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The proposal to build a D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point involves complex land swaps and a substantial city investment that some residents have criticized as fiscally imprudent. But at a community meeting hosted by the team last night in a spartan room on the eighth floor of 100 M St. SE, some neighbors’ concerns had more to do with self-preservation.
“They’re digging up the earth, are we going to fall in?” asked Donricka Walker, who lives nearby.
Team and city officials presented their plans to the neighborhood, which could be further transformed by a stadium less than a decade after the opening of Nationals Park helped bring residences and retail to Navy Yard. Neighbors’ concerns, which included parking and handling the large crowds that would come with the 20,000 seats at the new stadium, were met with explanations and plenty of charts, maps, and diagrams.
Alan Harwood, a representative of engineering and architecture firm AECOM, assured neighbors that the project would give residents more places to congregate, saying developers “want everyone to walk together and drink beer together” by giving them access to the city’s waterfront.
Walker said the explanations were good, but that she still had her worries, including dust from construction. Overall, though, she said the potential benefits of the project were “exciting” for her.
Buzzard Point will make use of the existing routes to Nationals Park, including the Navy Yard-Ballpark Metro station. Metrorail will act as the major mode of public transit to the area, though the city has proposed new Circulator, streetcar, and bus routes.
D.C. United would encourage Metro use, while adding some parking spaces and making agreements with existing parking facilities near Nationals Park. To alleviate concerns over already tight parking on game days, the team insists that street parking in the neighborhood will be protected. A planned upgrade to the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge, scheduled to be completed after the inaugural D.C. United season at Buzzard Point, would also help bring people to the stadium.
Development at Buzzard Point will be a long process (estimates are 10 to 20 years), but the end goal is a mixed-use point of attraction on the waterfront. Construction of the stadium itself is estimated to bring in nearly 1,800 construction jobs, according to the team. More than half of the jobs in the D.C. United stadium construction would go to D.C. residents. Team officials are confident that the D.C. Council will approve the deal and expect a vote after the hoopla of November elections cools down.
D.C. United community relations spokesperson Victor Melara said the deal would be a good move for the team, leading to more revenue, better players, and more outreach and advertising. Melara believes the new stadium will allow the team to capitalize on soccer’s increasing popularity after the World Cup.
Rendering via D.C. United