By Joshua Heron
Howard University News Service
As the recession of 2008 rattled the nation, the hearts of many were downcast, and innovation was desired. The nation’s capital aspired to generate revenue and saw its brand new baseball stadium, Nationals Park, as a viable source.
Zoning records reveal that the 2006 application for the construction of Nationals Park stated that the “ballpark will include exterior-facing entertainment and retail services.”
Sixteen years later, vacant infrastructure dominates the outside of Nationals Park. Sixteen years later, what should have been 46,000 square feet of space to provide new jobs to offset 7% unemployment in Ward 6 are merely ghost buildings.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D held a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss the problem with Events D.C., owners of National Park, as the willingness of all parties to continue granting mercy is at an all-time low.
Events D.C. claimed that it would develop the space as the community evolved. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) acquiesced to this plan by continually extending temporary certificates of occupancy. Events D.C. said it was finally ready to move forward with entertainment and retail plans in 2019, but then COVID-19 hit
DRCA had initially refused to grant another temporary permit until Events DC met with the zoning commission on Sept. 29. However, it granted another extension through the end of 2023. And now Events D.C. wants to reduce the intended retail space from 46,000 to 17,000 square feet.
During the ANC 6D meeting, the commission agreed the focus should be on retail service delivered to and for the community. The goal is to “resolve an issue that predates everyone,” the commission stated. General counsel Nicole Jackson attempted to reassure residents of Event D.C.’s intentions to honor its commitment by alluding to the 2019 plan.
However, what was supposed to be could not outweigh the frustrations surrounding what hasn’t been done. ANC 6D Commissioner Andy Litsky was firm in his remarks. He called for a public hearing regarding the zoning area and empty space. He wants the public’s voice to be heard.
“Can the community trust something to get done after 16 years?” Litsky asked. The majority voted for the hearing. The goal is to “finish out the existing space,” despite Events D.C.’s request for the zoning commission to approve a smaller retail space.
The future of the baseball park and potential new jobs in Ward 6 lies in the hands of Events D.C. and the Nationals, who need to act faster than they traded Juan Soto.
Joshua Heron covers Ward 6 for HUNewsService.com.