Monday, April 11, 2005

There's Gold In Them Thar Vacant Lots And Gay Clubs!

Even before construction starts on the stadium, the area near it is seeing a mini-land boom, with lots of property changing hands at prices the area couldn't have imagined five years ago.
"It's like a gold rush to get in and get the best sites," said F. Russell Hines, executive vice president of Monument Realty, which recently completed a $10 million deal that included land on a lot just across from the stadium site at N and Half streets SE. Monument said it is negotiating at least six other deals on the same block. "There's only a limited number of sites," Hines said. "You get locked out easily."

Prices for land suitable for development in the area just north of the stadium site, at South Capitol and M streets SE, have shot up to $30 to $50 per square foot, according to land brokers, sellers and developers, more than double what land in the area was worth a few years ago.

Despite the early interest, the city needs to proceed cautiously and nurture the development. They can't just necessarily expect tulips to spring out of manure.
The track record of ballparks as development catalysts has been spotty in other cities, according to economists, developers and others who have studied the matter. A stadium, drawing large crowds 90 or so days a year but dark for long stretches of time, will not alone revitalize a run-down area unless it is supported by solid planning.

"Just having a stadium is not going to have people clamoring to be there on its own," said Neil deMause, co-author of "Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit."

"You have to do enough stuff in addition to the development of a stadium to make an area work," deMause said.

In Cleveland, where a sports arena and baseball park were built about 10 years ago in a worn-down area, hotels, bars, restaurants and condominium projects were built, said Timothy S. Chapin, a professor of urban planning at Florida State University who has studied the economic-development impact of new stadiums.

Chapin said Cleveland planners designated retail and residential-development areas around the baseball stadium and basketball arena. Cleveland officials put up money for businesses to improve their facades. The city also installed sidewalks and lighting to attract retailers and restaurants. A fund provided incentives for developers to build condos around the sports complex.

I'm naturally wary about these sorts of projects. Too often, cities are eager to point to development in one area of town, while ignoring the opportunity cost of businesses NOT going in in other areas.

But, this area has the potential to be different. DC's lucky if they get more than $5 from me a week -- I don't spend any money in this city, unless it's an emergency. With the stadium, that'll change dramatically, especially when you factor in how many veggie hotdogs I'll be eating.

I'm assuming there are lots of others like me, who'll be spending their first dollars in DC. So maybe it'll work? I don't know. You don't know. And the economists on both sides sure as hell don't know either.


  • Veggie hotdogs, eh? Well, that's at least one thing you have in common with Dayn Perry.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 4/11/2005 11:53 AM  

  • Actually, it's more the GF than me. Load up enough kraut on them, and they're not actually that bad!

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 4/11/2005 11:55 AM  

  • I find that more than impossible to believe, but whatever you have to tell yourself to insure domestic tranquility. I have to be nice to the Orioles for just that reason.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 4/11/2005 12:04 PM  

  • This might be the best entry headline I've yet seen! Hilarious!

    By Blogger Basil, at 4/11/2005 12:37 PM  

  • I'll be going for the chorizo, myself.

    Back to the matter at hand, though, deMause, like the good BP "analyst" he is, refuses to listen to anybody who tries to explain the three-jurisdiction circumstances in the Washington area. I guess it doesn't fit his pre-determined decision that the stadium will fail.

    By Blogger Yuda, at 4/11/2005 12:39 PM  

  • But Yuda, what about the schooooools! And the chilllllllldren!

    Seriously, I'm glad to see BP getting all this criticism. I'm definitely linking to the Nationals Review bit tonight.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 4/11/2005 12:49 PM  

  • Go easy on de Mause, though, please, Ryan. I emailed to/with him a few years ago, and he seems like a very nice guy. It's one of my few brushes with fame . . .

    By Blogger Basil, at 4/11/2005 1:49 PM  

  • As far as anti-stadium types go, I like deMause. But he's made some basic factual errors that indicate that, as Yuda mentioned, he's already decided on his conclusion without considering local peculiarities. Plus he was absolutely certain that the Nats would be playing in Montreal this year.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 4/11/2005 1:59 PM  

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