WARD 8

Residents Urge Fenty to Build Soccer Stadium at Poplar Point

Those interested in developing Poplar Point in Southeast Washington must submit proposals to the mayor by Nov. 2.
Those interested in developing Poplar Point in Southeast Washington must submit proposals to the mayor by Nov. 2. (By Alexandra Garcia -- Washingtonpost.com)
By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007

District residents who live east of the Anacostia River demanded yesterday that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty support D.C. United's plan to build a soccer stadium in their community, saying the project would stimulate economic growth in a neglected part of the city.

At a public hearing held by D.C. Council members at Thurgood Marshall Academy charter school, residents, one after another, testified in favor of United's proposal to build a 27,000-seat stadium and mixed-use development at Poplar Point, a 110-acre strip of parkland along the river in Ward 8.

"Our people are crying for support, asking for help. United has come in and helped our youth. Where is the recognition for that?" asked Dorothy Douglas, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who grew up near the proposed site. "This is an opportunity for the mayor to step up to the plate. Mayor Adrian Fenty, you have to look at the future, the future of young kids and senior citizens and Ward 8. They deserve this."

The show of support -- roughly 80 people attended the hearing, most in favor of the stadium -- ramped up pressure on the mayor. Fenty (D) had been informally negotiating with United principal partner Victor B. MacFarlane for months before breaking off talks during the summer and opening a competitive bidding process to solicit other proposals.

United officials, in return, threatened to move to Virginia or Maryland. Last week, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) publicly urged state officials to pursue the franchise.

James Bunn, executive director of the Ward 8 Business Council, noted the potential tax revenue generated by a stadium and pleaded, "We should do everything we can to ensure we do not lose this team to the state of Maryland."

Fenty did not attend the hearing, organized by Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), chairman of the council's Committee on Economic Development. Valerie Santos Young, chief operating officer for the mayor's economic development office, tried to alleviate residents' concerns by emphasizing that the administration remains open to a stadium.

"Poplar Point might be an excellent place for a stadium," she said. "But, again, we want to make sure that we examine all the options, capture all the great ideas that are out there, before committing to anything."

The Poplar Point site, across the Anacostia from the Nationals' new baseball stadium, is now owned by the federal government but is being transferred to District control. Under the competitive process designed by Fenty, developers interested in the site must submit proposals to the mayor's office by Nov. 2.

Although the administration hopes to select a "master developer" by January, officials said the city can select a developer whether or not the developer participates in the formal process.

A 37-page document, "Request for Expressions of Interest," lays out basic qualifications each development team must meet, such as showing that it has completed successful waterfront projects similar in scope.

But the document is vague about what types of development the city is seeking.


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