"You have to do enough stuff in addition to the development of a stadium to make an area work," deMause said.
In Cleveland, where a sports arena and baseball park were built about 10 years ago in a worn-down area, hotels, bars, restaurants and condominium projects were built, said Timothy S. Chapin, a professor of urban planning at Florida State University who has studied the economic-development impact of new stadiums.
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Chapin said Cleveland planners designated retail and residential-development areas around the baseball stadium and basketball arena. Cleveland officials put up money for businesses to improve their facades. The city also installed sidewalks and lighting to attract retailers and restaurants. A fund provided incentives for developers to build condos around the sports complex.
In contrast, the "bunker-like" design for Chicago's Comiskey Park (now U.S. Cellular Field), where the White Sox play, didn't inspire such spinoff development.
"It will take 20 to 30 years for the true value of [Washington's] ballpark to express itself," Chapin said. "It's not going to happen overnight. It's a waste of public dollars to not plan what the area around it should be like."
D.C. planners say they are doing just that. Already, the District has an elaborate plan to convert the Anacostia waterfront into an area of parks and walkways, with housing, offices, shops and restaurants.
"Fundamentally what we want to see is a vibrant, mixed-use area there," said Andrew Altman, who heads the District's Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, which is in charge of redeveloping the waterfront areas of Southwest and Southeast.
A big part of the District's plans involve two projects on M Street next to the stadium site. One is the 1.4 million-square-foot headquarters being built for the Transportation Department. The other is the Southeast Federal Center, a 40-acre parcel along the riverfront that Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises Inc. plans to turn into a 2 million-square-foot complex of retail, office and residential units over the next decade. More than 5,500 workers from the transportation complex alone are expected to provide daytime traffic around the area, and developers hope to capitalize on getting some of them to eat, shop and live there too.
"The ballpark has opened up the possibility for this area to be a very active place," Altman said. "It becomes not just an extension of the offices along M Street, but with the Southeast Federal Center and DOT, it allows you to have a different kind of anchor. It takes you from being a dominant office market to being a whole new destination."
Altman said he envisions the areas closest to the stadium to become a "significant retail area for the city."