Housing Complex

(Almost) Nothing Is Happening At Reservation 13

The first thing to know about last night's meeting with Mayor Vince Gray and the Hill East community on the future of Reservation 13 is that there is no news.

The Redskins haven't indicated their willingness to move their training center from Ashburn, Va., to the area around RFK Stadium. Gray said he hasn't even talked to the team much since going to explore a similar facility down in Tampa Bay, Fla., which he did because Maryland and Virginia had already made their own pitches for the team's relocation. And in fact, Gray thinks it's "unfortunate" that news of the trip came out at all.

"Nobody wants to bring out anything that is half baked to a community. I think the worst that you could ever do is bring out a proposal to somebody, and there are more questions than there are answers," he told several hundred residents in the vast, echoing D.C. Armory space. "That's one of the reasons why there was no community meeting around this, because there was nothing to present, and there still is nothing to present."

What's more, he said, even if there were solid interest from the Redskins, the 2003 master plan would have to be updated and the site would have to be rezoned in order for anything to actually get built.

Here's what Gray has done: Told the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to ask the two developers that had responded to a request for proposals for their best and final offers on the site. But that doesn't mean anything will happen, since the project needs something big to get it rolling. "We need a catalyst for development in Hill East," Gray said. "I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's a training facility or what."

That's the inconvenient truth of this whole business: Reservation 13 currently houses uses that are very difficult to relocate, including the largest family shelter in the city, a meth clinic, and a jail. What's more, out of the big six projects on D.C.'s to-do list, all of them—the Southwest Waterfront, McMillan, Walter Reed, and St. Elizabeths—are ahead of Hill East in the pipeline, with the exception of Poplar Point. Even with the interest of private developers, the site would likely need significant public investment for infrastructure, which the city isn't ready to offer up right now. That's why, as Gray put it, there is "little interest in moving forward with the entire site." So as long as the city has other projects to work on, might as well keep the Redskins on the table for Hill East.

But there seems to be a fundamental disjuncture in Gray's pitch. He and the three councilmembers on the stage with him—Jack Evans, Yvette Alexander, and Michael Brown—take as an article of faith that anybody else cares about bringing the Redskins to Washington (the councilmember who used to represent the site before redistricting, Ward 6's Tommy Wells, couldn't make the meeting after it was rescheduled). Over and over again, they professed their Skins fandom, and expressed indignation that the "Washington" Redskins never set foot in the District. "Nothing hurt me more than when the Washington Redskins moved to Landover, Maryland," said Alexander. Gray appealed for unity: "If we banded together and said that we want our team back, and worked together I honestly believe that that would happen, rather than battling over a non-existent plan at this stage."

Those lines fell flat.

Evans, who has been the most vocal in his desire to lure the franchise, tried to make a more substantive case for the scheme. He outlined his theory of the four things that make a successful city: Neighborhoods, arts, retail, and sports facilities (no mention of education, as Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7A chair Villareal Johnson noted later). He talked about the transit benefits of having a stadium on a Metro stop, rather than in a place only accessible by car. And he recalled opposition to the Verizon Center and Nationals Park, which he said have both generated tremendous returns.

But those arguments really only apply to a stadium that would draw crowds, which isn't even in play at the moment, and wouldn't be until 2027, when the Redskins' lease expires at FedEx field.

So, what's the benefit of a training facility? Brown, who had visited the one in Tampa, said it meshed really well with the surrounding neighborhood, and generated needed jobs. Gray even tried to argue that since professional athletes tend to live near where they practice, rather than where they play, the District might even recapture some income taxes from their multi-million-dollar salaries. (I'm pretty sure that building several hundred homes there has a more reliable return on investment).

Moreover, everybody said, bringing a training facility wouldn't mean that other elements of the plans envisioned for Reservation 13—housing, retail, offices, a hospital—couldn't happen. But as Mike DeBonis has outlined, there would sure be a lot less space for all that stuff.

Hill Easters may have been reassured that no deals had been made without their consent. But it's safe to say that the folks who've organized around Reservation 13 for years were not reassured by the language coming out of the Councilmember who now has jurisdiction over the site. Even as Gray talked about avoiding a turf battle over the future of the site, Ward 7's Alexander wasted no time in bringing up the still-raw memory of redistricting, noting that Ward 7 residents hadn't cared much about gaining a piece of land that only had prison inmates for population.

"Oh, how the tables turn," she gloated. "Now Reservation 13 is being pulled and tugged among both Ward 6 and Ward 7, because everyone realizes now what a great opportunity it is....So I'm very pleased to see Ward 6 and Ward 7 together. But let me be perfectly clear, that now that Reservation 13 is in Ward 7, I will wholeheartedly listen, first and foremost, to the residents of Ward 7."

"You can clap for that, Ward 7," Alexander said, to almost inaudible applause. That kind of pandering is to be expected from someone in a fight to keep her job, I suppose.

All in all, a frustrating evening for Hill East. A couple of times, Gray tried to throw them a bone by talking about revitalizing the Eastern Branch Boys and Girls Club, which has sat vacant for three years. It may be all that he's able to offer.

  • Skipper

    It was an absolutely pathetic meeting led by a political eunuch. Alexander's statements had to be some of the most politically stupid things she could have possibly said on the matter. And remember - she's in office because Gray put her there. That Jack Evans - who never met a tax abatement for a political buddy he didn't love - and Michael Brown - who has no problem raising other people's taxes, but forgetting to pay his own - are the main cheerleaders of this idiocy about says it all.

    It's really over for Gray. Who ever his political advisors are should be fired for incompetence.

    One City. Fifth Amendment. Zero Standards.

  • http://www.dclikealocal.com Tim Krepp

    I pretty much agree with Skipper. The Mayor was combative and dismissive. He seemed to have a sense that this meeting was beneath him. Yvette Alexander was almost intentionally insulting to Ward 6 residents. The only good takeaway was that clearly if these four are the backbone of bringing the Skins back, clearly it's not going to happen.

  • rg

    Ditto Skipper and Tim. The meeting was pathetic. The Mayor's arrogance boggled my mind. (Memo to DC elected officials: DC is a jurisdiction where many of your constituents are smarter and better educated than you are.) Jack Evans clearly doesn't get it. He kept trying to make the it an issue of Redskins fans versus non-Redskins fans. I like the Redskins as much as the next guy. But that's not the point Jack! The point is that when your constituents walk to the Metro, they walk through vibrant neighborhoods on streets lined with shops and services. When I walk to the Metro, I walk up a one-way street (19th)that is a freeway for Maryland commuters and past a vast and dilapidated surface parking lot for DC Government employees, most of whom are Maryland residents (ie freeloaders). Redeveloping Reservation 13 is clearly a difficult task. I get that. But the Stadium Armory Metro Station has been open nearly 40 years! And there has been a master plan for the site for nearly a decade. Think of what Arlington would have done with a similar parcel of land by now.

    Brian Flahaven was the star of the show. You could tell towards the end that Gray and Evans were frustrated at having been so thoroughly schooled in the game of retail politics by a mere ANC Commissioner.

    As for Alexander: what a joke. I wrote a check for Tom Brown immediately after the meeting. If that is the quality of representation that Ward 7 gets, then all of us who live in Hill East should thank our lucky stars (and our ANC Commissioners)that our neighborhood remains in Ward 6!

  • Ward 1 Voter

    I just don't get the whole DC + football = love thing. We can't keep school libraries open but we can build shiny new football fields for high schools that barely dress enough players to field a team. We have a neighborhood ripe for repeating the success of NOMA or Columbia Heights, and Gray, Evans, et al. remain fixated on killing its potential with a practice facility that the R*****ns apparently have no interest in. Every couple of months Evans fantasizes out loud about building a stadium grand enough to lure the R*****ns back, as if it's the District's biggest need.

    Jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, people, it's just a dumb sport.

  • Alex

    Also, DC and Hill East in particular has changed since the Redskins last played at RFK Stadium. A vast majority of residents in Ward 6 and Hill East don't give a shit about the Redskins, as most come from different areas of the country and brought their own loyalties with them.

    I'm not making this a "longtime resdient vs new gentrifier" argument, just pointing out the obvious that pulling the "hometown pride hometown team" card is a political loser. I'm from here, and I still cheer for the Redskins, but I understand the political realities of the changing demographic.

  • Joe

    @Alex, I think the bigger point is not that people have different football alleigances, rather that it simply doesn't make sense to use that land for a football training facility, no matter what team. There were plenty of people there last night who like and support the team, but don't do so at the expense of their neighborhood and the city itself. There's simply no benefit to anyone, except to a few councilmembers' egos, to putting a training facility there. And God knows CM's egos don't need any more encouragement.

  • ArtBook

    The earlier comments have captured the essence of the meeting very well. The mayor and the council members were remarkably uninformed about the real estate they had come to the meeting to discuss. The two ANC commissioners were vastly more impressive than the mayor, et al. Perhaps the mayor was distracted by fears of a criminal indictment, but it was surprising to see his disgust with the people who wanted to know what he is planning for their community. Ms. Alexander fired a bazooka through that One City idea. Evans and Michael Brown want to build a new stadium and don't care what anyone else thinks. Like the mayor, they could not hide their distaste for the taxpaying citizens who attended the meeting.

  • PissedA$$He77

    The WARD 7 and WARD 6 ANCs had good intentions when planning this meeting! Thanks for planning it!

    The Mayor and the CMs acted as the Redskins biggest fans. I left the meeting feeling that these clowns would do anything to bring the Redskins back to DC.

    No offense....the Redskins can go to He77! We do not want them back in our community!

    The Mayor and the CMs looked like a bunch of stressed out fools! They all need to go to jail!

  • RT

    I am a Redskins fan, but no training facility should go there. It's a waste of land- clearly not the highest and best use. For the interim, one at the Pepco facility across the river would be fine. Nothing is going to happen there for a long, long time.

  • cc

    Wow. I'm on board with exactly what everyone else has said.

  • Mud-n-Cleats

    Here's a quick read on the Redskins and Robert Griffin III,

    http://voices.yahoo.com/the-washington-redskins-robert-griffin-iii-11037642.html?cat=14

    If you took the time to take a look, thank you!

  • John

    There are also a ton of Beatles fans in DC. Using Evans/Gray logic, we should off res 13 to Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr to use for mansions and recording studios. After all, the highly paid pair, their satff, and studio techs will then spend money here too.

    #idiocy

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  • Alex35332

    Look, I love the Redskins, a big part of my childhood. And if the plan was to build a modern stadium for them to move into with offices for the team, along with a few practice fields. Then I would say go for it, that would make perfect sense.

    But that is not the plan.

    Mixed use residential and commercial is a better option, though there is still nothing down there in that part of DC to draw people too it, that needs to be figured out.

    I do find it Ironic that they had the meeting in the Armory which is in desperate need to be torn down and replaced with something useful. I have always thought they should rip that thing down for the soccer stadium DC United wants so bad.

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  • Concerned

    "We need a catalyst for development in Hill East," Gray said. "I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's a training facility or what.". There is your mayor ladies and gentleman.

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