District, Akridge set ground rules for D.C. United stadium land swap

District officials and developer Akridge have agreed on the ground rules for a land swap that would provide the city some of the land needed for a D.C. United stadium in exchange for the Reeves Center municipal building and cash.

The agreement requires approval by the D.C. Council and is one of at least three land deals City Administrator Allen Lew will have to arrange in coming weeks in order to meet a blistering timeline he has proposed for construction of a 20,000-seat stadium for the team on Buzzard Point.

In the four-page letter of intent signed by Lew and Matthew J. Klein, president of Akridge, earlier this month, the District and the developer agree that the Reeves Center property, which constitutes 97,600 square feet of land at the corner of U and 14th Streets NW, in one of the District’s more vibrant neighborhoods, is worth more than the portion of Buzzard Point that Akridge would be swapping, which totals 89,251 square feet of industrial land Southwest of Nationals Park.

The question is how much more the Reeves Center property is worth, and rather than selling it to the highest bidder and buying the Buzzard Point land from Akridge, Lew agreed to evaluate the properties using three appraisers: one selected by the city, one by the developer and a third chosen by the first two appraisers.

Details of the arrangement may determine how high a price the District gets for its land and how expensive the stadium would be to build. The appraisers will be instructed to provide two values for the Reeves Center, one treating the property as raw land to be redeveloped and another assuming the existing building would remain.

The District also aims to protect itself from paying more for the land because of its own interest in it, with a clause that says the Buzzard Point property “shall be valued as of the date immediately preceding the announcement of the soccer stadium deal such that any increase in value associated with such announcement shall not be included in the valuation.”

The document also lays out exactly how fast Lew would like to get the needed land deals wrapped up. The panel of appraisers would provide their estimates in writing to the District and Akridge by Oct. 14.

By Nov. 1 , D.C. and Akridge are to have entered a definitive agreement to complete the swap and Lew plans to submit that — along with other Buzzard Point land agreements — to the D.C. Council by Nov. 15., which would give the council time to consider a stadium package before the end of the year. The land deals would close 30 days after council approval.

Lew and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) have proposed contributing about half the cost of a $300 million stadium development. Earlier this month, Gray, D.C. United investors and labor leaders announced a deal that will require the team to use mostly union workers to build the stadium.

Follow Jonathan O'Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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