Mar 29, 2022 - News

Bowser antes up pitch for RFK site development

Mayor Muriel Bowser holds a press conference on land the city plans to develop into new homes and retail, south of the RFK Stadium site.

Mayor Muriel Bowser holds a press conference on land south of the RFK Stadium site that the city plans to develop into new homes and retail. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

Bowser stood against the backdrop of the rusting RFK Stadium on Monday to present her vision to remake hundreds of acres of surrounding land — a rare opportunity to build new waterfront communities in a city where land is scarce.

Why it matters: That dream will remain out of reach as long as Congress stalls on a proposal to give the District more control of 190 acres of that land.

  • It’s a move even Democrats on Capitol Hill are reluctant to make due to opposition to Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder, who has stepped up his pursuit for a new home for his team.

Driving the news: Bowser pleaded with federal lawmakers to transfer control of the 190-acre parcel from the National Park Service to the District. For Bowser, federal inaction on giving up the site is an affront to local home rule, saying it’s akin to Congress’ ban on the city legalizing sales of recreational marijuana.

Between the lines: Snyder has long talked about wanting his football team back in D.C., but federal lawmakers don’t want Snyder anywhere near RFK, amid workplace investigations and sexual harassment allegations surrounding him and his team.

  • Bowser ducked a question about whether she’d enter a bidding war with Maryland or Virginia over incentives for a new Commanders stadium.
  • Congress needs “to make sure we have control of the land, and the ability to use our local dollars to transform that lot,” she said.
  • What gets built — football stadium or not — “is a local discussion,” she added.

State of play: The city’s current lease with the federal government for the RFK site runs until 2038, and it restricts the parcel’s use to sports and entertainment.

  • In the meantime, Bowser is proposing a $60 million community sports complex for indoor track and field, boxing, and other sports for the site. Construction is about five years out.
  • She also wants to spend $18.5 million there for pedestrian and bicycle bridges connecting Kingman and Heritage islands to each side of the Anacostia River.

South of the RFK site on District-controlled land, the city is already underway building 360 units of housing in Hill East, a preview of what could come to the RFK site if the city gains control.

  • Bowser wants to spend $79 million to upgrade infrastructure on mostly empty lots that total 67 acres stretching to the Anacostia River, opening the area up to developing 2,300 new homes.
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