It is common for large developments like a soccer stadium to include amenities that protect surrounding neighborhoods and provide benefits to area residents. Yet despite almost $200 million in proposed subsidies for a new stadium, the mayor and DC United recently dismissed nearly all of the requests made by community members for community benefits. The team committed to supporting 25 spots at a summer camp, but that was about it.
It is likely that any stadium deal will be completed under a new mayor, and the Council will have to approve the deal, too. The Southwest community will need to look to them ensure that everyone wins with the new development.
The residential neighborhoods adjacent to Buzzard Point have a lot of needs, which did not improve with the development of Nationals Park and the Navy Yard. Residents experience high rates of unemployment, rising rents, game-day transportation issues, and under-resourced parks and recreational facilities. A new soccer stadium for DC United would add strain to the transportation system and put affordable housing at risk.
That’s why a coalition of community leaders sent a proposal to the city and the team for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) – a legally binding contract to address specified community needs. CBAs across the country have helped low- and moderate-income neighborhoods benefit from big development projects. For example, a CBA tied to the development of Staples Center in Los Angeles led to new parks and recreational space, job readiness programs, and affordable housing.
Among other things, the proposal calls for:
- A commitment to preserve affordable housing in the area.
- A $5 million community fund to support recreational and educational programming.
- Increased access to public transportation and parking/traffic alleviation
- Mitigation of environmental hazards that have had effects on residents’ health in the past.
- A set aside for some of stadium’s construction and operation jobs (ticketing, concessions, guest services) and job-training slots to go to residents living in the immediate neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the mayor and DC United dismissed these requests, making empty reassurances that existing programs could alleviate potential issues. Despite a substantial proposed commitment of city resources to benefit the team, neither the District nor DC United has offered much to the community.
A stadium deal is unlikely to be completed this year, which means that a new mayor and DC Council will review and approve any deal. This will offers another chance to pursue a meaningful CBA that mitigates the risks to the Buzzard Point residents and ensures that existing residents can live and thrive with the new development.
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