Correction to This Article
An Oct. 19 article incorrectly said that D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) voted in favor of an emergency proposal to build parking garages near the new baseball stadium. Graham voted in favor of an amendment to the emergency legislation. But he later voted against the legislation. The final vote was 7 to 6 in favor of the emergency bill, which failed because it needed nine votes.

Stadium Garages Proposal Rejected

Progress continues on the stadium that will be the home of the Washington Nationals baseball team.
Progress continues on the stadium that will be the home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. (By Michael Robinson Chavez -- The Washington Post)

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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2006

The D.C. Council narrowly rejected a proposal yesterday to build aboveground garages near a new baseball stadium under construction on the Anacostia waterfront, leaving city officials without a plan to provide parking for the Washington Nationals when the ballpark opens in 2008.

The council's action also represented a blow to Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), the mayoral nominee who had offered the proposal as a way to break a months-long deadlock between the city and the Nationals over the 1,225 parking spaces the city is required to deliver.

Under Fenty's emergency proposal, the city would build two aboveground parking garages just north of the ballpark site in Southeast. A smaller underground garage would be built to the south. Fenty said the plan, which would cost $56 million, would not violate the council's $611 million stadium cost cap.

Other council members challenged Fenty's position, however, saying the plan would raise the city's investment by millions of dollars. Eight of the council's 13 members supported the measure, but such emergency legislation requires nine votes for passage.

"We're back to square one," said Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who supported the proposal. "The question for us is, 'Where do we go from here?' People keep coming back to the council because they don't know what to do and want us to solve the problem. . . . I hope everyone goes away from the council and tries to solve the problem in another fashion."

As a result, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission is running out of time and options to provide the parking spaces. Under the stadium agreement, the city must provide 1,225 spaces on the stadium site near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard along the Anacostia River in Southeast by March 1, 2008.

If the city fails to provide the required spaces, it could be liable to pay millions of dollars in legal damages to the team.

The agency may have no choice but to pave over the five-acre northern parcel to provide some spaces and park additional vehicles across the street, said sports commission Chief Executive Allen Y. Lew.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has pushed for the garages to be built below ground, leaving space to construct a mix of condominiums, shops and restaurants as an entertainment hub. The Nationals ownership group, headed by Bethesda developer Theodore N. Lerner, has lobbied for free-standing garages that are cheaper and easier to be completed in time for the 2008 season.

The city had agreed on a plan for developer Herbert S. Miller to build the garages along with mixed-use development. But that agreement collapsed last month when the two sides could not agree on financing.

Williams developed a new plan for underground garages, but the city's chief financial officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, ruled that the mayor's plan violated the stadium cost cap.

Fenty, who is expected to win easily in the Nov. 7 general election for mayor, sought to resolve the deadlock after several city officials appealed to him to get involved last week. On Tuesday, Fenty met with city officials and the Lerner group and settled on his proposal for the $56 million garages.

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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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