Residents and community organizers near the proposed site of a new stadium for D.C. United have asked the team and the District government for a community benefits agreement providing $5 million initially and future payments over the project’s 30-year lease.
The money would go toward job training, traffic improvements, small-business opportunities and preservation of public and low-income housing in the surrounding neighborhoods of Southwest Washington.
Among the organizers of the effort is the Rev. Ruth Hamilton, co-pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, which is located a few blocks northeast of Buzzard Point, where the the stadium is planned.
Hamilton, who has been at the church for 18 years, said neighbors of the site ought to benefit from the $300 million project and are better prepared to negotiate for benefits than they were when the District negotiated a deal for Nationals Park.
She said she hoped the United agreement would be a legally binding document and that the initial $5 million would be provided before the District certified the new stadium for occupancy. “We are going to be seeing more and more of these,” Hamilton said. “Communities are getting organized, and they are going to be looking for specifics.”
Community benefits agreements with provisions for affected neighbors are not uncommon for major development projects in the District. For instance, Wal-Mart, in conjunction with D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), agreed in 2011 to fund a series of workforce and charitable initiatives in the neighborhoods where it planned to open stores.
United and Gray have agreed on a deal in which the city would provide up to $150 million in land and infrastructure for the project plus a series of tax breaks to the team, and United would spend roughly the same amount, to build a 20,000-seat stadium.
Members of the D.C. Council have held a series of public forums on the proposal but have yet to hold a formal hearing. United ownership and City Administrator Allen Lew have been pushing aggressively to get the legislation passed before the end of the calendar year.
Supporters of the community benefits agreement include members of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions as well as members of a coalition of advocates and residents assembled by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute. The agreement was drafted with the help of the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council.
Felicia Couts, a CBCC coordinator, said the stadium development created an opportunity to provide job training and housing assistance to low-income residents in the area, including residents of Syphax Gardens, James Creek and Greenleaf Gardens public housing projects.
“We’re just asking for a small carve-out that will primarily benefit residents who are closest to the stadium. Many of them are low-income, and they should get first dibs,” she said.
Spokesmen for Lew and United both said they had received a copy of the draft proposal and planned to respond in coming weeks.
“We think it’s really important and we look forward to having a complete response by the end of this month,” United spokesman Craig Stouffer said.
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