the parcels next to it have been developed. Meanwhile development has continued east and north of the stadium. Those parcels have been built out, and only now are developers turning their attention to the area next to the baseball stadium. Does that sound like a catalyst to you?

by David C on Jan 29, 2011 6:58 pm • linkreport

DC Mud is a bit less than truthful because Foundry Lofts are apartments under construction and in SE. There are lots of projects in DC under construction but apparetbly the companies in SE can't get financing and apparently were hammered like Akridge, monument and FCE once they get their house in order things will restate here

by Mike on Jan 29, 2011 8:24 pm • linkreport

@David C.

The original post that touched off this latest argument wasn't about whether the Verizon Center brought development, but whether it catalyzed the bars and restaurants in the Chinatown area. There's a big difference between real estate development and business development. Indeed, that part of downtown would have developed just fine without the Verizon Center, but it would look a lot different.

Unless you are asserting that a massive, 18,000 seat entertainment venue hosting 200+ events a year isn't a major catalyst for other such entertainment venues.

Nationals Park, eventually, will experience the same phenomenon. The baseball crowds will provide a different and more diverse market for retail and business offerings around the ballpark that the surrounding office and residential tenants cannot provide - it's only a matter of time. I'd also note that the current lack of development around Nats Park has more to do with the global whims of commercial real estate and less to do with the local impacts of the stadium. We've been in a rather major recession, after all.

Nevertheless, it is important to not conflate business development with real estate development. These are two separate issues that you have conflated fairly often.

by Alex B. on Jan 31, 2011 9:27 am • linkreport

Unless you are asserting that a massive, 18,000 seat entertainment venue hosting 200+ events a year isn't a major catalyst for other such entertainment venues.

That is much of what I'm asserting.

Let's look at 6 areas that went through a massive redevelopment from 1997-2007: Gallery Place, Near SE, U Street, Barracks Rowm Columbia Heights and Rosslyn-Ballston. If you were study the pattern of development in those areas over that time period, they would look very similar if not identical. In one there was a stadium built in 1997 and in another in 2007, but these areas all look largely the same. Near SE might be different solely because it had such a small amount of usable building stock and was largely unpopulated, so it is moving a bit slower.

If your point is that Gallery Place would have fewer bars and more other establishments, I'm not sure that's true. Barracks Row and U street have plenty of bars. And even if that were true, is there something preferable about an entertainment district over a retail or business district?

I'd also note that the current lack of development around Nats Park has more to do with the global whims of commercial real estate and less to do with the local impacts of the stadium. We've been in a rather major recession, after all.

And I'd note that the buildup between 2004-07, had more to do with the global whims of commercial real estate and less to do with the local impacts of the stadium. We'd been in a rather major bubble, after all.

by David C on Jan 31, 2011 10:56 am • linkreport

@David C

It's not just bars and restaurants, however - it's the total package. It's the 14-screen movie theater. It's the other destinations like the Spy Museum, the Museum of Crime and Punishment, the Harman Center for the Arts all followed Verizon - building on existing assets like the Lansburgh Theater and the Portrait Gallery.

That's the difference in destination and place between Gallery Place and U Street or Barracks Row. It's not that there are more bars, but the area has become a regional destination for a reason - and it has more of a regional pull than any of the other cases you mention.

I'm not asserting preference for one or the other, nor do I think stadiums are silver bullets for development. However, you swing the pendulum too far in the other direction to assert that there is no impact whatsoever.

If you want to dispute the popular narrative, that's fine. I don't disagree. I do take exception to overselling the facts to make your case, however.

by Alex B. on Jan 31, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

Alex B, I think all of those items you listed would have been in the neighborhood without Verizon. The more important feature is the general location - downtown and on top of a very busy metro station that serves three different lines - than the draw of a sports/entertainment venue.

I will concede that it drives some business, but not the one that conventional wisdom asserts.

by David C on Jan 31, 2011 11:23 am • linkreport

But that's the thing about urban agglomerations - the whole is greater than just the sum of the parts. And the Verizon Center is the single biggest 'part' to the Gallery Place area. Dropping 18,000 people into that area of town on a regular basis does indeed have quite an impact - one only needs to check out what people are wearing at local bars and restaurants before a Caps game, for example, to see that.

by Alex B. on Jan 31, 2011 11:38 am • linkreport

So I wonder what to make of this article? I'm so confused on why people were so exicted for the new arena since the arena didn't make this a less shadowy place.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/longterm/general/mciarticles/arena3.htm

14 years later - did the arena change the area or was it gonna happen on its own because we had a real estate bubble in the mid 2000s? I could be wrong and have been wrong before but I think 98% of people in DC would say the arena changed Chinatown/Gallery Place for the better and was the reason why it isn't a shadowy place today.

14 years from now the same will be said of Nats Stadium (though not the full credit since some things like the Yards/waterfront redevelopment was in the works in the late 80s) and DC United Stadium (assuming they move to SW).

by Mike on Jan 31, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

Mike, here's how I read that article. There was a sense that DC was coming back, that downtown was changing from a place people flee to a place to be. It was because of this growing sense - because the area was recovering from, and benefiting from, Metro construction - that Pollin decided to build the MCI center downtown. He was a smart real estate tycoon and he knew that the reality - that downtown had already started to turn around - was behind the perception - that downtown was shadowy.

The market forces that led Abe Pollin to decide to put his stadium downtown (a wise business decision, not a charitable urban renewal decision decision) were the same market forces that led to the continued rebirth of the neighborhood.

The stadium became a bright shining symbol of this. The Washington Post cast it as such, and has continued to cast it as such. This has fed into the public perception that "one building" has done so much, which has led the Post to repeat that, which has fed public perception...in a total feedback loop.

That 98% of people in DC would say the arena changed Chinatown/Gallery Place for the better is of little meaning. Most people think that global warming isn't anthropogenic. That doesn't change the facts.

Perhaps the arena did change the area for the better, but that isn't the question. [I do wonder if that land had been used to move people into the area in condos, apartments and hotel rooms and not into a building that competes with the nearby convention center, if that would have been better. What is the opportunity cost here?] The question is, is the arena the primary reason for Gallery Place's turn-around? I think not. It might make up a small percentage, but probably not a plurality.

But as to what to make of that article, the Post is part of the Growth Machine. It supports sports because that's part of it's business. Of course it will write a glowing article about a new sports stadium.

by David C on Jan 31, 2011 8:35 pm • linkreport

Wow, just wow.

by Mike on Feb 1, 2011 1:02 am • linkreport

Another data point: "Just a few decades ago, the idea of creating a “living downtown” in Washington seemed improbable. Many in the city wanted the core to remain a 9-to-5 office zone without residents or night life. Only after a new zoning law narrowly passed in the 1980s — and ensured a critical mass of downtown housing — did pioneering projects begin to sprout."

So it appears a new zoning law was a catalyst as well.

by David C on Mar 13, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

I agree on most points, particularly the need to not have parking lots obstructing foot traffic. It may seem slight, but one thing that bothers me about most stadium renderings I've seen are that a lot of the seating is down low, within 10 feet of the field level. This creates bad sight lines and diminishes the excitement of the game. Some of the best seats you can get for soccer/football are elevated and above the goals. I'd recommend a slight beginning elevation (say 4 to 5 ft above the pitch). Also, corner seats aren't all that good in general, why even have them. That space could be used for pubs, public areas and for inviting the street to see into the space.

by RedLitYogi on Sep 25, 2011 9:17 pm • linkreport

How about a DC United stadium in Tysons Corner? A professional team would fit nicely into its plans to be a "real" city. Metro rides would be a bit long, but it would effectively be on the same line (Silver being an extension of Orange), and the highways are there for people who would drive. Fairfax County is already redeveloping and restructuring Tysons at the tune of billions of dollars. Would it be difficult to raze and replace a huge parking garage in Tysons with a 20,000 seat stadium, with parking underneath? The walkability isn't there yet, but this would go a long way to convince restaurants and bars to open in the area. It would also help Tysons residences develop a sense of community.

The current Tysons park plan:

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/tysons/facilities/images/parknetwork.jpg

by Milan on Oct 26, 2011 10:36 pm • linkreport

Virginia does nothing to build stadiums. Ever. Witness the Redskins trying to leave RFK back in the 1990's and their debacle in Alexandria.

by Cavan on Nov 4, 2011 3:34 pm • linkreport

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