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Development around Nationals Stadium seems to have reached a tipping point where, after years of moaning about how it hadn’t delivered on D.C.’s up-front investment, the press has pronounced the ballpark a success. Post writer Marc Fisher pegged the story to the Nats’ winning record, and most recently, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Kaid Benfield declared that “baseball-oriented development seems, at last, to be working.”
Talk about 20/20 hindsight!
Of course, the stadium had something to do with the growth of the neighborhood, and certainly seems to be paying back its construction cost in the form of sales taxes. Little else would regularly bring tens of thousands of people in from Virginia to spend money in the District on a regular basis, as Fisher noted. But is it responsible for all those buildings sprouting up around it?
Let’s not forget, investment had started in the Capitol Riverfront before the ballpark, including the revitalization of Capper Carrollsburg public housing and several large office buildings, like the Department of Transportation headquarters (check JDLand’s excellent project archive for the timeline). It’s kicked back into gear recently because financing has freed up and previously-planned projects are coming off the shelf, not because the Nationals are at the top of the league.
As for retail and restaurants: The stadium had been operating for years before Forest City announced tenants for the Boilermaker Shops, which will be pretty much the first non-chain eating options the neighborhood has to offer (the Lerners couldn’t even lease a street-level space in their own building). Game-goers will frequent those restaurants from April through October, but they wouldn’t have been remotely viable without the year-round presence of officeworkers and new residents at the Foundry Lofts. I’m willing to bet their decisions to buy new condos have a lot more to do with proximity to a Metro stop, the gorgeous new Yards Park, and an incoming grocery store than the presence of a baseball stadium.
The baseball stadium is clearly an economic benefit to the city, especially when the Nats are winning. But crediting the stadium with the creation of a new neighborhood is just too convenient: With D.C. on the rise, for a transit-served area between Capitol Hill and the waterfront, it was only a matter of time. Even A. James Clark, who built the stadium, said as much in 2006.
“Development is going to happen quickly there,” he told the Washington Post, “because Washington doesn’t have any more land.”
Photo by Lydia DePillis