- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2006

Well, that was fast. Washington’s honeymoon with the Lerner group is over, following what sounds like a frustrating meeting with city officials Wednesday. In that meeting, Lerner representatives stuck by a short-sighted parking proposal for the north side of the Anacostia waterfront stadium which shows that the Lerners would rather hamper the neighborhood’s development and blight the ballpark’s skyline view with poured-concrete garages than use temporary parking facilities in 2008 so underground ones can be built.

In a closed meeting with city officials Wednesday, Lerner representatives reiterated their unwillingness to deviate from their proposal, which supplants what city planners envisioned as an entertainment complex of shops and restaurants. City architects reportedly mooted underground parking plans which would take longer to finish but allow much more attractive uses for the Lerners’ garage sites. The Lerners balked, saying underground facilities would not be complete by April 2008 and that the use of temporary parking facilities until their completion would embarrass the city and the team and inconvenience fans.

This is highly unfortunate for several reasons. First, as anyone who peruses the ballpark sketches notices, the ugly garages would block the stadium’s northward vista and sky with concrete. Oriole Park at Camden Yards looks upon the historic Baltimore & Ohio Warehouse, the longest building on the East Coast. San Francisco’s AT&T; Park looks onto McCovey Cove. Parking garages just aren’t the same. If the Lerners are worried about embarrassing themselves and the city, how about the embarrassment of drab concrete and SUVs where other cities have great architecture or open water?

Another problem is the obstacle this idea potentially throws in the path of the area’s revitalization. City planners had envisioned the retail space as a cornerstone of economic development. There is a serious danger that the area simply won’t take off as a destination under the Lerner scheme.

Which prompts a question of revenue. Some city officials fear that the projections of tax revenue will be thrown off if this valuable land is occupied by parking garages.

We understand the Lerners’ desire to get it all finished before April 2008. Certainly they have every incentive to want that to happen, but it should not come at the cost of undermining the ballpark’s long-term attractiveness. This stadium is largely taxpayer funded; it belongs to city residents and should serve their interests before anyone else’s.

It’s up to the city to stand firm against this shortsighted idea. Officials should not succumb to a new round of baseball bullying, which is what this flap could turn into.

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