- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What a letdown. Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Council could not even manage the bad option on stadium parking without making things worse. We’re going to have above-ground cement garages that hinder development as originally feared — but now the city has been also hit with a lawsuit from spurned developer Herb Miller.

On Tuesday, by a 10-3 vote, the D.C. Council approved poured-concrete garages north of the new baseball stadium in place of hoped-for shops and restaurants masking the garages. As we pointed out months ago, this is a short-sighted plan likely to hinder the revitalization of the area and lower revenue expectations. Not to mention that three cement parking garages will be just plain ugly.

D.C. taxpayers have always gotten the short end of the stick on the stadium deal. But now things are even worse. Mr. Miller of Western Development is suing the city because, he contends, it acted in bad faith to throw out his more elaborate, development-friendly parking plan. Mr. Miller says that the poured-concrete plan was approved simply to placate the owners of the Washington Nationals, the Lerner family. Wish that we had evidence to prove him wrong. The Lerners have been dead-set against Mr. Miller’s ideas from square one.

We’ve had our disagreements over the years with Council members Marion Barry, David Catania and Carol Schwartz. But on this parking issue — these three laudably voted against three above-ground garages — the trio is completely correct.

Remember, the primary justification for this stadium is economic development. Three, hulking, concrete garages are not development-friendly. Quite the opposite. What will the city have to show for its many hundreds of millions of tax dollars if not the hoped-for transformation of the Anacostia waterfront?

The biggest laugher, currently being advanced by Mr. Fenty, is the notion that the Lerners might eventually agree to tear down the garages a few years from now, but even that would entail a major construction project outside the stadium and undoubtedly overlap with the baseball season. The Lerners and Major League Baseball would need to suddenly discover their hidden altruistic streaks for that to happen. There’s no charity from this gang.

About the only consolation is that Mr. Miller is not seeking monetary damages from the city — just a reversal of its short-sighted decision. We wish him luck.

The city is about to bury the western side of the Anacostia River’s economic revitalization in concrete. It didn’t have to be this way. The city can still follow through on Mr. Miller’s compromise plan — if officials closely listen. He says the project can be completed within the time frame the Lerners insist upon (Opening Day 2008) and still make room for commercial development. Mr. Fenty and D.C. Council members, don’t let this opportunity be wasted.

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