Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the D.C. Council needed to find a replacement for $34.5 million it would receive in a land swap for the Reeves Center. It will actually need to replace $37 million and the cost of land. This version has been corrected.
Two D.C. Council committees on Tuesday approved up to $150 million in subsidies for construction of a D.C. United soccer stadium, paving the way for the measure to be considered by the full council next month.
But the legislation approved by the two committees would alter arrangements for financing the project, and a school for special-needs students has expressed concern that stadium negotiations have sidelined plans to open a campus in the West End.
The committees — headed by Mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser (D), the Ward 4 council member, and Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) — quickly approved a modified version of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s proposal for a 20,000-seat soccer stadium at Buzzard Point.
The council’s bill would allow Bowser, who will become mayor Jan. 2, to use eminent domain to take the land for the stadium, which is owned by the Akridge development company. Akridge had hoped to swap the stadium land for the city’s Reeves Center, which sits on a valuable parcel in the booming 14th Street NW corridor. The new plan would allow the District to keep the Reeves Center.
“This stadium, and the investment in this stadium the government makes, offers the city an opportunity to transform vacant land in an area of the city that needs economic development,” Bowser said.
Bowser said she had removed the Reeves Center from the deal in order to win sufficient support from the council. “This is the only way that it passes,” she said.
The bill does not include a source of funding to replace the $37 million and land the city would have received through the Reeves swap. But Bowser said she was committed to finding money for the project through a combination of existing funds and new borrowing.
The District has committed to acquiring the land and building infrastructure for the project at a cost of up to $150 million. D.C. United would be required to finance and build the stadium.
Bowser’s modified deal for Akridge’s Buzzard Point land could be better for the city. But her nonaction on an unrelated land deal had Akridge this week accusing her of using hardball tactics that could leave a casualty across town.
In another deal Gray negotiated with Akridge, the developer agreed to redevelop the former Stevens Elementary School, at 21st and K streets NW, for use by Ivymount School, a private special-education program based in Rockville, Md.
Ivymount collaborates with the D.C. public school system to educate students with autism, developmental delays, speech-language impairments and other disabilities. As part of the deal, Akridge would be granted the right to build an office building on a District lot next to the school.
Legislation approving the Stevens development arrived at Bowser’s Economic Development Committee in May, and there it has remained. Jan Wintrol, chief executive of the school, said in a recent interview that she was disappointed by the council’s delays.
She said the Ivymount program at Stevens could be a national model for special-needs education at a time when autism rates are on the rise. “This is not like some fancy private school that decided to go do good,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for more than 53 years.”
M. Jeffrey Miller, Gray’s interim deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said that Bowser had raised concerns about the Stevens proposal shortly after it was introduced but that he thought his office had addressed them.
The Stevens proposal could still pass before the end of the year, but Akridge’s president, Matthew J. Klein, accused Bowser of holding up it up to gain leverage in stadium negotiations. Bowser has not commented on the Stevens plan recently, and she has not proposed an alternative use for the school.
Bowser declined to comment on the Stevens plan, but she continued to pressure Akridge for a better deal on Buzzard Point before moving the bill through her committee. She said she was “confident and hopeful” that Akridge would agree to a price corresponding to what Pepco, the electric utility, was receiving for its Buzzard Point land.
With the Reeves Center swap, Akridge’s land had been valued at $21.1 million. Without the swap, the company would get an additional $2.3 million because it would be paid for its land at the same rate as Pepco. Klein has said repeatedly that he agreed to the $21.1 million price only when Akridge was getting the Reeves Center.
D.C. United may also be asked to agree to better terms for the District. Some members of the council, led by the chairman, Phil Mendelson (D), and McDuffie, have begun questioning whether the city ought to be providing $8.4 million in sales tax abatements to the team as part of a package of nearly $50 million in tax breaks.
McDuffie, who chairs the Government Operations Committee, said Tuesday that he didn’t think the sales tax breaks were necessary to the financing of the stadium.