Neighborhood hearings set on D.C. United soccer stadium deal

About a month after drawing hundreds of fans and skeptics to the John A. Wilson Building, the debate over a proposed $300 million public-private stadium deal for the D.C. United soccer team will head into city neighborhoods next week.

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) announced Thursday she will hold two hearings on the soccer stadium deal: one in Southwest Washington, not far from where the proposed stadium would be located on Buzzard Point; and another in the Frank D. Reeves Center, the municipal office building at 14th and U streets NW that is a key cog in the deal’s financing scheme.

Under the deal proposed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and team officials, the city would finance its half of the stadium costs by trading the Reeves Center to the real estate developer Akridge in exchange for stadium land and cash.

The transaction is now in front of the D.C. Council, which must pass legislation to authorize the deal. No votes are expected on the plan until fall at the earliest, but several council committees have moved to gather input on the proposal, and independent consultants are expected to analyze the real estate aspects of the deal for lawmakers in the coming weeks.

Bowser’s Economic Development Committee did not join in the June 26 hearing called by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) that drew dozens of witnesses both pro and con, plus more than a few spectators.

In a news release Bowser said the hearings will “offer the residents of communities most likely to be affected by the proposal an opportunity to participate in the legislative process at a time that is convenient for many work schedules, and at a location that is proximate to their homes.”

The Reeves Center hearing will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the building’s second-floor community room. The Southwest hearing will be Thursday at 7 p.m. in Suite E200 of the city office building at 1100 Fourth St. SW, across from the Southwest Safeway.

Reeves Center neighbors have been vocal since the outlines of the deal were first sketched, pressing in particular for daytime uses at whatever replaces the 28-year-old city office building. Southwest residents have been ambivalent about the proposal, but have recently expressed concerns about transportation planning for the stadium and possible displacement from low-income housing nearby.

Those who wish to testify are asked to call (202) 724-8052 or e-mail tbekele@dccouncil.us with a name, address, telephone number and organizational affiliation, if any, no later than close of business Tuesday.

One thing is certain: Unlike the previous hearing, neither of next week’s hearings will conflict with World Cup games.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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