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Among the many hurdles to the successful completion of a deal to build a soccer stadium at Buzzard Point has been the attempt by D.C. United and neighbors of the stadium site to reach a community benefits agreement. Neighbors and organizers initially sought a package of community benefits that would total more than $5 million at the start, and potentially more over the ensuing decades, to fund job training, street improvements, housing preservation, and other projects. The team and city officials rejected the idea of such extensive (and expensive) benefits, leading Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council coordinator Felicia Couts to call the response a “slap in the face.”
Two months later, the two sides have reached a deal.
It’s not quite what the neighbors requested. According to team spokesman Craig Stouffer, D.C. United has committed to continuing its soccer program at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, partnering with local organizations to distribute game tickets to local children, buying ads in the Southwester newspaper, and making the stadium available for community use three days a year. The team will also try to create a summer job program for teens and young adults and work on vendor partnerships for small businesses in the community, among other targets in the deal.
“In the end, I think we found different ways to help serve the needs of what they’re looking for,” says Stouffer. “It was a process that we had to go through to make sure that we helped educate them on the kinds of things that were in our wheelhouse, the things D.C. United does best and can help with. We were trying to do things in that manner, rather than create things that weren’t core to what D.C. United does.”
Separately, as part of the broader stadium deal, the D.C. Council yesterday passed a package of community benefits from the city, providing funding for additional Circulator service, a renovation of the Randall Recreation Center, and a workforce intermediary for jobs connected to the stadium construction and related development.
Couts says that by separating the negotiations with the team and with the city, neighbors were able to get more of what they wanted. “We didn’t get everything we asked for, but we still were able to get some benefits from the District of Columbia, which I see as a win,” she says. “Is it a big huge $5 million deal? No, not necessarily. But the aggregate of it is quite valuable in our eyes.”
Between yesterday’s Council passage of the stadium deal and financing and today’s announcement of the community benefits agreement, two of the biggest roadblocks to the eventual construction of the stadium have been overcome. Others still remain. The city needs to acquire all the land needed for the stadium site, and following Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser‘s decision to remove a land swap with developer Akridge from the deal, the city will have to negotiate an agreement for Akridge’s Buzzard Point land or seize it through eminent domain.
More community benefits from D.C. United could still be on the way. “We see this as the starting point,” says Stouffer. “This isn’t the end all be all of what we’re going to do together. It lays the foundation of a working relationship.”
“I see this as the beginning of a great relationship,” says Couts.
Rendering via D.C. United