Compromise Offered on Stadium Parking

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, shown at a meeting last week, wants to maximize development.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams, shown at a meeting last week, wants to maximize development. (By Mark Gong -- The Washington Post)
By David Nakamura and Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 21, 2006

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced plans yesterday to build underground and aboveground parking adjacent to a new baseball stadium in Southeast Washington that would be surrounded by shops, restaurants, 660 condominiums and a swanky hotel.

At a morning news conference, Williams (D) presented the plan as a compromise between city officials and Washington Nationals principal owner Theodore N. Lerner, who have been at odds over how much development can be accomplished at the site. But later in the day, a team representative called the mayor's announcement "premature," reflecting the tensions between the city and the Lerner group over the parking issue.

"Reports of an agreement on a new parking plan for the Nationals ballpark are at best, premature," said Stan Kasten, who will take over as team president next month. "In fact, we first received this latest version of the new proposal to this already tightly scheduled project only last Thursday. Our development experts reviewed the plan and forwarded a series of questions. . . . We have not yet gotten responses to our questions."

In the spring, the city released stadium renderings that showed two boxy parking garages just north of the ballpark. Under the new plan, each of the two structures would have one level of underground parking and 13 stories aboveground, including one level of retail, four levels of parking masked by condominiums and an additional eight levels of condominiums.

The project would be overseen by Herbert S. Miller, president of Western Development, one of four companies working with the city to create an entertainment district near the ballpark. For the parking project to go forward, the D.C. Council has to authorize the transfer of development rights to Miller. Also required is the approval of the D.C. Zoning Commission, which has scheduled a hearing for Monday.

"This project is about more than a baseball stadium," Williams said at the John A. Wilson Building, surrounded by city planners and developers.

The negotiations over the parking garages have threatened to stall the stadium project, near South Capitol Street and the Washington Navy Yard. The Lerner group is pushing to ensure that the stadium is completed by April 2008 and contends that aboveground parking garages would be more economical. City officials have sought to put the garages underground, which would be more expensive and time-consuming.

Under the new proposal, 925 parking spots would be available for the stadium in the two aboveground structures. An additional 900 parking spaces in the underground parking lot would be reserved for condominium owners and patrons of the hotel and the retailers.

Miller said that the parking portion of the structures would be completed by April 2008 but that the rest of the construction would take an additional year. He said construction companies would mask the unfinished portion with a curtain wall and pledged that no work would be done on game days.

Lerner group representatives have said they do not want fans to walk past a construction zone during games. No Lerner representatives were on hand for the announcement yesterday, but City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said the family had been thoroughly briefed.

"They are aware this is the plan, and it accomplishes their initial concern to have aboveground parking," Bobb said.

But Kasten expressed concern about the possibility of additional contractors becoming involved.

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