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Stadium Complements Waterfront Plans

Years before Major League Baseball even considered bringing a team back to Washington, the groundwork for what eventually will become the site of a new stadium in Southeast D.C. had already been laid.

In March of 2000, 20 federal and District agencies came together to sign a memorandum of understanding that sketched out the future of planning and development goals in Washington for the next 25 years. That plan, known as the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, focuses on revitalizing more than 3,000 acres of land in Southeast Washington to make it a new destination location in the District.

Today, city planners are celebrating the prospect of adding a brand-new baseball stadium to the Southeast waterfront area and see the new facility as a major anchor in the city’s ongoing development plans.

“We have said all along, bring major entertainment facilities to the waterfront. And the South Capitol site was a prime location to do that,” said Andy Altman, D.C. Office of Planning director. “I think what it shows is that Major League Baseball said this waterfront initiative is really exciting and really happening.”

Altman said the new stadium, which will be bounded by South Capitol, M, P and First streets Southeast, will only complement plans already in the works to reconnect the city with the Anacostia River, make the Southeast waterfront a destination location and diversify the neighborhood. A development scenario that included a waterfront baseball stadium has been in the hands of the Office of Planning officials for at least two years, Altman said.

“You’re not putting it there and hoping the ballpark will spur development, it completes the Southeast waterfront,” he said. “What it does is it accelerates the pace of the revitalization of the Anacostia waterfront. It adds a huge boost to the effort and energy and investment.”

According to Dan Tangherlini, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, plans already in the works to redevelop the South Capitol Street corridor and refurbish, and eventually replace, the Frederick Douglass Bridge are even more important now that the stadium will sit at one of the major gateways into the city.

“I think it was a good decision on the part of Major League Baseball to not make the mistake the NFL did to move the Redskins out to the suburbs. It’s a nightmare to get out there,” Tangherlini said in reference to the Redskins’ FedEx Field in Landover, Md. “We want to make [the new baseball stadium] a mass transit-focused sports facility like the MCI Arena.”

To that end, Tangherlini said his department already is looking to make improvements to the existing Navy Yard Metro station — which sits just a block from the proposed site — and ensuring that other mass transit alternatives will be established in the Southeast area by the time the stadium opens for the 2008 season. A new light rail demonstration line, which planners hope eventually will complement Metrorail service throughout the city, is scheduled to begin construction in Anacostia this fall, and a new circulator bus route will begin servicing the Southeast waterfront area in the spring of 2005. And other waterfront attractions that someday will surround the stadium will help to smooth out transportation demand before and after games, Tangherlini said.

“But stadium or no stadium, the South Capitol Street bridge requires substantial investment,” he said.

On Capitol Hill, longtime supporters of the Southeast redevelopment efforts don’t want previous redevelopment efforts to be overshadowed by the proposed $440 million stadium.

According Katie Elbert, a spokeswoman for House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who has long pushed for redevelopment along South Capitol Street, the Congressman recently met with Mayor Anthony Williams to discuss the new baseball stadium, and he continues to work closely with the mayor on the impacts the stadium may have on the overall effort to restore the South Capitol Street bridge and surrounding property as a gateway to the nation’s capital.

But the new stadium will only bring increased attention to those projects, Altman assured.

“They are financed and in motion — this will just bring more attention and resources … there’s nothing that has to be scrapped,” he said.

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