Events DC Asks for Ward 8 Community Input
Plans to build a 118,000-square-foot sports and entertainment arena on St. Elizabeths East campus in Ward 8’s Congress Heights moved forward on April 26 with the creation of a Community Benefits Coalition.
Events DC with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) launched the coalition to engage local residents in the project and work toward implementing suggestions and requests for the new arena, set to open in fall 2018 on the 2700 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. The $55 million project – of which DC invested $23 million, Events DC $27 million, and Monumental Sports $5 million – started conceptual designs in April with a local architectural firm, Marshall Moya Design, and Chicago-based firm Rossetti. They plan to begin vertical construction in spring 2017.
The new coalition will allow for subcommittees and focus groups to make sure the development helps meet the needs of the community, said Events DC President and CEO Greg O’Dell. “We came up with a list of community-based organizations in Ward 8 with ANC 8C and 8E,” he said. “What we want is really to step back from the process and frankly engage all of those organizations.”
In conjunction with Monumental Sports, the arena is set to act as the Washington Wizards practice space, the Washington Mystics home court, and an entertainment venue. It will hold roughly 5,000 seats, attract more than 350,000 residents and visitors a year, and bring 600 construction and 300 permanent local jobs to the ward. Between Monumental Sports’ 19-year-lease and estimated tax revenues from ticket and income taxes, along with concession sales, the site is estimated to bring in roughly $4.5 million to the community each year. “It’s a game changer for us,” O’Dell said of the arena. “We’re so excited about the fact that it will be a catalyst hopefully for the community.”
Other benefits include a paid summer youth program, a ban-the-box employment policy to give employment opportunities to ex-offenders, first-source hiring for District residents, job shadowing for at-risk students, and other local philanthropic investments in the St. Elizabeths East campus, according to the development website.
A few concerns the community expressed at the April meeting include making sure the site offers healthy food options and that employers share job opportunities, especially for Ward 7 and 8 residents, said DMPED Deputy Director of Real Estate Martine Combal. “It’s an opportunity for St. Elizabeths to come into a new phase of its life cycle.”
The arena can act as an investment anchor to attract businesses and companies to Congress Heights, she explained. When Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the arena in September 2015 it included the plan to further connect Wards 7 and 8 to the economies of the other wards. Other developments on the campus include the Relate, Innovate, Stimulate and Elevate (RISE) Demonstration Center and Gateway DC.