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DC, Events DC at odds over Nationals Park development

The District of Columbia is at odds with Events DC, the ballpark’s owner, over pledges to lead Nationals Park development when the funding plan for the home of the Washington Nationals was negotiated.

Events DC runs a wide variety of venues in the District of Columbia, including RFK Stadium and convention center, overseeing the conventions, entertainment, sporting and cultural events. During funding negotiations for the ballpark, the authority pledged to build 46,000 square feet of commercial and retail space at Nationals Park.

Though there has been development in the Nationals Park area, none has come from Events DC, and in order to keep some leverage over Events DC to fulfill the development plan, the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) has been issuing temporary certificates of occupancy for the ballpark. A permanent certificate of occupancy would be issued once the Nationals Park development pledge was fulfilled.

The current certificate runs through Sept. 30, and in a surprising show of hardball, the DCRA said it would not issue any more temporary certificates of occupancy–a move that would prevent ballpark usage.

However, the authority backed down after some pushback from D.C. officials and announced it would issue another temporary certificates of occupancy through December 31, 2023. Though the negotiations between the DRCA and Events DC were not public, it’s been a challenging time for Events DC, as we’re told delays in the destruction and possible redevelopment of RFK Stadium has impacted planning for Nationals Park development. The original plan was to tear down RFK Stadium several years ago and make the site available for development, but between COVID-19 and an economic slowdown, that original plan was off the rails. The current plan will see a RFK Stadium demolition in 2023. From the Washington Post:

But over time, the temporary certificates allowed Events DC to continue operating without fully complying with its original obligations, Weaver said. With the current certificate set to expire Sept. 30 and no sign that Events DC was preparing to build anything, the agency advised Events DC this summer that the city would not issue another temporary certificate, potentially forcing a shutdown of the venue. The agency also urged Events DC to file a formal request with the Zoning Commission to properly modify the agreement, which it did July 29.

“As Events DC has followed through on the filing request, DCRA will issue another [temporary certificate of occupancy] which will expire on December 31, 2023 to allow time for the Zoning Commission to issue a ruling, and or for Events DC to submit any construction plans for review and approval,” [DCRA spokesman Daniel Weaver] wrote….

In its filing with the Zoning Commission, Events DC said the pandemic and other business conditions had hampered plans for additional development around Nationals Park. Instead, Events DC proposed to finish a considerably smaller, 17,000-square-foot structure that is already attached to the ballpark at First Street SE and Potomac Avenue SE as retail-only space.

Whether this is good enough for the District of Columbia remains to be seen: the prime rationale for public financing was to drive development in a run-down area. This may just be a move to postpone an eventual overhaul of the funding pledge.

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