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D.C. backs off threat to close Nationals Park

The New York Mets and Washington Nationals line the field at Nationals Park on April 7, 2022, in Washington. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The District said it will ensure that Nationals Park can operate through the end of 2023 while a dispute with the ballpark’s owner works its way through the Zoning Commission.

The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) confirmed last week that it had decided not to issue another temporary certificate of occupancy for Nationals Park as part of an attempt to get the venue’s owner, Events DC, to live up to an agreement to develop commercial space around the park. In its original agreement with the city, Events DC said it would build 46,000 square feet of commercial and retail space at the ballpark.

On Saturday, the DCRA appeared to reverse itself and said it would issue a temporary certificate of occupancy that expires Dec. 31, 2023.

Since the ballpark’s opening in 2008, the DCRA has issued conditional certificates of occupancy on the understanding that the stadium’s owner was making “good faith” progress toward satisfying its agreement with the Zoning Commission to reach its promised development target, DCRA spokesman Daniel Weaver said in an email. He said once those targets were reached, the agreement would be fulfilled, and the agency would issue a permanent certificate of occupancy.

But over time, the temporary certificates allowed Events DC to continue operating without fully complying with its original obligations, Weaver said. With the current certificate set to expire Sept. 30 and no sign that Events DC was preparing to build anything, the agency advised Events DC this summer that the city would not issue another temporary certificate, potentially forcing a shutdown of the venue. The agency also urged Events DC to file a formal request with the Zoning Commission to properly modify the agreement, which it did July 29.

“As Events DC has followed through on the filing request, DCRA will issue another [temporary certificate of occupancy] which will expire on December 31, 2023 to allow time for the Zoning Commission to issue a ruling, and or for Events DC to submit any construction plans for review and approval,” he wrote.

Events DC is the trade name for the Washington Convention and Sports Authority, an independent authority created by the District’s government that owns and operates several city venues, such as the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, RFK Stadium and Nationals Park.

In its filing with the Zoning Commission, Events DC said the pandemic and other business conditions had hampered plans for additional development around Nationals Park. Instead, Events DC proposed to finish a considerably smaller, 17,000-square-foot structure that is already attached to the ballpark at First Street SE and Potomac Avenue SE as retail-only space.