The District expects to spend $18 million more than previously estimated to buy land for a baseball stadium but will save $27 million because engineers have determined that a major sewer line will not have to be moved.
The net result is that the city's total expenses for land and infrastructure for the stadium in Southeast Washington will remain comfortably below the D.C. Council's $165 million cost cap, officials said yesterday.
"We feel we're in good shape," said Vince Morris, spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). "Even in the worst-case scenario, we should be okay."
The city is preparing to open negotiations with the owners of 14 acres at the stadium site, near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard. City officials plan to send letters next Tuesday to the more than 30 property owners, Morris said.
Owners will have about 30 days to negotiate, after which the city will have the option to take the land through eminent domain, officials said. In that case, a court would set the price.
The District, which owns six acres of roads and public alleys at the stadium site, wants to have control of the property by the end of the year. Officials say construction crews are expected to begin building the ballpark in March, leaving two years before the scheduled opening in 2008.
The entire project, including infrastructure improvements and land acquisition, has been estimated to cost at least $535 million, to be funded mostly with public money.
Some city leaders urged officials to speed up the process.
"I want to get the project done," said D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). "I'm not saying we're taking too long, but having been through this with MCI Center and the convention center, time is of the essence. We need to keep moving forward."
High-level D.C. officials met for several hours Tuesday to discuss the city's plan to acquire land for the stadium. In a recently completed report, Carol Mitten, director of the Office of Property Management, assessed land and environmental cleanup costs. The report will be the basis for the city's offers to the property owners.
Morris said Mitten's estimate for land acquisition was $18 million more than the estimate by Natwar M. Gandhi, the city's chief financial officer, who concluded that the land was worth $77 million.
Gandhi had put the total for land, environmental cleanup and infrastructure at $161.4 million. Officials declined to disclose Mitten's total figure, but they said it is below the council's cost cap.
In Gandhi's analysis, an 111/2-foot-diameter sewer that transports wastewater to the O Street SE pumping station was considered a wild card because it could cost as much as $29 million to move. But engineers have determined that they can protect the pipe in ways that are much less expensive, according to a memo prepared by Allen Y. Lew, chief executive of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. The city could save as much as $27 million.
The city will have to spend about $11.5 million to move other utilities, such as electrical lines, about $1.5 million more than expected, Lew said in the memo.
Property owners at the stadium site have been waiting anxiously for offers from the city. Owners filed three lawsuits, two of which were essentially dismissed by judges. In the third, which is pending, a trash company contends that the city improperly denied it a renovation permit because of plans for a stadium.
Most property owners have said they will wait for the city's offers before deciding whether to fight the matter in court. By law, the city can make offers based on property values that do not take into account plans for a stadium. That will keep prices well below those for properties near the stadium site. Developers have been bidding up prices in anticipation of a major revitalization sparked by the ballpark.