Progress on the Riverfront

Anacostia Redevelopment Focuses on Ballpark District

Posted October 18, 2005 at 4:00pm

Efforts to revitalize the Anacostia River waterfront in the District are expected to push forward in upcoming months despite the recent resignation of one of the initiative’s key leaders, officials said.

Andrew Altman resigned as chief executive of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. on Oct. 6 to take a private sector job in New York.

Altman had been the key planner and leader of the quasi-government group, created 10 months ago to spearhead the multibillion-dollar redevelopment of the waterfront area.

Steven Goldsmith, who chairs the corporation’s board of directors, said the resignation will not slow development and a new leader should be named within 30 days.

“We have a lot of activity right now,” Goldsmith said. “I’d like to avoid a leadership gap.” [IMGCAP(1)]

Altman’s vision had been critical to launch the project, Goldsmith said. But finding a replacement — or perhaps a new CEO and vice president of real estate to work as a team — is possible.

“We need somebody who understands development, but also has good relationships with the community and public officials,” Goldsmith said.

Much of the corporation’s recent activity has centered on the Ballpark District, a 60-acre site north of the new Washington Nationals stadium, located on the southeast side of the river.

The corporation envisions open spaces intermixed with shops, restaurants, parks, a promenade, offices, hotels and residential development in the Ballpark District, Altman said at a public board meeting Monday night.

Retail development in the area is key, as it can create a vibrant area when the Nationals aren’t playing that would also capture valuable sales tax dollars that otherwise might go outside the District.

And the project is moving ahead steadily, Altman said.

Developer proposals for projects in the Ballpark District are due Friday, and the board of directors is expected to make its selection by the end of the year.

“This whole area really offers a huge opportunity for the city,” Altman said.

Goldsmith said he expects the project will continue as planned.

“Our responsibility is to kind of referee the development,” Goldsmith said. “This needs to be a first-rate waterfront property.”

But the baseball stadium is not the only project keeping the corporation busy.

Another site of interest is the Southeast Federal Center, located around the new home of the Department of Transportation.

Situated directly east of the ballpark, the Department of Transportation building will house 7,000 employees and feature two buildings with 1.35 million rentable square feet. And that’s just the beginning.

“One could anticipate over time that you’re dealing with a new federal campus with 20,000-plus federal employees,” Goldsmith said.

The corporation is moving forward in other areas as well. It should be requesting proposals for revitalizing areas in the Southwest quadrant soon, Altman said. Funds are beginning to come in for projects along the Hill East waterfront, also known as Reservation 13. The corporation also distributed 14 grants to community groups this summer to help connect local residents to the river, including the Anacostia Watershed Society and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

And officials are excited by a bill introduced in September by House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) that would authorize the exchange of certain land between the District and federal government. That would allow officials to redevelop the land and build strong, vibrant neighborhoods, officials said.

“This is a really big deal,” Goldsmith said. “I think it will help everyone. I’m very hopeful.”

But not everyone is excited about the possibility of changing these neighborhoods.

Longtime resident William Wilson told the board he fears the reforms will displace many of the area’s residents, many of whom have lived in the area all their lives and have little outside capital.

“Somehow you have come to the conclusion that the waterfront is suddenly going to be clean, and you’re going to build these enormous homes,” Wilson told the board. “The people in the neighborhood, they don’t know what it’s about.”

Board member Carl Cole, a Ward 8 activist who grew up in the neighborhood, told Wilson that making sure residents are connected to the changes, and benefit from them, is a priority.

“I’m on this board to make sure we don’t displace,” Cole said. “The one thing we want to do is get it right.”

Capitol Hill residents can learn about how plans for the waterfront might affect them at a forum Oct. 25. Uwe Brandes, Anacostia Waterfront Corp.’s vice president for capitol projects, will be on hand. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the basement of St. Peter’s Church at Second and C streets Southeast. For more information, call (202) 543-0425.