The D.C. Council is set to advance D.C. United soccer stadium legislation Tuesday, removing a proposal to trade away the Reeves Center municipal building on U Street NW and authorizing the use of eminent domain to acquire the land needed for the stadium.
The bill keeps much of a complex proposal to build a $300 million stadium on Buzzard Point in Southwest by Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), but it removes a land swap with D.C. developer Akridge in which the District would have received cash and Buzzard Point land in exchange for the Reeves site.
With the changes, the use of eminent domain, which until now has been considered a Plan B option in stadium negotiations, becomes a very real possibility. After Mayor-elect Muriel E. Bowser is inaugurated in January, she could use eminent domain to take Akridge’s land on Buzzard Point at a price negotiated in court.
Bowser and fellow D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) scheduled hearings on the reworked legislation in their committees for Tuesday.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said he expected both panels to hold votes Tuesday, but there are questions about how to pay for the stadium if the council agrees to retain the Reeves Center.
Mendelson said he had “a pretty good sense of how to fund this,” but he also said any plan might require Gray to send a supplemental budget request — something the council cannot do itself.
“I have to say I think it’s odd that, as important as the administration says this is, there’s been radio silence about funding since the legislation was sent down in May,” Mendelson said.
Other agreements Gray negotiated for Buzzard Point land would not change. The city would still trade a K Street parcel near Mount Vernon Square to Pepco and pay two other private landowners on Buzzard Point to acquire the needed stadium land. D.C. United would still receive the land and about $50 million in tax breaks.
But for Akridge, founded by Chairman John E. “Chip” Akridge III, the change probably amounts to a frustrating end to two years of negotiations aimed at acquiring the Reeves Center and bringing a stadium to Buzzard Point, where it will still have extensive property holdings.
“The deal we negotiated was a good deal for the city,” said Akridge President Matthew J. Klein. “We partnered with the District for two years. We negotiated with the executive. We thought that was what we were supposed to do.”
Klein said he was not certain whether the company would try to fight the eminent domain action.
Executives at the company were further dismayed Monday to discover that Bowser (D-Ward 4), who chairs the council’s Economic Development Committee, had again declined to bring up legislation approving another of the company’s projects, in which Akridge would rehabilitate the former Stevens Elementary School in the District’s West End for use by the Ivymount School, a special education program. Bowser has declined to act on that legislation since the spring.
“It is evident to anyone paying attention to recent events that the mayor-elect is utilizing the Stevens School renovation project that we were awarded in a competitive bid as leverage to negotiate a deal with us and our partner on Buzzard Point,” Klein said in a statement.
Through a spokeswoman, Bowser declined to comment.
Mendelson said he did not expect the status of the land deal with Akridge to have much effect on the council’s handling of the soccer legislation, noting that the bill Gray introduced to the council earlier this year provided for the possible acquisition of land through eminent domain.
“The only issue would be value, and we have four appraisals that suggest that the price the mayor negotiated is the fair-market value,” he said. “These are speculative transactions that developers enter into with some risk and knowledge beforehand that the mayor’s proposal was subject to council approval.”