Why would we possibly want this in DC? Photo by owillis on Flickr.
Mayor Gray’s office is stalling any progress on a plan to build a new mixed-use neighborhood that has widespread community support, because they’d rather turn over the land to the Washington Redskins for a practice facility that won’t do anything for the community or DC.
7 ANC commissioners met last night with Victor Hoskins, DC’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to discuss “Hill East,” also known as Reservation 13. After a long process with thorough public participation, DC created a plan to build a “vibrant, mixed-use urban waterfront community” on 50 acres of the site.
Based on reports from ANC commissioner Brian Flahaven, it appears that vibrancy and tree-lined public streets are taking a back seat to large empty football field-sized spaces closed to the public:
The Mayor’s Office is continuing to negotiate with Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins to build a training facility at Reservation 13. Until the outcome of the negotiations is determined, any development plans for Reservation 13 remain on hold.
Commissioners strongly pushed back that the community must be involved in the decision about a training facility on the site and expressed frustration that the Mayor is not seeking feedback from residents. Deputy Mayor Hoskins said that his office is not involved in the negotiations. …
The Deputy Mayor said his office should know whether the city will pursue a training facility or continue with the current development plans in 30 days. If plans for a training facility do not move forward, he said that the city would return to development plans approved by the community. … The Deputy Mayor also said that any training facility proposal would have to be consistent with the zoning for the site. …
All 9 Commissioners, representing Wards 6 & 7, agreed that Mayor Gray needs to come out to the community and explain how a potential training facility fits into the master development plan agreed to by residents.
It’s possible to vaguely imagine a way that a practice facility could be part of a mixed-use neighborhood. For example, the Redskins could build practice fields and any necessary parking entirely underground, then put surface streets, parks, and buildings on top of them. Their offices could occupy a building with ground-floor retail that’s open to the public.
Dan Snyder could build all of this entirely with his own money, in this very urban way. But does anyone seriously believe that is possible? This is the guy who tried to charge people just to walk into his stadium instead of paying huge parking fees. Would he actually want to design practice fields that fit into a good neighborhood landscape when he has a perfectly good, entirely private facility in Ashburn?
Maybe if the District built the whole thing and gave it to him for free, he’d accept the deal, but it would be a terrible bargain for taxpayers. If he paid money for it, why would he want to spend extra money just to essentially make the facility invisible and unobtrusive?
Certain city leaders seem to believe that bringing the Redskins to DC is worth virtually any cost simply for the civic pride involved in having an NFL team inside one’s borders. We know Jack Evans has a massive blind spot for organized sports. He abhors spending government money on anything except sports facilities, where the sky’s the limit. We know that Michael Brown doesn’t know any better. We should expect better from Mayor Gray.
Correction: The original version of this article had a sentence about criticism of DMPED. However, since Hoskins said the negotiations are not coming from his office, this is not relevant. The sentence has been deleted.