Two blocks from the spot where the suits say a soccer stadium will rise in the crazy-quilt backwater known as Buzzard Point, a hawk and an owl share a rooftop home. One block from the proposed home for D.C. United, the sole thriving business is a gay nightclub that moved there four years ago after being forced out of its long-standing space in what is now center field at Nationals Park. And one long kick from the soccer field that would finally put RFK Stadium out of its misery, an old man lives in the last remaining houseboat on this stretch of the Anacostia River.
Buzzard Point is one of the last unknown corners of the District, a ragtag collection of junkyards, rock-crushing-hard industry, idyllic riverfront boat slips, hideaways for sexual rendezvous, the headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard, an Army fort that dates to the birth of the nation — and an expanse of surface parking lots that developers have been eyeing for decades.
A series of land swaps and agreements will be required for D.C. United to get a new stadium at Buzzard Point.
Results from an unscientific survey of Washington Post readers
A look back at efforts to land a soccer stadium deal over the years.
Buzzard Point is one of the last unknown corners of the District.
At RFK Stadium, United trails much of the league not only in the standings, but also in finances.
When Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and D.C. United executives announced a tentative deal last week to erect a $300 million, 20,000-seat stadium four blocks from the city’s six-year-old baseball park, city officials touted the power of sports facilities to spur development, saying that the franchise would get not only a new home but also the chance to create restaurants, stores and even a hotel adjacent to their stadium.
But there are reasons why Buzzard Point has remained a jumble of unkempt lots, broken-up streets and unrealized dreams, even as much of the rest of the city has enjoyed more than 15 years of surging growth.
Kellie Bolinder sees one reason in the commanding view of the waterfront from the roof of the Matthew Henson Earth Conservation Center building on Half Street SW: Buzzard Point is, well, a point — a narrow spit of land tucked between Washington Channel and the Anacostia River. The area has proved so inhospitable to development that it became the perfect spot for the river reclamation program Bolinder runs, where young people from the city’s toughest neighborhoods learn how to care for the snakes and turtles that outnumber human residents there. It’s a place that raptors call home and where Bolinder holds Friday night fishing events. The catfish are biting these days.
“This neighborhood was a forgotten oversight,” said Bolinder, executive director of the Earth Conservation Corps. “There’s been a complete renaissance up the street around the baseball stadium, but here, it’s still the way it was 20 years ago, when this was just one more abandoned building.”
Buzzard Point is about as secluded a spot as the city offers; it’s where U.S. Park Police found D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) parked in a car in 2002, with marijuana and $5 worth of crack cocaine in his Jaguar. (Barry accused police of planting the drugs in his car; no charges were filed, but Barry, then running for council, dropped out of the race because of the controversy.)
Buzzard Point was so empty a few years ago that when the District was wielding its power of eminent domain to clear more than a dozen blocks of space for the Washington Nationals’ $700 million home, several of the businesses that had to move — including the Florida Rock gravel plant and the Ziegfeld’s/Secrets gay nightclub — found relief amid the vacant lots and decrepit industrial strips across South Capitol Street.