DC United Stadium rendering.
The proposed trade of the Reeves Center, what many at a meeting Wednesday night called the heart of the U Street corridor, for a swath of land at Buzzard Point in Southwest to make way for a new DC United Stadium could be the piece that kills the deal, according to Councilmember Jim Graham.
“I know the Reeves Center was put into this deal to facilitate soccer, I’m really wondering if it’s really going to sink soccer ” said Graham whose comments came during an hours-long public round table at the U Street government building.
Committee on Economic Development Chair Muriel Bowser organized two round tables to get additional public feedback on the series of land deals that would allow the District to secure enough land at Buzzard Point for a new major league soccer stadium with accompanying retail and commercial buildings.
The District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014 puts the District government in charge of acquiring the necessary land for the stadium and later for infrastructure such as new roads and sidewalks surrounding the soccer stadium and relocating utilities.
The Reeves Center at the corner of 14th and U streets, NW is the subject of a land exchange between the District and developer Akridge. Akridge owns two acres of property in Southwest that comprises about 29% of the soccer site, according to Akridge President Matt Klein. Under the proposed landswap agreement that SW property is valued at $21.1 million. The Reeves Center was valued at just under $55.6 million, so Akridge would pay the District about $34.5 million to make up the difference.
A new Reeves Center is proposed to be built on District property in Anacostia.
However, several public witnesses Wednesday objected to the valuation of the Reeves Center. The Mayor’s office has said the value–the result of independent appraisals by three different appraisers–is fair.
The council recently awarded a contract for “a detailed cost benefit analysis of the real estate transactions proposed in the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014.” The final report is due in September.
“If we put this building up for auction, I wonder what those bid would be,” said Graham. “I am quite sure that they would come from all over the world.”
Harry Wingo, the CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce, however, said he thought the deal was carefully negotiated and would have benefits felt throughout the city.
Graham softened a bit at one point noting he is “encouraged” by the conversations he has had with Akridge. He said the developer is trying to make sure whatever they might develop at the location is something the community supports. Community members in attendance and community organizations previously have repeatedly said they do not want more high-end residential, but rather daytime, commercial activity, which the Reeves Center currently offers.
Developers in attendance and advocates for the deal, however, believe the current arrangement is one that can work for everyone and that going for the highest bidder is not necessarily the best deal for the city.
“When you are sitting across the table, making deals … sometimes you take the best deal. Money is very inconsequential when it comes to big, mega project,” said Ramesh Butani, President of HRGM Corporation. Butani’s company constructed the current Reeves Center.
He sees the relocation of the workers and resources currently housed on U Street to Anacostia and the catalyst that neighborhood has been waiting for.
For that very reason, however, Mike Silverstein, ANC Commissioner for ANC 2B, asked the council to consider the impact of taking away U Street’s “economic engine” that keeps small businesses going thanks to the 800 some odd employees a the Reeves Center.
“Whatever you do, don’t completely uncouple the economic engine from the U Street corridor,” Silverstein pleaded.
The hearing Wednesday last several hours and included both proponents and opponents of the current deal. Bowser has organized a second hearing for Thursday in southwest.
The Council will have ultimate decision on whether or not the deal in its current form is approved.