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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: Dec 06, 2007
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Construction and architecture geeks will be interested to read the cover story of the latest issue of the Engineering News-Record, which is an in-depth chronicle of the fast-track design/build approach used to build Nationals Park in 23 months, which if completed on time will break the speed record for major-league ballpark contruction. There's also a sidebar on how the stadium may be the first major league sports facility to be LEED certified.
More posts: Nationals Park
 

If you're interested in the "Taxation Without Representation Federal Tax Pay-Out Message Board Installation Act of 2007" (Bill 17-0028) that would put electronic tote boards on the Wilson Building and the ballpark showing the federal taxes that District residents pay while still having no votiing representation in Congress, the council hearing is now underway, which you can watch on DC Cable 13 or via streaming video. I wrote about it a few days back, and today's WashTimes gives some detail on what the bill calls for. I'll have more after the hearing is finished.
Post-Hearing UPDATE: The first two hours of the hearing were more of a general discussion about the current state of DC voting rights, which included multiple mentions that the $3 billion that District residents pay each year in federal taxes is higher than the tax burdens of seven states, and nearly as high as four others. It wasn't until DC Sports and Entertainment Commission CEO Greg O'Dell started his testimony that the issue of whether the council even can legislate the addition of a sign to the ballpark came up.
Because the lease agreement signed by the team and the city states that the Nationals control the signage on the stadium's interior, exterior, and perimeter, the DCSEC's outside counsel feels that this tote-board bill "could conflict" with the lease. O'Dell took a pretty tough batch of questions from council chair Vincent Gray about whether O'Dell himself thinks this sign is a good idea--he punted a number of times, saying he wanted to be "mindful of the process" and "respectful of my board" until Gray finally pinned him down to admit that he thinks it's a good idea. O'Dell did say that the sports commission would move to implement whatever the council decides.
Chairman Gray commented a few times on his unhappiness that the citizens of the District are paying $611 million for the ballpark but can't put this sign up without going to the Nationals for approval. As to the issue of whether the sign's costs would violate ballpark cost cap, O'Dell indicated that if the sign cost less than $100,000 that he didn't think it would cause any cap problems.
So, one would imagine that there will now be some intense negotiations between the city and the Nationals to get their approval for the sign. But given the response that Stan Kasten gave to Mark Plotkin (described here and here) about the moving the DC Taxation Without Representation sign that currently hangs at RFK to the new ballpark, it will be interesting to see how this tote-board discussion turns out.
More posts: Nationals Park
 

Reader M. gets in the What's the Deal With spirit by asking "WTDW Capitol Quarter?", noting that the first deposits for houses in the development were accepted in October 2006, and that move-ins still have not begun. A few weeks ago I reported that residents-in-waiting were being told that construction on the houses themselves might not start until the second quarter of 2008; while I'm not privvy to what I'm sure is all sorts of behind the scenes stuff about why the project has taken so long to get underway (believe it or not, large commercial companies and city government officials are not all that excited about keeping me in the loop on stuff like that!), there is some news today that indicates that the project is continuing to move forward.
The city council's Committee on Finance and Revenue will be having a mark-up session this afternoon at 3:45 that includes Bill 17-0292, the "Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg Public Improvements Revenue Bonds Approval Amendment Act of 2007", which, in amending the original Capper PILOT bill from 2006, makes some "technical clarifications" and also authorizes a $55 million bond issuance. This bond, now $11 million larger what was originally anticipated because of increased borrowing costs, will provide $36.7 million for public infrastructure improvements like environmental remediation, building of two new streets (Second Place and Third Place), and water and sewer upgrades and replacements. Once this bill is passed by the council, the Housing Authority will be able to move forward with issuing the bonds, probably in Q2 2008; in fact, they have already sent out a Request for Proposals for underwriters for these bonds, which closes on Friday (Dec. 7). This bond will then be repaid by the payments in lieu of property taxes that landowners within the Capper PILOT area will be responsible for. (The draft council bill and the underwriting RFP give much more detail about the PILOT plan, if you're interested.)
The construction that's currently tearing up the streets at Capitol Quarter is a separate first-phase contract, allowing EYA to complete the initial work on public infrastructure that needs to be done before they can start work on the "private" infrastructure (the utilities and other work under the house lots themselves). Once that is done, then "vertical construction" can begin on the houses themselves, which is the work that is now scheduled to begin in the spring.
And, the DC Building Permit feed shows that six-month extensions for Capitol Quarter permits have recently been approved.
So, while none of this answers what was probably the meat of the WTDW question--I know everyone really wants all sorts of skinny on the "whys" of the delays--it does give some semblance of an update on where things are.
Post-Hearing UPDATE: The bill was moved out of mark-up ("reported favorably") with no discussion, and next goes to Committee of the Whole (presumably at next Tuesday's meeting). Note that the online version of the bill is the original draft, and may not reflect the current wording. Jack Evans mentioned at mark-up that there will be an amendment offered at the Committee of the Whole, but didn't elaborate. And here's the draft committee report on the bill, which gives a less technical description of the changes being made to the original 2006 PILOT legislation.
More posts: Capper, What's the Deal?
 

The WashTimes reports: "A corporate naming rights deal for the $611 million stadium will not be in place for the 2008 season as the team is running out of time to complete an agreement for this spring, principal owner Mark Lerner said." The ballpark is officially Nationals Park in the meantime. And: "Lerner also confirmed the Nationals are close to a deal to hold their first game at the new stadium on Sunday, March 30, which would allow the game to air live on ESPN. He said all that remains is final approval from the Major League Baseball Players Association, but the deal could be completed as soon as this week. [...] If the game is approved, the Nationals likely would play the Atlanta Braves, then embark on a road trip to Philadelphia and return to Washington the following week."
These tidbits came from yesterday's holiday lighting ceremony, which I wasn't able to attend (though the Nats320 blog was there and has photos) and which doesn't seem to be covered on the local networks' video offerings. But be sure to look at the stadium web cam images from Wednesday evening for some particualrly striking photos of the ballpark, lit up at night with a blanket of snow on the field.
UPDATE: Oops, here's the MLB.com piece on the ceremony, with lots of details.
UPDATE II: One more note on the holiday lighting ceremony--a press release from the Nationals today says that the Nationals and Clark Construction subsequently donated the 10-foot Douglas Fir used in the ceremony to the South Washington/West of the River Family Strengthening Collaborative, for its use at a Dec. 12 holiday celebration at Westerminster Presbyterian Church at 400 I Street, SW.
More posts: Nationals Park
 




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