Hill East Residents/CM Charles Allen Question Use of RFK for Future NFL Stadium
DC’s Convention and Sporting Authority Solicits Neighbors’ Input on RFK Site
by Larry Janezich
Officials from Events DC declared “we messed up,” to a crowd of over 100 Hill East residents gathered to discuss the future of the 190-acre RFK site last night at St. Coletta’s School. The self-deprecating admission, along with the officials’ answers to pointed questions raised by residents, gave some attendees the sense that city representatives were paying lip service to residents in public, while off stage plans are being made to move an agenda forward regardless of the desires of the neighbors most affected by the development.
Events DC, the city’s convention and sporting authority formed years ago by Councilmember Evans, admitted to neighbors of the RFK parcel that the organization should have reached out to the community much earlier in the process of their concept development study for RFK.
They did so last night in part to respond to concerns raised by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who represents residents of the Ward 6 neighborhoods bordering RFK, though the stadium itself falls in Ward 7. Allen broke away from a city council hearing on crime to address the meeting, receiving the loudest applause of the night when he said that he did not think a new NFL stadium was “the best use” of the RFK site.
After attendees broke up into small working groups to brainstorm, residents questioned the constraints to future development cited by Events DC in its opening presentation. ANC6B Commissioner Brian Flahavan was applauded when he dismissed the idea that the city’s current lease with the National Park Service for the land, set to expire in 2038, dictated a stadium use for RFK. “The city renegotiates leases with the federal government all the time,” Flahavan said, and pointed out that a compelling community vision for the land was a prerequisite to successful disposition.
Based on reports from the various working groups, the desirability of community green space, especially sports fields, was a major point of agreement among residents. A few mentioned remediation and restoration of the Anacostia waterfront; a new Metro stop; and a Central Park-like space, with pedestrian walkways intersecting parks and public performance areas.
During the question period later in the evening, a couple of residents probed whether Events DC, which receives a portion of its budget from stadium proceeds, was a neutral party to study the future disposition. Brian Flahavan rose once again to point out that, in PowerPoint slides enumerating the organizations Events DC had conducted interviews with to discuss potential future uses, the Washington professional football team was not listed. He asked whether this meant that Mayor Bowser was conducting her own separate discussions with the group; officials acknowledged that she was. ANC6B Commissioner Nick Burger then questioned the ultimate value of seeking neighborhood input when Events DC was not engaged with the Mayor’s preferred tenant for the site. Former ANC6B Commissioner Francis Campbell inquired whether any of the sports teams or universities that Events DC had engaged had the financial ability to develop a stadium in the next 2-5 years, and Events DC representative Max Brown responded with a simple “no.” Former ANC6B Commissioner Ken Jarboe posed another pointed question when he asked whether city officials were contemplating any other parcel of land for a professional football stadium. Events DC officials once again gave a simple response of “no.”
Last night’s meeting was the first of two meetings hosted by Events DC held on the future of RFK. The second meeting will be held on September 30 and will be posted on CHC’s feature “The Week Ahead,” on Sunday, September 27.