Stadium To Debut Without Retail
Friday, March 17, 2006
If a new D.C. baseball stadium is completed as scheduled in March 2008, fans attending games during the opening season should not expect to stop at a restaurant outside the ballpark, shop at a boutique or walk along a pier on the Anacostia River a block away.
Although Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has promised a ballpark entertainment district that will include luxury condos and office buildings and create millions of dollars in annual tax revenue, developers said they will need more than two years to complete just the initial building plans.
"Our goal is spring '09 to have the first phases done," said Herbert S. Miller, chairman of Western Development, one of four companies that will create the entertainment district. "Nobody has even designed anything yet. To even get this done in three years would be pretty impressive, but that's our goal."
Entertainment districts around stadiums have been tried across the country with mixed success. In the District, stadium boosters have used the Verizon Center's success as an example of the economic impact a sports arena can have on a sluggish area. Gallery Place now teems with upscale chain shops and restaurants and has a movie theater and a bowling alley, although most have come in the years since the arena's opening in 1997.
At the site of the new stadium, near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street in Southeast, the job of creating a vibrant community promises to be even more challenging because the area has far less infrastructure than the Verizon Center's downtown location.
Before condos are built and stores opened, major transportation improvements are necessary, including a $20 million renovation of the Navy Yard Metro station. The D.C. Department of Transportation is about to spend $625 million to expand South Capitol Street and rebuild the Frederick Douglass Bridge. And new street lighting and landscaping are planned to make the neighborhood feel brighter and help attract residents and shoppers, city officials said.
"Just putting lights in will make the whole area brighter, make people know, hey, this is a signal that things are coming," said Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), chairman of the D.C. Council's Committee on Economic Development.
The number of planners and developers involved in the ballpark district underscores the immense challenge. Williams created the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., a quasi-independent city agency that hired the four development companies to oversee the project: Western Development and Monument Realty LLC of the District, the Cordish Co. of Baltimore and Forest City Enterprises Inc. of Ohio.
In turn, the developers recently hired Cooper, Robertson & Partners, an urban planning firm from New York that has worked on stadium-related development projects in Dallas and Miami. The firm will create a master plan that integrates about 40 acres of mixed-use development from north of the ballpark to the Anacostia River, Miller said.
"The key question we're asking of the developers right now is: What kind of mix in retail will bring people to the area on non-game days?" said Uwe Brandes, a planner for the Anacostia Waterfront Corp.
The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission and its ballpark architects have also planned for the entertainment district. In the designs released this week, the architects include retail space for the stadium's eastern facade along First Street SE. The architects have built in flexibility by allowing that space to grow from 16,000 square feet to 36,000 square feet, depending on how much retail can be attracted.
Half Street will also be a major focus because most fans are expected to enter the ballpark through a plaza beyond center field. Although the stadium designs show the plaza walled off between two large parking garages, developers have said they will work with the city to move the structures underground to free development space.
Russell Hines, vice president of Monument Realty, said his company expects to start construction early next year on land it owns just north of the stadium site.
"When the MCI Center first opened, there were still a lot of cranes out there, and the retail filled in after it was completed," Hines said. "The retail doesn't lead the development."
Mark Rosentraub, dean of urban affairs at Cleveland State University, who has studied development around stadiums, said the developers will want to open their projects soon after the ballpark's premiere so fans will become used to spending time in the area before and after games.
"The key is when you have the private sector development up front, and it looks like D.C. has that commitment," Rosentraub said. "If you do that well, it works."