South by West
Soccer Stadium Drama Intensifies
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D met on Oct. 17 to vote on whether to support the DC United stadium planned unit development (PUD) project at Second and R streets SW on Buzzard Point. The facility is planned as a 19,100-seat soccer stadium that can also be used for concerts and other sporting events. During the ANC meeting Victor Melara, director of community relations for DC United, described additional community benefits the team has agreed to, including $50,000 for an air purifier system at the construction site, a health fair for Buzzard Point residents, and monthly community meetings to be held at King-Greenleaf Recreation Center. John Knight from architectural firm Populous reviewed the design of the stadium, and a representative from Gorove/Slade did a transportation review.
The ANC voted unanimously to withhold support for the project until the team has addressed a variety of items. One of the major outstanding issues is transportation. There are few roads in and out of the Buzzard Point peninsula, so game-day at the stadium could cause traffic gridlock. Although there are no parking spaces at the stadium, the team identified more than 7,000 off-street parking spaces that could be used during games – about 3,700 spaces have already been secured. Projected demand ranges from 2,700 to 3,900 spaces. Many of these spaces are also used by the Nationals, but the two teams have agreed to coordinate their schedules so none of their games occur concurrently.
The nearest Metro stations are more than half a mile away, so pedestrians will need to cross South Capitol Street in order to access the stadium from the Navy Yard Metro. Construction on the new Frederick Douglass Bridge and traffic oval will not be complete before the stadium opens, so this may pose a hazard for pedestrians. While Waterfront Metro is a secondary access point for the stadium, using this option would drive pedestrian traffic through residential neighborhoods.
Environmental issues also remain a major concern. The stadium site is contaminated, and a voluntary environmental cleanup is necessary to prepare it for development. However, the ANC wants to make sure that best practices are in place for the cleanup, that preventative remediation measures are provided (such as air purifiers, dust mats, and vacuums), and that the health of nearby residents is monitored. One resident who lives near the stadium site complained of a burning sensation in his throat, likely due to work being done in the area.
Meanwhile a campaign by developers to force DC United to improve the stadium design ahead of November’s Zoning Commission hearing has resulted in additional changes to the project. DC United had made some changes to the original PUD in response to concerns from the Zoning Commission earlier this year, including reintroducing First Street on the east side of the stadium site and activating a large plaza along Potomac Avenue.
Akridge, Western Development, Capital City Real Estate, and Steuart Investment Company have lobbied city officials and the team to make additional improvements to the design, claiming there was a “bait and switch” from the preliminary design to the current plans. Akridge owns seven acres south of the stadium (two additional acres were taken by eminent domain to create the stadium site). It also owns the former Coast Guard headquarters building at Second and V streets with Western and other developers, which is planned as a mixed-use development called Riverpoint. Capital City Real Estate owns land next to the Riverpoint project and plans to start construction next year on a condominium project called Peninsula 88. Steuart Investment Company owns several lots to the east of the stadium site, although no development plans have been announced yet.
Fliers circulated around the community document some of the issues the developers have with the stadium design, which include the lack of retail along the perimeter (except for a team store on R Street), no onsite parking, minimal vehicular access on First Street, and noise (the preliminary design included covered seating around the stadium, but the current one has it only on the east and west sides). Some of the design changes are a result of an easement to accommodate Pepco, which has a substation nearby. In addition the stadium will be built higher than originally planned.
Akridge and Western have made an offer to DC United for the adjacent parcel controlled by the team to the east of the stadium, where they intend to build a residential building with ground-floor retail. The team intends to use that open space in the interim during game-day as a place for fans to play lawn games. In addition, the developers have hired an architect to reconfigure the stadium design to allow for additional retail, and have offered to purchase the space carved out of the ground floor. During the ANC meeting DC United officials acknowledged the lack of retail when Marc Levy, an audience member who lives on Buzzard Point, asked about it. DC United officials said they were working with Western Development and Akridge on adding more retail to the stadium perimeter. (Herb Miller of Western Development and Adam Gooch from Akridge were also in the audience at the ANC meeting.)
The dispute threatens to delay the stadium project, which was scheduled to start construction in early 2017 and open sometime during the 2018 season. DC transferred control of the stadium site to the team in early October after the land was assembled, existing buildings razed, and utilities upgraded. Since the ANC meeting the team has come to an “agreeable solution” with the neighboring developers, but needs more time to revise architectural drawings. The Zoning Commission was scheduled to meet on Nov. 2 to discuss the stadium PUD, but the hearing has been postponed to Nov. 28 to enable the team to revise its application. This will give the ANC the opportunity to review the revised application.