Four years after opening, Nationals Park is finally attracting the kind of development envisioned by ballpark proponents, drawing restaurants, retail and residential to a struggling area of D.C.
A review of all the development in the area of the home of the Washington Nationals shows some solid progress at work. Gone is a concrete plant on the Anacostia River, to be replaced by a retail and residential complex. A bike trail along the river links with the ballpark with the rest of the city. An empty hole between the ballpark and the Metro station is set to be a long-awaited retail and office complex. And a few blocks away Forest City Washington is building a new complex with six restaurants, a brewery and a bakery.
Of course, the conventional wisdom among anti-ballpark economists is that development would happen anyway, that construction of a facility drawing 30,000 fans on a game night won’t materially affect the economic conditions in an area. We will never know whether this development would have occurred without the presence of a ballpark. But let’s face it: the development did happen with the presence of a ballpark, and many principals involved attribute the presence of Nationals Park as being a reason for large-scale investment in a run-down part of the District of Columbia. And in other Major League Baseball cities — like Denver and San Diego — new ballparks have had a material impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. While the D.C. development still needs to play out, the ingredients are all there to proclaim the funding of the ballpark as an economic success — and with the Nats in first place and generating lots of enthusiasm, we expect even more fans to be flooding the area.
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