On Thursday morning in the Wilson Building just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, three D.C. Council committees will hold a joint hearing on the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014. Which is to say, they'll hold a hearing on the proposed plan that would allow D.C. United to build a new stadium on Buzzard Point in Southwest DC. I will be testifying at the hearing on Thursday, and if you're interested in helping to turn the stadium from a dream into a reality, I strongly recommend you join me - go to UniteDC.org to sign up to testify.
I've posted the testimony I plan to deliver below. Each witness has five minutes of time (or possibly as little as three, if enough people sign up to speak), and I have necessarily limited my thoughts to just one of the many angles from which one can approach the stadium plan. I am sure others will focus more on the club's history on the field and in the community or the unsustainable situation they face in historic but obsolete RFK Stadium or deeper financial details of the proposed deal, but I have focused on the rare opportunity this deal presents to the District of Columbia.
Chairman Mendelson, Council Members Evans and McDuffie, and members of the Council:
My name is Adam Taylor. I have been a resident of DC for the last eight years, living in several wards along the way, including Ward 5, where I now reside. I met my wife here in DC, and we are raising our family in the city. I am testifying today to express my strong support for the proposed stadium plan on Buzzard Point and for the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014.
The proposed plan would leverage city assets to unleash more than $150 million of private investment in a forgotten part of the city that currently sits as an industrial backwater anachronous to the rest of the District. This plan will knit together two rapidly developing neighborhoods and connect the city to its waterfront in a way that has not been possible in the past. It will return a valuable parcel to the tax rolls and move city agencies out of an antiquated building and into a new facility in a neighborhood East of the River that needs daytime population in exactly the same way that U Street did in the 1980s.
Buzzard Point presents a unique opportunity for the District. Sandwiched between the Southwest Waterfront and Capitol RiverFront neighborhoods and adjacent to Nationals Park, the potential it represents is enormous. But without a catalyst to draw people to the area and signal to developers that its time has come, Buzzard Point will remain a hole in the urban fabric, an un-bridged gap between two booming sections of our waterfront. The soccer stadium is that needed catalyst. By investing the money into land acquisition and infrastructure costs, the city will set the stage for a privately financed $150 million stadium, plus additional investment and development in the surrounding parts of Buzzard Point.
The proposed plan also protects the city's interests. By retaining title to the land under the stadium, the city will be in the position to realize any and all increases in the value of that property over the course of the stadium lease. By capping the government's tab at $150 million, the proposal will ensure that taxpayers are not on the hook for any cost overruns. A Project Labor Agreement is already in place, guaranteeing that DC residents will find good jobs through construction and operation of the stadium. Assessments by three different independent appraisers will ensure the city receives fair value for the Reeves Center.
The proposal is not a handout or a giveaway; it is an investment by the city. Without this investment, Buzzard Point will remain an underutilized hole in our city's landscape. If the Council decides to forego this opportunity, not only will the District miss out on massive private investment in Southwest, our city will also be stuck with a scar through what should be a continuous waterfront neighborhood spanning both Southeast and Southwest. Instead of residents and retail outlets - and, of course, a stadium hosting dozens of events each year - the area would remain a missed opportunity for years to come.
The proposed plan puts D.C. United and its owners in a position to make a nine-figure bet on the future of Buzzard Point and the District of Columbia. That money will not be invested in the city without stage-setting investment. Without this plan, the Reeves Center property will remain off the city's tax rolls; the public employees who work there will remain in an outdated building, and the District will continue paying the ballooning upkeep costs of a building that has outlasted its usefulness.
Without the plan's proposal to build a new Reeves Center in Anacostia, there is no reason to think that neighborhood will receive the injection of investment and daytime population that the original Reeves Center provided in the revitalization of U Street and 14th Street.
This plan is that rare thing in city development: the opportunity to create a new neighborhood and increase city revenue without displacing a single DC resident. Buzzard Point today is aptly named, but this plan will trigger private investment that will transform the area from desolate to destination. The various parts of the proposed plan come together to produce a whole that will be good for the city. Not just one neighborhood or even one ward, but several areas in three wards on both sides of the Anacostia River. Yes, there are costs involved with the proposed plan, but the opportunity costs of not moving forward are much greater.
I strongly encourage your respective committees and the full Council to pass this enabling legislation.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this morning.
To any DC residents reading: I hope you'll join me and others who will be testifying on Thursday morning. Please to check out the hearing details at Chairman Mendelson's website, go read the legislation, and sign up to speak on Thursday. Remember: Tuesday COB is the deadline to sign up to be heard.