- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

You are one of the aggrieved property owners who stands in the way of the proposed baseball stadium along the Anacostia River waterfront in Southeast.

You have made a living — and, in some cases, a good one — on this previously forgotten stretch of asphalt in the city. But now you are an impediment to the baseball vision of Mayor Anthony A. Williams. You are being urged to part with your property and start anew somewhere else, perhaps in another hardscrabble section of the city. You took a chance on Half Street in the bad times. Yet you won’t be there to reap the benefits of the good times. You won’t be there to bask in the skyrocketing land values around the stadium.

You are being handed the assessments on your property now, and you have a hard time accepting the low-ball estimates of the city. So now you are angry. It has nothing to do with baseball. Maybe you love baseball. Maybe you don’t. Or maybe you are indifferent to it all. Baseball is not the point.

This is your dream. This is your property. This is your business. This is your home. This is your life that is being calibrated by the city.

And, no, it is not right, even if baseball is right for the city after a 34-year absence.

You were there when few others wanted to be there, when Half Street was overrun with drug dealers, street urchins and petty criminals. You did your part. You cleaned up the area as best as it could be cleaned up. You routinely called police and told of the activities being waged on several of the dimly lit arteries in the neighborhood. You did not necessarily achieve a full measure of success. But you made a dent.

One of these years, when all the finagling is completed and the Nationals have taken up residence, you will return to the old neighborhood and see a jewel in its place. And you no doubt will shake your head over what might have been.

The landowners who abut South Capitol Street on the Southwest side are sitting pretty. Developers are overrunning the blocks around the ballpark, cutting deals in gleeful anticipation of the prosperous times ahead.

You will not be part of that. No, you won’t be there then. You will be a footnote of a previous time. Your property will lead to the rise of gleaming condominiums, restaurants and sports pubs, just as the MCI Center was the redevelopment catalyst in Chinatown.

Before the local National Basketball Association team moved there, Chinatown was a run-down section of the city, stuffed with hole-in-the-wall restaurants and shabby tenements. Now the area is Chinatown Disneyland, a sparkling mix of upscale retailers, condominiums and franchise outlets, with the essential character of the neighborhood mostly preserved along H Street between Sixth and Seventh streets NW.

Chinatown is now the beacon prompting the land speculation around the proposed ballpark. It can be done near the Navy Yard, because it was done after the opening of the MCI Center in 1997.

So now the city is playing hardball with you, giving you a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. And you are seeking legal counsel. One lawsuit already has been filed, with more certain to follow. So many are planning to be wealthy off your sweat and time, and all you want in the end is to be justly compensated and be granted an opportunity to relocate elsewhere.

That seems only fair and reasonable. You just want your piece of the pie.

If the vision of the mayor comes to be, the land-acquisition costs will be a bargain. That part of the city will feature some of the priciest real estate.

You are up against the cold machinery of the city, and you are being treated like an annoyance. You deserve better, a lot better.

It is your property. It is your business. It is your home. It is your life.

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