Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s point man on a $300 million soccer stadium proposal said Wednesday he was working to address residents’ concerns about how the Reeves Center municipal building would be redeveloped should the District agree to trade the property for needed stadium land.
Speaking at a D.C. Council roundtable Wednesday night, City Administrator Allen Lew said he was negotiating with developer Akridge to include office space or a hotel in the company’s redevelopment plan for the property, located at 14th and U Streets NW.
Gray has proposed giving the Reeves Center to Akridge in exchange for $38 million in cash plus land on Buzzard Point in Southwest needed to accommodate the stadium.
Many agreed that the best years of Reeves, built 28 years ago under then-mayor Marion Barry were behind it. But some U Street residents and members of the council, including Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), chafed at Akridge’s proposal to replace it with as many as 500 units of mostly luxury housing.
Others said plans to redevelop Reeves were created without sufficient community input.
“This is a huge building. It’s a huge government property, and I’m not seeing any of those meetings with the community — community input. And that upsets me,” said Sharon Dreyfuss, a 15-year resident of the U Street neighborhood.
Kevin Rooney, both a fan of D.C. United and a resident of the U Street neighborhood, said he wanted to see the team get a new stadium but wasn’t willing to trade a property on such a key location — one that hosts the neighborhood farmers’ market — in the proposed deal.
“This should not be treated as just another real estate project,” he said.
Graham called the Reeves building “an absolutely splendid asset” and said its redevelopment was controversial enough that he thought it was hindering on otherwise reasonable deal to build a new stadium.
“The Reeves Center was put into this deal to facilitate soccer. I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s going to sink soccer,” he said.
Backers of the team said United was a valuable economic asset and civic institution, particularly in light of the frenzied interest among D.C. residents in the World Cup.
United loses money playing at RFK Stadium and is one of the few remaining Major League Soccer teams playing in a stadium that wasn’t designed to accommodate soccer. It has been trying to secure a new stadium for close to a decade.
Slav Gatchev, a nearby resident, argued that there was no good way to distinguish the stadium plan from the land swap.
“The stadium, the team and the swap go hand in hand so let’s make the swap work,” he said.
In the deal negotiated by Gray, D.C. would provide infrastructure and land valued at up to $150 million for the stadium, plus tax breaks to the team. D.C. United would pay to build the stadium at a similar cost.
Questions about the Reeves Center thrust developer Akridge and its president, Matthew J. Klein, into the spotlight, rather than the team and its owners.
Klein said he and Graham were discussing how to include office space or a hotel in the project, uses that would provide daytime activity for the neighborhood economy.
He stressed that the District was receiving value for Reeves that was “similar to what to it would have likely received in a widely marketed transaction” and that Akridge would build a project there that would restore the corner to prominence.
More than 50 members of the public signed up to testify at the roundtable, held at the Reeves Center by Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), chair of the economic development committee. The crowd left some residents standing in the back, sipping water to stay cool. Bowser did not swing the final gavel until midnight.
Bowser, the Democratic nominee for mayor, repeatedly expressed reservations about the Reeves swap and asked Klein whether he would instead be willing to simply sell the Buzzard Point land to the District.
“We are committed to the framework of the transaction that’s in place right now,” he replied.
Lew said he was trying to resolve the issue by introducing hotel operators and potential office users to Akridge.
“I see myself like a matchmaker, like in the Asian culture, finding spouses for each other,” he said.
Mike DeBonis and Ileana Najarro contributed.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the terms of the proposed swap between the District and Akridge. Akridge would pay the District $38 million in cash, not vice versa.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz