Me. Being doubtful.

Over a huge crab cake out in the suburbs of Baltimore I respectfully disagreed with a table companion, Chick, over the baseball stadium and possible gentrification for the SE area. Chick, is a SE Capitol Hill resident, living in the shadow of the Capitol and eventhough I trust that he is a bit more familiar with the South Capitol/N Street area where the city plans to put the Stadium, I am doubtful that the stadium will bring the same turnaround as the MCI Center has done with Gallery Place/Chinatown. I pointed out some of the differences between the two.
For one, there is sort of nothing there. A porn store and a couple of clubs do not a ‘something’ make. Before the MCI Center there were surrounding offices and government agencies and 1 museum (now closed for renovations that will continue for ever). The restaurants that were put in to help serve the MCI crowds, are supported by the office/govt crowd during lunch.
Second, during the days when there is no baseball, what is it that would make the area a destination? The MCI center has concerts and horse shows and other functions when one of several teams isn’t playing a home game.
Third, RFK really didn’t do that much for the surrounding neighborhood, why will a stadium in SE make a difference there? Yes, I am aware of the whole waterfront plan that the stadium is supposed to link into.
For me it comes down to the fickle nature of market forces. There was something to work with in the area around the MCI center, before the Center. And then these things fed into each other, building on the other. The whole stadium thing seems to me built on the idea that people coming for baseball will come back when there isn’t a game or stick around. Yet there need to be businesses that serve the game attendees, but those businesses need to be supported when there isn’t a home game. And yes, there will be building offices, but will the people in the offices venture out into the neighborhood to support the business brought in to serve the game attendees?

By the by…. The Post reports that the real estate market for residential homes is cooling down. Maybe some of you might be able to buy before the decade is out.

9 thoughts on “Me. Being doubtful.”

  1. You raise some excellent points, MM. By your rationale–the stadium probably would’ve had a surer positive impact if it was put here near the developing commercial corridor north of Mass Ave and along the metro on 1st St. NE. (ATF, a hotel next to the new metro, Constitution Square, etc).

    I too am skeptical of the “build it using taxpayer money and the rest will happen” belief. To be fair, there are other major public/private development plans around that site, (I think). We’ll see what will happen, but 81 home games per year does not alone turn around/gentrify a neighborhood.

    JTE

  2. no hotel has been built there yet. not even broken ground, as i know it.

    MM, i hear your skepticism. i’m doubtful about what it will accomplish. The post just did an article about another area of land around there that the feds are selling to a private developer. as an artist i would like to add that the washington sculpture center, and the washington glass school are two amazing and rare facilities that will be lost due to the baseball stadium.

  3. That was my thought at first also, but I now think it is wrong. There is not exactly nothing there – there is a large Federal building complex going up now, and other things around there. The porn shops will be gone, they sit right where the actual stadium will be. You also need to consider the redevelopment of the Arthur Capper housing – gone are the drug dealers, in will be the yuppies.

    Also, you can’t compare it to RFK because there is no business area there, just housing – so you go to the game, then you go home. The new site will have bars and restaurants around it like the MCI area.

    This will all take a while – even the 2008 opening date is considered too optimistic. So I think by the time the stadium does open, it will be a completely different place.

  4. Rollins,
    Ok. Say the federal complex is built, then what’s to say it won’t become the bustling hub that is L’Enfant Plaza. Ever go to that mall at L’Enfant after 6pm or on a Sunday? Dead. It could be the next L’Enfant, with a stadium. It really depends on the office drones and if they bother to interact with the environment and if they stick around after 5pm. The drones may also determine what kinds of businesses go into the area. If they don’t shop and eat at say the Navy Yard Ruby Tuesday’s (I’m just making up stuff here) then there won’t be a RT for the after 5 baseball crowd. But if the office lunch crowd support a Subways and a Starbucks, then the baseball crowd will have a Subways and a Starbucks.

  5. A little side question here:

    Can anyone point out any stadium built in the last decade positively impacting a neighborhood for more than a year? Many other cities have done this recently and enjoyed some brief revival, followed by business as usual.

  6. In response to Joseph–some cities have adopted a sensible plan. Stadium backers come in with a number of exaggerated numbers when they make their pitch for taxpayer dollars.

    It’s possible to say yes, if the outcome meets your projections, than it is worth a taxpayer investement. But you can build in a long-term clause. If the stadium doesn’t meet the projections after 5 or 10 years, the sponsors must pay back the difference to the city.

    This approach is insurance for the city, and ensures that backers aren’t making unreasonable proposals.

    Coulda been done here.

  7. MM, great points. While I vehemently disagree with you about the area around a baseball stadium…you have very valid points as to why this could be a disaster…now if you would allow me to make a counter point.

    The Flats in Cleveland, LoDo in Denver and the Inner Harbor in B’More…all three have “new” stadiums that were built in areas that were less than perfect before. (And for those who try to bring up the B’More aquarium as a draw…I would like to remind you that it was on the verge of bankruptcy when Camden was built). All three of these stadiums, were built with the hope that it would revive the area in and around the stadium.

    Today, the Flats in Cleveland is a hotspot even when baseball is in hibernation. LoDo is one of the many “exploding” areas of metro Denver and you only have to go to the Inner Harbor to see what Camden has done for that city.

    As for RFK, it is a monument to the city planning of old. Plop a monument of concrete and steel into an area too poor to fight…pave it and they will come. You have seen many of these monuments razed in the last 10 years in cities like Seattle, Cinci and Philly because the powers that be realized that it needed to be changed.

    Slowly, the SE neighborhood where the Nats will call home will change. First it will be independent bars and restaurants that come in for baseball…next it will be condos…soon after that retail and finally the chain hotels and restaurants who see a new market. It may take 10 years, but it happens. Keep the faith.

  8. UP:

    A point of clarification–the Flats in Cleveland is dead. Not sure why or how, but the Warehouse District and other parts of Cleveland are now happening. I liken it to an old shopping mall. It just stops becoming cool, and fails to keep up.

    Being from the Cleveland area, I can say that the 10-year impact of the baseball stadium/arena complex built using Sin Tax proceeds is unclear. Arguments could be made from either side–but it should be said that it is NOT the vibrant area that promised by the Nats Stadium or currently existing at the MCI Center.

    JTE

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