Here we go again. Let’s plop some giant unworkable scheme down in Reservation 13. This morning, Washington awoke to a front page article in the Post entitled, “D.C. opens new drive to lure Redskins back.” So we’ve got to do this all over again. Let’s see how many ways this is a monumentally dumb idea:
1. A free or discounted lease, as the Post reports as a possible lure to the Redskins, would represent a huge loss of potential revenue. This tract of land needs to be commercially developed to provide tax revenue to a growing city that desperately needs and wants to invest in education, transportation, job training, and the myriad of other things that are real priorities for the residents of DC. In fact, transferring Reservation 13 from the federal government to DC was done specifically to increase the tax base of the city.
2. The “District is in a challenging fiscal environment now & publicly funded stadium not possible.” Hmm, never mind, that only applies to soccer.
3. A football stadium is a bad idea, developmentally speaking. It gets used about a dozen times a year, with maybe a few more concerts and special events thrown in. 100,000 people descending for half a day only a few times a year does not produce the consistent sidewalk traffic needed to open a restaurant or bar. Not to mention that tailgating, and hence acres and acres of desolate surface parking, is ingrained in football culture.
4. Furthermore, we’re not even talking a stadium (yet). This is simply a training facility, with a handful of employees year-round. The available space will be taken up by fields and parking lots that do nothing for the community.
5. Not to mention, this is where we WANT bars and restaurants to go. Reservation 13 has the potential to be an extension of Capitol Hill all the way to the River. I want new retail space. I want new restaurants. I want new neighbors, affordable housing and market rate alike. I want them joining our community (and paying taxes!).
6. This completely mishandles a real attempt to put in motion Mayor Gray’s One City mantra. One of the most disappointing elements of the Great Redistricting War of 2011 was the chasm it exposed between Ward 6 and Ward 7. Part of that, I argued, was that we were not divided by a river, but rather by almost a mile of failed government projects. Acres of surface parking, highways, railroads, defunct hospitals, and so on prevent me from really engaging my Ward 7 neighbors. Why add another? The training facility, stretching from Independence Avenue south, would add yet another barrier to the River, and hence to my neighbors across it and bungles a real opportunity for us to grow closer together.
7. We’ve already paid the Federal government $5.8 million to purchase land for them elsewhere to build a congressional postal sorting facility, and free up the space for commercial development. We did that for the Redskins?
I have nothing against the Redskins… well, except for their history of overt racial discrimination; for their owner who bullies local newspapers (badly); and for their continued use of an offensive name. Many people, including clearly the Mayor, have fond memories of the team, and I respect fans who cheer their local team. Past wrongs can be addressed (and in many ways have been); the team could be sold and name could be changed; and this would remain a profoundly bad idea.
The Mayor, Jack Evans, and Michael Brown secretly visited Tampa to check out the Buccaneers facility, and have been in talks with Dan Snyder for some time, but have yet to come to Hill East to explain this very significant change to our neighborhood. This week, the Mayor announced that he will belatedly come to Hill East to engage residents:
Monday, March 26, 2012
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Eastern High School
1700 East Capitol Street NE
Now, I’m not really worried that I’ll wake up one day to find cranes building a new stadium. No less a figure than Marion Barry has said this is “fantasy land”. Tommy Wells is right on target in today’s Post article by being “adamantly opposed” because, “it deprives the Hill East neighborhood of a development vision that had been promised.” Other jurisdictions, namely Loudoun and Prince George’s Counties, are clamoring for a chance to build a facility there. No, I imagine this is simply Dan Sydner holding the football for Mayor Gray’s Charlie Brown.
The real danger isn’t that the Redskins come to Reservation 13. The real danger is that Reservation 13, a long promised boon to Wards 6 and 7, will be delayed yet again for nothing better than a vanity project.