Southwest Residents Stuck Between a Rock and Steel Girders

Longtime Homeowners Near Nationals Ballpark Fight to Keep Their Property

Amid the loud cranes and construction worker bellows, a 30-year Southwest resident gazes at the tree he planted in his front yard.”We are not trying to sell,” he proclaims. “I can speak for all the residents of our block when I say that no one wants to sell.”The plot of land where he has resided for three decades, on the 1400 block of South Capitol Street, is becoming a hot commodity in anticipation of the completion of the National’s new ballpark across the street.Developers have already scooped up the land at 1345 South Capitol St. to build a residential and retail complex, and there was talk of a proposed development on the 1400 block of South Capitol Street, according to residents.Rhonda Hamilton, commissioner and secretary for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D, says that she is unaware of any plans to build anything at the 1400 block.Her ANC district covers M Street from Delaware Avenue to Half Street, and South Capitol Street from N Street southward into the Anacostia River.She says a plan is in the works that would provide funding for the beautification of the homes across from the ballpark, though.The city ultimately wants the South Capitol region to be a vibrant, urban area full of mixed-use, commercial and residential development.”We don’t want an area where people just go to work during the day and the area just dies at night,” explained Sean Madigan, communications director for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.The redevelopment in the South Capitol region is by far one of the largest in recent memory. It spans roughly a 23-block radius from about 12th Street Southwest to Fifth Street Southeast.When compared to other major waterfront regions, the Southeast/Southwest waterfront will be roughly 10 times larger than London’s Canary Wharf and contain two times as much residential and commercial space as New York City’s Battery Park, according to the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership.It is much more expansive then the nearly complete Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City, Mo., which spans a nine-block radius and features a zone of mixed-use retail, entertainment, office and residential development.”It’s unparalleled,” exclaims Keith Sellars, vice president for real estate development and retail at WDCEP. “The southeast/southwest waterfront redevelopment is probably one of the top five projects in the nation.”Despite the city’s efforts to placate the residents living near the new ballpark, many are still wary of the changes that it will bring to the neighborhood.Emma Ward, a long-time resident of Southwest Washington, is very skeptical.”All they want to do is move the poor folks out and move the ones with the money in,” Ward laments. “They’re not even any new schools planned for the area, which means they don’t expect us to be living here much longer.”When asked, Sellars stated that he was unaware of any new schools that were planned for the South Capitol region.Some residents are wary of the development in the South Capitol region because of the added congestion it may bring.Ellen Sandel, a 34-year resident of Southwest Washington, reflects on the issue.”The main concern that I see is that if trying to get in and out of this neighborhood becomes an in-town commuting nightmare, like Adams Morgan or Georgetown or even some parts of Capitol Hill,” Sandel said, “we may be forced to reconsider whether it’s worth it to hang in here through the bad times, waiting for the good to appear.”Despite the problems that the neighborhood has had in the past, many residents share the same sentiment as Sandel when she says, “I don’t want to be forced out of my house, we love it and it’s convenient to everything.”More information about these and other proposed Southeast/Southwest waterfront developments can be found at www.wdcepcapitolriverfront.com and at www.jdland.com/dc.