10 July 2007

Why You Can Support the Stadium Initiative

When DC United and Victor MacFarlane decided to go public with its Poplar Point initiative, I wanted to make sure that I took the time to really think about whether this initiative is one we can support. The reason, as Kinney remarked to me recently, that this is coming out now is that future Poplar Point development plans will either be guided by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation's (AWC) plans, or by an alternate vision. MacFarlane and United are offering that alternate vision, and the time for viewing development according to those two competing ideas is coming soon with the dissolution of the AWC.

It's tempting to just give in to the vision of a soccer specific stadium of our own, but there's more than just a nice place to play soccer going on here. Ward 8 needs investment, needs additional infrastructure, and deserves jobs and affordable housing. If the stadium plan simply offered a nice stadium for us to visit and didn't really improve the lives of Ward 8 residents, or didn't do as much as other plans, then I don't think that someone could in good faith support that effort. The proposal being advanced by DC United must now be evaluated against the proposals offered by the AWC,

In January of this year, I offered two key criteria for evaluating any proposed stadium deal: It had to offer the District a good return on investment (and that means a better ROI than competing plans) and it had to be inclusive of the existing Ward 8 residents. Those residents need to benefit from development, not be replaced by it. On both counts United has responded forcefully and, I think, correctly. United is emphasizing that they will privately finance the stadium construction and purchase the land at "fair market values." Now, that last phrase is a little fuzzy, since it can mean different things to different people, but if nothing else it represents that United will negotiate the price of the deal with some numbers to guide it, not simply expect either a giveaway or a sweetheart deal at below market value. That does not mean the city won't invest anything, as there will be infrastructure improvements, but this is true no matter what plan for developing Poplar Point is selected. On the second criteria, the development group has made it clear that 50% of the housing units will be designated for affordable housing, and that they are offering more units overall than the AWC proposal. In that sense, the United deal offers better housing opportunities than the AWC initiative, and given the higher jobs being offered with MacFarlane, the Ward 8 residents are likely to see better opportunities in the stadium initiative than in the AWC initiative.

However, those are my judgments, and I encourage you to read the AWC documents yourself (though I found a few broken links on their site). There are other points made in the proposal, but these are what are known as qualifying criteria. You must have a diverse investment group, you must be environmentally aware, you should try to incorporate green spaces into urban planning. Any and all plans will do that.

What MacFarlane and others have done is offered the District a competing vision for Poplar Point to the one offered by the outgoing AWC. One of these two visions will become the de-facto base point for future plans and negotiations, and the United vision offers the District a ready-made plan with strong benefit to the District and to Ward 8 residents in particular. The fact that there is a development group ready to do this makes it a lower risk option than simply putting the situation out for bids, as the District would be using known parties with track records of delivering on real estate development deals. The United vision is better than the AWC vision, but it may not be perfect. There may be arguments as to what "fair market value" means, but that can be negotiated. What is clear to me is that the opportunity and risk vs. reward ratios all favor the United deal. After the baseball stadium deal, I can honestly say I'm presently surprised. Again, this is really a debate about what the starting point moving forward will be, and on that basis I favor the United deal. More details will need to be worked out, but one can support the stadium initiative at this point without feeling like it's a give-away to business interests at the expense of the city. It isn't. If they were greedy, United could be asking for all sorts of things that they aren't. Instead, they're offering a comprehensive, well-thought out plan that can serve as the guideposts moving forward.

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4 Comments:

At 10 July, 2007 12:52, Blogger QJA said...

I agree. After browsing the DCU plan, I'm happy to say that they've invented a plan that one can consider mutually beneficial on every front, and supporting every party involved. The DCU plan includes accomodations for Ward 8 interests, cemmercial investment interests, city infrastructure interests, and even environmental preservation interests. It's a great starting point going forward.

 
At 10 July, 2007 15:12, Blogger Bob said...

The post is very thoughtful and well-written.

I have no time for that. I just wanted to say that (1) the stadium looks cool, (2) I love that you might be able to take a water taxi and (3) I love that they used the picture of Nelly Furtado in a DC United jersey in their presentation.

 
At 12 July, 2007 11:44, Blogger Martin said...

Great post D;

I was highly impressed with DCU's proposal - Architecturally and aesthetically it is also much better than the AWC proposal.

I hope that this vision becomes a reality - it's on par with the franchise that has put it forth.

Thanks for the well crafted piece.

 
At 21 July, 2007 17:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just saw the DC United Plan for the new soccer stadium (http://dcunited.mlsnet.com/t103/pdf/2007/poplar_point_presentation.pdf); of course this is a better plan then the AWC plan. The problem is the DC United plan promotes capitalism (jobs, better housing, opportunity and a better future). This will never be approved by the socialists that run DC. The socialist need the population to be dependant upon government, not vice versa. If the population is freed from government handouts, they may not vote for the Democratic Party. The current DC voter will never understand this because they are uneducated mush heads, just the way the socialist government needs them to be. The more uneducated, the more dependant upon government; the more dependant upon government, the more taxes are needed to support them, and so goes the vicious cycle. Get it?
The DC United plan looks so good that I would want to live in the neighborhood. But then I come back to the reality that the socialists have turned the District of Columbia into a third world s@#%hole with corrupt politicians, police, judges, incompetent bureaucrats, and a dumbed down, dependant population that is infested with criminals. On second thought, I think I’ll move farther away from the District.

 

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