D.C. Seeks to Buy Land for 'Ballpark District'

Ballpark architect Joseph Spear near First and N streets SE. The city wants to buy land to create an area with stores and residential units.
Ballpark architect Joseph Spear near First and N streets SE. The city wants to buy land to create an area with stores and residential units. (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)
By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 12, 2005

D.C. officials are negotiating to purchase more than five acres of additional land in Southeast Washington for a baseball stadium complex, an aggressive move aimed at influencing development that could maximize the return on the city's investment in the ballpark.

The city has planned since last fall to build the stadium by 2008 on a 20-acre plot near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard. Now officials want to expand their reach in order to produce a "ballpark district" that would feature restaurants, stores, commercial buildings and residential units.

Officials described their strategy as a way to ensure that the $535 million investment generates revenue on more days than just the 81 times each year the Washington Nationals play at home.

"We want more than just a ballpark. Our goal is to create a whole district and a destination," said Andrew Altman, chief executive of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., a publicly chartered entity overseeing the development process.

"On the destination list of Washington," Altman added, "you'll have the MCI Center area, Georgetown and, now, boom, the South Capitol Street ballpark area."

The additional land would come from parcels totaling 3.2 acres north of the stadium plot that are owned by Metro and at least two acres east of First Street that are owned by the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority. The bid to buy this land had not been previously disclosed.

Metro has a bus garage and other operational facilities on its 3.2 acres. In May, Metro officials were preparing to put the land on the market because the agency plans to move its operations. Two days before the bidding, D.C. officials stopped the proceedings.

In a letter to Metro chief Richard A. White, Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) noted that Metro's bylaws stipulate that the agency must work with local jurisdictions to foster joint development projects.

"I hereby request to purchase each of the component parcels," the mayor wrote.

Metro's land could be worth about $50 million, developers said. The District could take control in several ways, including trading land in other parts of the city, officials said.

If the city obtains the land, officials would package the Metro and WASA plots and offer development rights to private developers by next month with guidelines on what must be built, said City Administrator Robert C. Bobb.

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) said she supports the effort.

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