The Washington Post ran a long feature yesterday on the D.C. United stadium battle, most of it focused around Ed Lazere, the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute director who led the charge to raise questions about the Washington Nationals stadium deal, and who is now doing the same on the soccer plan. Aside from some background on Lazere himself (best quote: “They couldn’t find someone who would be willing to come on as executive director for as little money as me”), there is some unusually cold-eyed (for the Post) analysis of the neighborhood impact of Nationals Park:
Council members including Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), chair of the finance committee and one who often plays Lazere’s foil, frequently attribute the resurgence in near Southeast to the ballpark. But development has been as stop-and-go as the team’s progress. Although some 650 apartments are under construction, surface parking lots are still abundant, a massive hole remains on Half Street from a failed development deal and an office building nearby has been empty since the day it was completed two-and-a-half years ago.
That’s certainly in line with what I saw when I visited two years ago, and also in line with what many other stadium “ballpark villages” have seen as far as stalled development. Not that nothing is being built near Nationals Park, but given the white-hot D.C. development market, 650 new apartments plus a hole in the ground isn’t all that much to write home about.
The Post story also wonders aloud whether anyone on the council will take up the cause of questioning the soccer numbers, and councilmember (and mayoral candidate) Muriel Bowser seems a possibility:
She said to win her support a soccer deal will have to justify spending on the stadium over other needs. “I’ve got to be able to explain to people that we are going to spend $150 million in one part of the city for 17 games and not rebuild schools elsewhere. I have to explain to people that we’re not going to rebuild Calvin Coolidge High School, but we are going to go ahead with the stadium,” she said.