Wells: Affordable Housing Must Be Part of D.C. United Deal
The city's effort to complete a deal to swap public land for the site of the proposed D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point is already well behind schedule, and it's not getting any easier. Both Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham and his challenger Brianne Nadeau have pushed for an office use rather than the expected residential development at the site currently occupied by the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, which the city is likely to trade to developer Akridge, in order to boost daytime population in the nightlife hotspot of U Street. Now Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells is adding his own demands, arguing that affordable housing should be part of the new development.
"Whenever we use public assets, the No. 1 priority should be that they’re leveraged to create more affordable housing," says Wells, who isn't yet sure whether he'd vote for a stadium deal that didn't include affordable housing. He thinks the Reeves Center site, at 14th and U streets NW, would be an ideal location for affordable housing, given the increasing affordability of the neighborhood for working-class residents and the over-concentration of low-income housing in wards 7 and 8.
Akridge, which owns a parcel of land at Buzzard Point that the city needs to obtain as part of its deal with D.C. United, is likely to want to build an apartment or condo building at the Reeves Center site, given the desirability of the neighborhood and the spate of high-end residential developments that have recently been undertaken nearby. Wells says that if Akridge can't profitably build affordable housing on the site on its own, the city should be willing to chip in money to make it happen. "If we need to put some money in, so be it," he says. He expects a housing use—as opposed to office—to generate more revenue for the city in the long run because new residents contribute income, property, and sales taxes, which he calls "the trifecta."
Wells' desire for affordable housing as part of the deal, which he's expressed to City Administrator Allen Lew, who's negotiating the deal with D.C. United, dovetails with a recent bill introduced by Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. That bill would require the creation of affordable housing when the city sells or leases public land for residential development. Wells says he supports McDuffie's bill, but in its absence, he wants to ensure that affordable housing is part of the stadium deal.
Separately, Wells is pushing for the Circulator bus service to be expanded to Buzzard Point in order to serve the soccer stadium, until the streetcar line there is completed.
Photo by Aaron Wiener