DC United Stadium Coming to Buzzard Point

South by West

Aerial view of the proposed DC United stadium in Buzzard Point. Courtesy of Gensler

On July 25, Mayor Gray and Jason Levien from DC United, along with City Administrator Allen Lew and property owners in the stadium footprint, announced a deal to build a new, LEED-certified 20,000 to 25,000 seat stadium for DC United in Buzzard Point at 2nd and R streets, SW. At the press conference, the mayor explained the complex deal that will bring a new stadium to Southwest, or as Lew stated, “a giant jigsaw puzzle.” The cost of the $300 million stadium will be split between the city and the team. According to the term sheet signed by Gray and Levien after the press conference, DC United will spend $150 million to build the stadium while the District will spend $40 million (up to a maximum of $50 million) on infrastructure improvements/environmental remediation and approximately $100 million for land assembly.

Land Swaps

Instead of using cash for land assembly, the city intends to do a series of land swaps. A land swap that has been agreed to already is between the District and Akridge, which owns a portion of the stadium site – the block bounded by 2nd Street, SW to the west, S Street, SW to the north, First Street, SW to the east, and T Street, SW to the south. The block is the northern part of Akridge’s 100 V Street project, which was initially designed to be a secure complex for a federal tenant. In exchange for the two-acre parcel, Akridge will get the Reeves Center building at 14th and U streets, NW, a functionally obsolete building in a rapidly developing part of the city. The employees at the current Reeves building would be relocated to a new Reeves complex to be built in Anacostia at Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE and Good Hope Road, SE.  Meanwhile, Akridge would still retain the southern two blocks of their 9-acre site in Buzzard Point, which presumably would be developed as a mixed use project similar to what they have planned to the north of Nationals Park on Half Street, SE instead of a secure federal complex. A rendering was displayed at the press conference of their proposed development on 14th Street, NW, but not for their remaining land at 100 V Street.  It sounds like they got a great deal.

Agreements have not been reached yet with Pepco or Mark Ein (owner of the Washington Kastles franchise), the other two private landowners at the stadium site. While the term sheet dictates that the District must come to an agreement with Akridge and Ein by January 1, 2014, there is no deadline for an agreement with Pepco on the operating substation since it’s expected that it will take longer to reach consensus for that parcel. The stadium design will allow construction of the playing field to be complete and operational without the substation block, which is on the southeastern block of the four-block stadium site.

Stadium Design

The team will be permitted to develop ancillary uses within the stadium footprint to enhance the game day experience (retail, hotel, etc.), but that development should be designed in such a way that it provides amenities to the surrounding neighborhoods on non-game days. From the looks of the stadium renderings designed by Gensler and HKS, the playing field will take up two blocks from R Street, SW to T Street, SW and one block from 2nd Street, SW to First Street, SW, so the stadium can be built even if Pepco doesn’t give up their land. First Street, SW will curve towards Half Street, SW north of T Street, SW and appears to be a pedestrian plaza (at least on game days). Ancillary development will occur on the east side of the stadium footprint from First Street, SW to Half Street, SW.

Term Sheet 

The term sheet states that the District will “pursue (i) re-sequencing options so as to advance construction of the Buzzard Point/Downtown streetcar line and (ii) the construction of a streetcar stop adjacent to the Stadium Site.” The District will not provide parking spaces at the site and it’s unknown how many parking spaces will be provided on site by the team for fans. At least 51% of the jobs at the stadium (excluding United players, coaches, training staff, and front office management) will go to District residents. In addition, at least 35% of operation contracts for the stadium, including security, food service, janitorial services, etc., shall go to businesses certified by DSLBD. Throughout the term of the ground lease, the team is not permitted to leave the District of Columbia or move its principal offices outside of the city. In addition, the team must make reasonable efforts to locate its practice facilities within the city. The terms of the ground lease are still being negotiated, but it will most likely be for the estimated useful life of the stadium (25 to 35 years).

Milestones

Upcoming milestones for the project include:

  • October 1, 2013: A transaction agreement will need to be completed that explicitly states the terms between the District and DC United.
  • January 1, 2014: The District must have site control of the stadium site, except for the Pepco substation block, as well as DC Council approval and Congressional approval (if necessary). DC United must provide evidence that it has the ability to fund the construction of the stadium within 30 days of the District completing the above tasks.
  • March 1, 2015: The District must have the site prepared for construction, including infrastructure work and utility relocation, demolition of existing buildings on the stadium site (except for the Pepco substation), environmental remediation, as well as any street or alley closings.  In addition, DC United must have obtained all Zoning Commission and Zoning Adjustment approvals, as well as advanced the stadium design at least to the design development completion level.
  • July 1, 2015: DC United needs to enter into a construction contract for the stadium.
  • January 1, 2017: The stadium shall be substantially complete, but both parties are aiming for completion by March 1, 2016, in time for the beginning of the 2016 MLS season.

If the two parties do not reach the milestone dates, there are options available for either party to walk away from the deal.

Community Support

Support for the stadium in the community is mixed. In a recent letter to Mayor Gray, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly president Kael Anderson stated: “Southwest’s Buzzard Point is an attractive site to locate an anchor development project like a major league soccer team…With community engagement throughout the planning process, the stadium has the potential to be the lynchpin of a turnaround at Buzzard Point.” While there has been some excitement (especially for United fans) that a deal is nigh for a new stadium after talks have languished for several years, not everyone is pleased with the idea of a stadium in Buzzard Point. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Roger Moffatt represents the area of Southwest that includes the stadium footprint. “I’m definitely in favor of developing Buzzard Point, but I don’t believe it is a good place for this proposed development which would include a stadium with 24,000 seats and a 2,500-seat music venue nearby at The Wharf, said Moffatt. “When these two venues and the ballpark have concurrent events, it would create a possibility of over 60,000 people in the confined area. And that number does not include people visiting the other proposed development in the area. “Poplar Point is a better site because it is less congested and has another huge Metro stop nearby.” 

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest…The Little Quadrant that Could.


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