If It Doesn't Come, Will They Still Build?

The baseball stadium has been proposed for this area, around Half Street SE, and has attracted developers.
The baseball stadium has been proposed for this area, around Half Street SE, and has attracted developers. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 17, 2005

The land rush around the proposed baseball stadium in Southeast Washington has been thrown up in the air, as developers and investors watch to see how the D.C. Council reconsiders issues regarding its financing and whether it should be moved to a site near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.

Some developers said new uncertainty surrounding the stadium project could slow down their plans to build on newly acquired land and also delay pending land sales.

"For us it does add a lot of doubt about the future of what that area is going to be," said Aaron Liebert, area managing partner for developer JPI of Irving, Tex. His company plans to spend around $250 million over the next few years to build residential units on land it bought near the stadium.

"If there's no baseball, it will be less of an entertainment district and more likely more office and residential," he said. "We're going to continue to develop without baseball, but we're just not certain as to how quickly."

The stadium would be built on four blocks that contain warehouses, industrial sites and nightclubs.

"Developers don't like to see vacant, unused land near their projects," Liebert said. "Baseball takes derelict properties off of the market so the entire neighborhood would evolve faster. If baseball doesn't come to the neighborhood, other development won't happen as fast."

If the baseball stadium does not come to that part of Southeast Washington, Liebert said, he wouldn't start on the second and third phases of his 900 residential units as quickly.

Executives at Monument Realty LLC, a District-based developer that has invested some $40 million buying land around the proposed baseball stadium, agreed.

"With baseball down there, when do I start? Immediately," said Jeffrey T. Neal, one of the principals at Monument. "Without baseball? We'll see."

But other developers said the council's reconsideration won't stop their plans to develop or move forward in trying to buy more land in the area.

"We're still interested in other opportunities down there," said Mary Margaret Hiller, a spokeswoman for Akridge, a D.C. developer that has bought a nine-acre parcel near the stadium. "This issue doesn't slow us down from wanting to look in that area. This is going to be the next revitalization area, like Gallery Place. It will still occur with or without baseball."

For the past six months, local and nationally known developers have been pouring millions of dollars into parcels of land around the proposed stadium near Half and South Capitol streets SE. Many have plans to turn what is mostly industrial land with taxicab companies, strip clubs and empty lots into a mix of offices, housing and retail.

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