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Photos from Flickr
Area taken out by the ballgame
While Washington prepares for the Nationals’ first game in their new stadium, one group of Washingtonians has little to be excited about: people living and working near the stadium who have been shut out of its economic benefits.
Nationals Park is expected to generate a business boom in economically-depressed Navy Yard, and the economic benefits were touted as the major reason to spend $600 million of public money on the stadium. Most of the revenue, though, will not go to the area’s residents, because they’ve been expelled from their neighborhood by rapidly rising property taxes and a dearth of mixed-income housing.
The deluge of high-end development has unavoidably pushed out lower-income services. For example, Positive Nature, a neighborhood organization for teens, can’t afford skyrocketing property taxes and has to relocate. Not content to change just the neighborhood’s character, developers also want to change its name from Near Southeast or Navy Yard to the trite Capitol Riverfront.
Under this name, more appropriate for a gated community than a vaunted attempt at urban revitalization, the real estate companies established a Business Improvement District—a group of business and property owners who work together on area issues—to push their vision of developments late last year. Capitol Riverfront’s BID board is made up of three-, two-, and one-year memberships, with the latter two to which will be phased out by elections for three-year positions. The board’s initial three-year board members are all employees at real estate firms, limiting the voice of neighborhood residents. According to Michael Stevens, the BID’s three-year memberships were given to companies that donated money to found the BID, rather than won through elections.
“There’s really not much of a community down here,” said Stevens. “The area’s been scraped clean.” He added that besides Capitol Hill co-op buildings, there were no “stakeholders” in the community.
Models for possible developments scroll across the BID’s homepage: a Five Guys restaurant built into an office or apartment building, and a Borders ringer called Berdors. The BID’s message is clear: it wants to graft the blandest parts of M Street and the Pentagon City Mall onto “Capitol Riverfront.”
Rather than using the opportunity presented by the stadium to create a unique neighborhood that is both entertaining for visitors and livable for residents, developers and the city’s government have created another unremarkable cluster of expensive offices and apartments. Whichever team wins Saturday’s game, the District has already lost.