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There’s a lot of pavement where—if all goes according to plan—the next home of D.C. United will be come spring 2018, in Southwest’s historically industrial Buzzard Point neighborhood.
But on Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser appeared to glimpse that future, climbing into an excavator and helping to bore a hole in a rickety shed standing on the site near Second and S streets SW. At the height of the staged demolition, spectators who’d gathered—around 50 in all—let out cheers, goaded on by a person wearing a Screaming Eagles costume, the soccer team’s primary fan group. During prepared remarks, Bowser described the project as “a great deal for D.C. residents” that local officials had fought for.
The stadium, she said, would bring “1,000 construction and permanent jobs” to Buzzard Point, and Ward 6 residents would get priority in applying for them. D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, who represents Southwest, said the site presents “an opportunity to rethink the way Buzzard Point is revitalized,” noting its proximity to the Anacostia River. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner characterized the eventual arena as a catalyst—with over “$1 billion in economic activity” expected from it.
The Department of General Services will perform the horizontal construction (including infrastructure) for the $300 million, 20,000-seat stadium. The executive had to file eminent domain for a parcel of land involved in the project last September.
“Let me just say, D.C. loves its sports teams,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told the crowd. “In 2014, there were a lot of folks who said the Council was never going to approve this, and we did.” He added that the Council would act as a “partner” with the administration in ensuring that the project gets built out.
Asked about the future use of RFK Stadium, where D.C. United currently plays, Bowser told reporters that she was “very pleased at all the possibilities” local sports authority Events D.C. released earlier this month. (“I think we should be open to a number of possibilities,” she said; some wonder if it’ll be used for football.)
Just outside the lot, a small group of protestors—some wearing breathing masks—voiced worry about the possible environmental impacts from the construction of the new stadium. India Fuller, a resident of the quadrant who was wearing a shirt from advocacy group Empower D.C., said she didn’t want to be exposed to “asbestos” and other contaminants from the development. She added that she wasn’t confident that the jobs being promised by the District would benefit her community. (At the demolition, officials said they would hire a Ward 6 community liaison who would connect neighborhood residents to job opportunities.)
“I’m a Washingtonian,” Fuller said. “I like sports. But I like my life more than sports.”
In a brief interview with City Desk, Mendelson said he’s concerned that the project could fall behind schedule (which, he noted, “doesn’t mean it will”). Still, he said the final deal brokered between the District and D.C. United is better than had been the case initially. As for the future of RFK: “It’s too soon to say.”
The Buzzard Point development was the subject of a City Paper cover story last June.
Photos by Andrew Giambrone