Ballpark Living: The Nationals' New Stadium

Can the Nationals stadium do for an up-and-coming waterfront neighborhood what the Verizon Center did for downtown DC?

By: Mary Clare Glover

Jacqueline Dupree and her husband, Bill Walsh, live on Capitol Hill near the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. For years, the highway had separated the Hill from a neighborhood notable for its rundown public housing, low-slung industrial buildings, and handful of warehouse dance clubs.

“We always thought of the freeway as this Berlin Wall,” says Dupree.

Today, while the freeway remains, the wall is coming down. The debut of the Nationals’ new ballpark in late March marks a fresh start for the once-forsaken area and could make it one of Washington’s most interesting places to live. Real-estate insiders say Capitol Riverfront—the neighborhood’s name—will be the city’s next big condominium and apartment destination, with more than 9,000 units planned. That’s about four times as many as in DC’s Penn Quarter.

Like other condo-rich, Metro-accessible neighborhoods, Capitol Riverfront will be a walkable place that draws young professionals, couples without kids, and empty-nesters eager to enjoy city life. There are plans for retail districts, entertainment venues, urban parks, and office buildings to house brand-name companies and law firms. NPR and CNN already are scouting sites in the area.

The relocation of Naval Sea Command Systems from Crystal City to the Navy Yard in the late 1990s was the first sign of rebirth for the neighborhood. The Department of Transportation decided to move its headquarters there, and news that its Michael Graves–designed building would draw 6,700 employees to the area attracted condo and commercial developers.

In early 2003, Dupree sensed the changes coming. She started snapping photos for her blog, JDLand.com, to document the transformation. “I’ve always been fascinated by before-and-after pictures,” she says.

A land rush followed DC’s 2004 decision to build the Nationals baseball stadium in this area. “The ballpark was like throwing gasoline on the fire,” says Michael Stevens, executive director of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District. “It signified that the city was very bullish on the area.”

William Rich of the real-estate research firm Delta Associates says the Verizon Center’s success in sparking a lively entertainment district in Penn Quarter built confidence: “Developers picture similar or possibly better results.”

In addition to lending excitement to the neighborhood, the stadium guarantees that about 80 days a year, many thousands of fans will flood the streets. “It’s a magnet,” says Gary McManus of Forest City Washington, a key developer in the neighborhood. “It’s a source of electricity.”

The scene today is very different from what Dupree captured in her first photos. Dump trucks have hauled out the remains of the seedy nightclubs and auto-repair shops. Cranes hover over the skeletons of new buildings, and colorful coming soon banners hint at what’s to come.

One of Capitol Riverfront’s top draws will be its waterside location. Few neighborhoods in the city offer the chance to live along the river.

The new area will also boast a Metro stop (Navy Yard) and proximity to workplace and social hubs. Within a mile’s walk are the Capitol, the congressional office buildings, and the Barracks Row entertainment district.

Within the neighborhood, plans call for 800,000 square feet of retail space, four parks, more than 1,200 hotel rooms, and 12 million to 15 million square feet of office space—about twice as much as in downtown St. Louis. Stevens expects an announcement about a large company moving its headquarters to the area within the next 18 months.

Most of the neighborhood’s new landmarks won’t be finished until 2009, and details about which restaurants, bars, and stores are moving in aren’t yet set. But planners already know the retail and residential anchors for the neighborhood.

Next to the new stadium, Half Street will be a mixed-use development with restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and shops. On game days, the street will be closed to traffic, providing gathering space and outdoor dining before and after games. Russell Hines of Monument Realty, which is developing Half Street, says the two-block area will also host events and festivals in the off-season.

The first phase of development, scheduled for completion in 2009, includes a 340-unit condominium building with views from its rooftop deck into the stadium. It will also feature W Aloft Hotel, a 200-room boutique hotel, along with a slew of restaurants and bars.

Sandwiched between the Transportation Department headquarters and the Anacostia River, the Yards, another mixed-use development, will sit on 42 acres along the waterfront. In addition to dozens of new buildings, Forest City Washington is building a riverfront park and restoring several historic industrial structures once part of the Navy Yard.

Built in 1919, the old Pattern and Joiner Shop, a red-brick Navy woodworking shop, will become 170 loft apartments. The Broadside Mount Shop, where guns were assembled, will be transformed into 271 condos. And the old Boilermaker’s Shop will be the project’s retail hub with 46,500 square feet of shops and restaurants.

The Yards Park—an urban park inspired by New York City’s Bryant Park and scheduled for completion by the end of 2009—will include a riverfront pavilion with restaurants and shops and a grassy area for Frisbee or picnics.

A portion of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail—a proposed 16-mile path along both sides of the Anacostia River—will run through the Yards. The 10-to-12-foot-wide trail will accommodate walkers, joggers, bikers, and skaters and connect near Southeast to Poplar Point, historic Anacostia, and other waterfront neighborhoods.

Canal Park will provide another outdoor gathering spot for the community. Named for the historic Washington Canal, which once connected the Anacostia to the Potomac, the three-block park will feature an amphitheater, boardwalk, and art sculptures. It’s slated to open in 2009.

A block east of Canal Park will sit Capitol Quarter, the neighborhood’s only residential development that’s not a highrise. The 325-townhouse community is being developed by EYA, the urban specialists behind Arlington’s Clarendon Park and Hyattsville’s new arts district.

On the site of the former Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg public housing project, the development will include a mix of homes designed in the style of classic three-story Capitol Hill rowhouses. The development will include affordable housing as well as market-rate homes.

About a third of the yet-to-be-built market-rate homes went on sale last year and sold out. Buyers camped in line overnight for a chance to put in an offer.

Navy officer Mark Baker, one of those new owners, loves the idea of going to games at the stadium, jogging on the Mall and along the waterfront, and walking to work at the Navy Yard. He believes in the future of the neighborhood and plans to build a life there. In January, he proposed to his girlfriend on the lot where their four-bedroom townhouse will be built.

Places to Live Near the Ballpark

Here’s a look at residential projects in the works in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood of Southeast DC. Because many are in the early stages of development, prices may not be available and details may change.

The Admiral at Barracks Row, 17 one- and two-bedroom condos at 801 Virginia Ave.; tatianakaupp.com.

Capitol Hill Tower, 344 studio and one-, two-, and three-bedroom co-ops at 1000 New Jersey Ave.; $229,900 to more than $500,000; capitolhilltower.com.

Capitol Quarter, 323 three- and four-bedroom townhouses; sales center at 1023 Fourth St. Includes market-rate homes from the $600,000s, moderately priced homes for sale, and affordable housing for rent. Phase one of construction scheduled for completion in 2010; eya.com.

Capitol Yards, more than 1,300 apartments in four high-rise buildings. Jefferson at Capitol Yards (70 I St., 448 units) and Mercury at Capitol Yards (100 I St., 246 units) open in midsummer 2008. Opening in 2009 is 909 at Capitol Yards (909 New Jersey Ave., 237 units). Jefferson at Half Street (23 I St., 421 units) opens in 2010; capitolyardsdc.com.

Half Street, 340 studio and one- and two-bedroom condos at Half and M sts. Scheduled for completion in late 2009 to early 2010; halfstreet.com.

Onyx on First, 266 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments at 1100 First St. Scheduled for completion in late summer 2008; onyxonfirst.com

The Yards, 2,800 residential units for sale or lease built over the next 12 to 15 years. Phase one of development includes 170 loft apartments and 248 condos in restored industrial buildings and 180 apartments in a new building, all available by 2010; dcyards.com.

Velocity Capitol Riverfront, 400 studio and one- and two-bedroom condos in two buildings at 1025 First St.; $300,000 and up. Units in the first building, scheduled for completion in 2009, are on sale now; velocitycapitol.com.

 

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