THERE’S A BETTER ARENA site.
I don’t know a better way to finance the arena, but I do know where a better site is. Like Gund Arena in Cleveland, it is on the edge of downtown, not wedged between historical districts. I’m talking about the east side of 5th Street between L and K Streets NW. It has several advantages. Like the Gallery Place site, it is city-owned redevelopment land, but with more acreage; it is close to two major highways, New York Avenue and I-395; and it is next to the historic and vacant Steuart Motors Building (imagine a historic parking garage being restored and converted into, of all things, a parking garage).
The overriding advantage to the alternate site is its traditional appropriateness. The alternate site is the location of the former Northern Market (also known as Convention Hall, and later used as a wax museum). The site has always been used for recreational purposes, even hosting world-championship boxing matches and housing a bowling alley. How fitting it would be if this site could once again be used for such sporting events. Also, the alternate Northern Market site would not conflict with historical interests like the Gallery Place site does. The current status of the alternate site is an abyss effectively separating downtown from the residential neighborhoods to the north. At the Northern Market site, the arena has the potential to act as a link between downtown and residences; at least an arena would be a better link than a gravel field.
Granted, the Northern Market site is not on top of a Metro line, but there is one three blocks away (Mount Vernon Square-UDC)—a walk shorter than the one for Metro-using Redskins fans. Hey, if Gallery Place advocates can pretend their site would have no impact on surrounding historic structures, I can pretend that people actually still walk. Another thing is that at Gallery Place the architects would have to consider the Metrorail tunnel below the surface; there is no such hindrance at the Northern Market site, and they could even put a parking garage under the arena.
Wake up Abe! The Northern Market site offers a bigger area, better highway access, more parking revenue potential, less hassle from historic architecture protectors, and historical appropriateness.