Count David Catania (I-At Large) among the growing number of D.C. Council members who don’t like the high-stakes land swap at the center of the proposed $300 million D.C. United stadium deal.
On WAMU-FM’s Politics Hour Friday, Catania joined mayoral foe Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) in expressing doubts about the wisdom of swapping the city-owned Frank D. Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW for stadium land owned by development firm Akridge.
In fact, Catania went further than Bowser and Graham have gone so far by saying he will oppose any stadium deal that includes the real-estate swap.
“I don’t believe that you sell one of the family jewels … without putting this prime piece of property out to bid to the highest bidder. I don’t think it’s a necessary ingredient from my perspective in building a soccer stadium.”
Catania says he would prefer to have the city simply cut a check to Akridge for its land on the stadium site, perhaps dipping into the city’s growing cash reserves to do so. Problem is, Akridge is unwilling to broach the possibility of simply selling the land without getting the Reeves Center in return.
That poster was very much on display late Wednesday night, when Bowser questioned Akridge President Matthew Klein during a council hearing held within the Reeves Center itself. Asked point-blank whether Akridge would consider selling its land absent the swap, Klein refused to broach the possibility, explaining that his company and its investors want a deal that includes additional development potential.
“We are committed to the framework of the transaction that’s in place right now,” he said.
City Administrator Allen Lew, who negotiated the stadium deal for Mayor Vincent C. Gray, was characteristically more blunt: “If we were try to take this apart, this entire deal would implode. That’s my view of it.”
The problem for Akridge is that while the current mayor may support the swap, it now appears two potential future mayors are deeply skeptical. And if the deal can’t clear the council by the time the next mayor takes office in January, Akridge may face a new choice: Suck it up and sell the land to the city in hopes of kick-starting development on seven acres of adjoining property the company also owns, or walk away from the deal entirely and perhaps any hope of putting its Buzzard Point land holdings to productive use anytime soon.