Housing Complex

Who Owns the Buzzard Point Scrapyard? Ultimately, It Doesn’t Matter.

Could this block the stadium deal? Probably not.

Could this block the stadium deal? Probably not.

WAMU's Patrick Madden has caused a stir this morning with his report that one of the property owners at Buzzard Point, the Super Salvage scrapyard, may be unwilling to move in order to make way for a D.C. United soccer stadium. The city is responsible for assembling the necessary land at Buzzard Point for a stadium as part of the deal negotiated with the team and other Buzzard Point property owners. And if the facility won't move, Madden writes, the deal "might be sent to the scrap heap."

There's some confusion as to who, exactly, owns the scrapyard. City records say it's Super Salvage; so does Super Salvage's owner. But investor and Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein bought an option on the property in 2005, and most reporting so far has treated the property as his. Tony Robinson, spokesman for City Administrator Allen Lew, who negotiated the deal on the city's behalf, says the city's treating Super Salvage as the owner.

Super Salvage Chief Financial Officer Bob Bullock, who told Madden that the scrapyard would be reluctant to move, says that since he talked to Madden, he learned that the company's president has a "close relationship" with Ein and would likely be willing to sell the property to him.

"I think, having received a lot of money from Mark, we probably would feel very good about picking up the threads of that prior relationship," Bullock says, referring to renewing the option, which he says expired several years ago. "I don’t think that we would turn him down."

But ultimately, from the perspective of the stadium, the ownership of the scrapyard doesn't really matter. Because if Super Salvage won't move willingly, the city will take the property by eminent domain.

"Ultimately the city will exercise eminent domain to acquire any pieces we can’t acquire," Lew told me in a recent interview. Lew says he'd prefer not to use eminent domain, but will resort to it if the city can't find another way to assemble all the property.

It wouldn't be the first time the city used eminent domain to build a stadium. In 2005, the city seized property from 16 landowners to build Nationals Park. The stadium opened in 2008, although the lawsuits dragged on until 2009. Presumably, seizing property from a single owner at Buzzard Point would be a simpler process, allowing the stadium progress to move forward even if the legal disputes continued.

"We have a really, really tight schedule," said Lew, referring to the deadlines laid out in the term sheet he signed with D.C. United. "We can’t afford a two-year delay. It would throw everything off."

So while the ownership of that parcel will affect the tenor of the negotiations, it's unlikely to affect its ultimate outcome. A scrapyard probably can't stand in the way of one of the biggest development deals the city's ever seen.

Update 1:55 p.m.: Lew said at a press conference this morning, "At one point, we were under the impression that Mark Ein controlled that site. And it turned out his option had expired." Thanks to my excellent colleague Will Sommer, who was present at the press conference.

  • Colin

    Eminent domain to help a private company build a stadium -- not exactly critical infrastructure -- is sickening.

  • drez

    The 2008 CP article seems to indicate that Ein's option to develop that parcel expires in late 2014.

  • Kevin

    @Colin: What's more sickening is that the owner of a freakin' scrapyard would prevent a major project that could jumpstart development of a rundown part of the city that sorely needs it. As long as he gets fair market value it sounds like a perfect use of eminent domain to me.

  • miacane86

    Eminent domain isn't sickening when used properly, and to convert a blighted area into a great one? Bring it on.

  • Eric

    Amused that they will use eminent domain on an small employee-owned business but negotiates a "fair deal" with uber rich developers. Why not just take it all through eminent domain?

  • Kevin

    @Eric: Amused that you don't appear to know what eminent domain means The city must pay fair market value (approved by a court) and the owner must sell. They are not simply taking the land.

  • DC Boy

    Eminent domain would result in DC owning the land, not DC United. That major fact seems to always get lost in the conversation.

  • Colin

    @Kevin it's his land, he should be able to do as he likes with it. With that attitude, would love to see the government take something that belongs to you and turn it over to a private company to see how you like it. I'm sure that this guy would be willing to sell for the right price, but hey, why bother when you can just take it while compensating him with whatever you think is correct.

  • Mike Madden

    @ DC Boy: D.C. plans to own the land and lease it to D.C. United for $1 a year, so eminent domain would still fit with those plans.

  • Mike not madden

    This is an abuse of government power. Are the people who work at the scrapyard going to be given minimum wage jobs selling gourmet hotdogs to yuppie soccer fans or just turned onto the street?

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