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The development of Poplar Point would fundamentally change the character of Ward 8, long known as the most economically disadvantaged and restaurant/retail-deprived area of the city. For years, residents have pondered what should become of this 110-acre parcel of land on the banks of the Anacostia River. Now, the city is considering a major development plan created by Clark Realty, which would include two distinct shopping areas, mixed housing, 70 acres of public parkland and a space option for D.C. United’s next soccer stadium, which would require public funding. While the possibility of a sports arena enthralls some, it repels others. This week, we talk to members of communities and hear their takes on the issue:
There’s no adjective that I can think of that really describes how intensely I am for it. Having the stadium here in Ward 8 will make this ward a destination point for people in the metropolitan area. In my mind, there are practically no stores that they could put on that point that people could not access is their own communities. So, just putting in retail will not make Poplar Point a destination point, neither will it make it a destination point by just having mixed-income housing. Although the waterfront is there and there will be green space and we would want visitors, why would people think that someone living in Fairfax is going to necessarily come over to enjoy the green space at Poplar point, when there’s plenty of green space in that county? But, soccer will draw people because if you’re soccer fan, you’ll have to come over to where the action is.
–Philip Pannell, Executive Director of Anacostia Coordinating Council
I support the complete development package, which is very important to the new Ward 8. We would get some amenities that we’ve been missing for over 30 years…I work in the District, but I can’t spend my money in the District. All you have is Macy’s downtown! Where can I spend my money? I don’t necessarily want to see department stores. You can have boutiques and other stores. The majority of the local people are [in support of the stadium development plan]. I’ll doubt if you’ll find one that’s not. The soccer crowds will be good for the city, just like the baseball stadium. When you have these different sport activities, people enjoy that. That’s their relaxation, and that’s what they need.
-Mary Cuthbert, Ward 8 ANC commissioner
These days, nobody’s coming to Ward 8 unless you live here. Your cousin might visit you. Once we get the soccer thing and the retail, we’ll have things to give a person a reason to come over to Ward 8. Right now, we got nothing, nothing, nothing…You look at a tourist map downtown, we’re not on it. But then, they’ll expand that map. [Laughs.] We need people to come in and spend money. It’s nice to have visitors; we don’t want them to move here. But, they can visit. Then, we can feel like we’re part of the District. Right now, we’re the only ones here—we can see each other everyday. This would bring a different type of visitor…They pay taxes; the stadium people will be paying taxes; the vendors will pay for their licenses. It will bring in revenue, so Ward 8 can pay its fair share, because right now, we don’t have much to pay in taxes.
-Sandra Seegars, candidate for Ward 8 Councilmember
I’m always in favor of development and improvement. If you start addressing the quality of life issues first, then I can support a soccer stadium if they were to do that. But, I don’t support anything with this cost. I mean look at the stadium across the river. I’m not in favor of throwing the money in the black hole again. Take care of what needs to be taken care of now, and that’s the people that are here now, not the people, who when you do your projection at the office of planning, and see the type of income that it’s going to sustain the community, blah-bidee-blah, 10, 15 years later. You know, we’re talking now: I would like to see more than one hospital and nursing homes. The two nursing homes that I know over here are horrible. Let’s fix them. Let’s staff them. We’re talking about mental health clinics, recreation centers, low income housing.
-David Brown, resident for 30 years
I’ve been to meetings. I’ve heard people’s pros and cons, and I’ve pretty much been against it from the beginning. And now that I’ve heard it’s going to be built partially with public funds, I’m even more against it. I’m a real outdoorsey type person. Once you lay concrete, it’s hard to take it up, and have a natural setting again, and even though they’re proposing it’s going to have a low impact design, it’s still going to be a major impact on the environment. It’s going to be an impact on the river—and we all know what condition that that’s in. Poplar Point is such a small area, for one. And I know people think visitors are going to be using the Metro, but the stadium’s still going to bring so much traffic. Plus, with everything else they’re going to build on Poplar Point—the area’s not that big.
-Crystal Banks, lifelong Southeast resident