South by West

Audi Field is scheduled to open by the middle of 2018 on Buzzard Point, two blocks to the southwest of Nationals Park at Second and R streets SW. Rendering: DC United

Audi Field Set to Break Ground

After several years of planning and about a year after submitting a planned unit development (PUD) application, final approval was given to DC United by the Zoning Commission on Feb. 16 to build a soccer-specific stadium at Second and R streets SW on Buzzard Point. The $300 million, 19,000-seat stadium will open around June 2018.

Site work has been underway for months by the District, but vertical construction can now proceed since PUD approval is in hand. A naming rights deal was recently announced between the team and Audi of America, which resulted in the renaming of the stadium as Audi Field.

Some of the stadium features include 31 luxury suites, a bike valet, team store, 17,000 square feet of ground floor retail, and a public plaza and green space on the northeast corner of the stadium. When DC United isn’t playing, other sporting events, cultural activities, and community events will take place at Audi Field.

The design of the stadium has evolved to include more retail, better-defined public space, a rerouted First Street, and other improvements. These changes were prompted by feedback from the Zoning Commission as well as nearby property owners who did not want the stadium to hinder access to their proposed development projects.

In addition to the stadium, an adjacent parcel will include up to 600,000 square feet of mixed-use development.  The team enlisted the services of MAC Realty Advisors to market the site to potential developer partners. Development of this parcel will happen after Audi Field opens but will likely not be too far behind the construction of the stadium.

ANC Softened Tone Ahead of Hearing

In a letter sent to the Zoning Commission in late January, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D stated that progress had been made on addressing its major concerns with the stadium PUD, including environmental and transportation issues. Back in November the ANC wrote a letter stating that “little or no effort has been directed toward preparing community residents to deal with the enormous environmental impact that the removal of all of the chemicals and contaminants may have on their health.” In addition, there was insufficient planning with regard to parking, access, and public transport options.

Since the December 2016 Zoning Commission meeting the ANC has met with DC United to discuss these issues. As a result, an additional community benefit was secured in the form of a $50,000 contribution to BreatheDC, which will help purchase and distribute air purifiers to homes near the stadium site. Air-quality monitoring continued to be an issue and also the frequency of baiting traps for vermin stirred up by construction. On the transportation front, some hurdles remain, including the lack of coordination between the team and the Nationals on scheduling; insufficient number of parking spaces reserved at lots used for Nationals games; and routing stadium traffic through residential streets. However, a preliminary Traffic Operations and Parking Plan (TOPP) has been developed, as well as the possibility of water-taxi service to Diamond Teague Park in Near Southeast. The ANC stopped short of supporting the PUD at the February 2017 hearing, mainly due to lingering transportation issues.

More Residential Planned for Waterfront Station?

PUD approvals for two Waterfront Station vacant sites at the intersection of Fourth and M streets are nearing expiration. Forest City Washington is seeking a two-year extension, although that may not be necessary if it gets approval for a revision to its plans. Even though the two vacant sites were planned as office buildings, about 600 more apartment units may be built instead.

David Smith from Forest City Washington made the company’s intention known at the February 2017 ANC 6D meeting. It wants to revise the PUD to allow residential development because office market conditions are currently not favorable in the area. This isn’t the first time one of the Waterfront Station sites has changed uses. The Eliot on 4th apartment building was originally planned as office but switched to residential for the same reason.

According to Smith the switch from office to residential would result in no changes to density or height approved in the original PUD, but the design by Perkins Eastman scales down the height of the buildings along Fourth Street to match 1100 and 1101 Fourth Street, which opened in 2010.

Each of the residential buildings would be C-shaped with an elevated courtyard space facing M Street and have a green roof. Development plans are still preliminary, but the two proposed buildings would each have 17,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and 17,500 square feet of office space on the second floor. The retail and office space would be along M Street and Fourth Street. Above the two-level commercial base would be the rental apartment towers.

Entrances to the residential buildings would be on the north side on Fourth Street while the entrances to the office space would be on M Street. About eight percent of the units would be set aside as affordable to residents earning up to 60 percent of area median income, and some would be two-bedroom or three-bedroom units to accommodate families.

Chair Andy Litsky was cool to the idea of changing the proposed use of the sites. Litsky was concerned the change would not help Fourth Street evolve into the main retail corridor of the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, since the lack of office space was identified in the Office of Planning’s Southwest Neighborhood Plan as a reason why retailers have not gravitated to the area. (Two office buildings developed during the first phase of Waterfront Station were fully leased to the District government.)

A vote on the proposed change in use was not made at the meeting, so Forest City Washington will need to make another presentation to the commission after getting approval to extend the PUD.

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest … The Little Quadrant that Could (www.swtlqtc.com).


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