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Visions of Vibrancy

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)

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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007

An aerial tram carries tourists over the Anacostia River to the Washington Nationals' new baseball stadium. Waterside amphitheaters and a museum provide cultural entertainment. A cluster of companies focused on the environment creates an international business hub.

And a sports and learning center, a charter school and an extension campus for the University of the District of Columbia offer new opportunities for students.

This was how officials from four development companies described their visions for Poplar Point, a 110-acre strip of parkland in Ward 8 that could become one of Washington's hottest neighborhoods.

The firms are competing for the right to partner with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's administration to develop the land. During a two-hour public meeting last night at Birney Elementary School, mayoral aides and company officials described a vibrant new community featuring condos, offices, big-box retailers, a movie theater, a grocery store and a hotel.

Fenty (D) has called Poplar Point a rare opportunity to spread economic development to a neglected ward and create a regional entertainment center. No matter which firm is selected, however, the development will take years because the city must remediate the land and relocate the National Park Service, whose headquarters is on the property.

Valerie Santos Young, chief operating officer for Fenty's economic development office, said the administration is pleased with the results of the bidding.

"We think there are elements of each proposal that are very creative," she said.

A standing-room-only crowd packed the Birney auditorium to hear the proposals, and D.C. council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), addressing those gathered, said, "We want retail, we want housing that is affordable and we want a stadium."

The proposals offered Ward 8 residents their first glimpse of alternatives to plans from D.C. United owner Victor B. MacFarlane, who has lobbied the city to build 8 million square feet of mixed-use development anchored by a 27,000-seat soccer stadium. Last summer, Fenty halted the negotiations, saying MacFarlane's plan, which required $350 million in public subsidies, was too expensive.

After Fenty opened the bidding process to find a "master developer," MacFarlane chose not to enter and threatened to move the soccer team to the suburbs. Two of the four plans unveiled last night-- from Clark Realty Capital and a joint venture from Archstone Smith and Madison Marquette -- make room for a soccer stadium, and in both cases the complex is optional.

"The decision making is out of our hands," Julie Chase, MacFarlane's spokeswoman, said yesterday.

Each proposal features 4 million to 6 million square feet of development and includes the 70 acres of parkland required by the federal government, which is in the process of transferring control of Poplar Point to the District. Rounding out the bidders are Forest City and a joint effort from General Growth, Mid-City Urban and Doracon.


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