Tuesday, June 20, 2006

2:50 p.m.

Officials in charge of building the Washington Nationals’ new ballpark in Southeast are negotiating a deal with Western Development to build two parking garages above ground at the stadium site and wrap them with condominiums and retail.

The plan, part of which requires D.C. Council approval, is a compromise to satisfy the city’s requirement to provide parking near the stadium while also sparking commercial development in the neighborhood.

The garages will be constructed beyond the ballpark’s left-field wall and will be visible from within the stadium but shielded on the outside by the condominiums or special architectural treatments. The lots will hold about 930 parking spots, and additional parking for residents of the condominiums will be constructed underground. An additional 300 spots will be provided just south of the ballpark.

Western and its development partners, the Jarvis Co. and Jair Lynch Cos., will build about 660 housing units at the site, about 140 of which will be set aside for lower-income families. The companies also are planning about 50,000 square feet of retail and an 80,000-square-foot hotel.

Officials from the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., the agency in charge of spurring development around the new ballpark, have fought for the construction of underground parking to allow for retail and other commercial development at street level. However, funding shortages and a tight timeline necessitated a compromise.

“This project has always been about more than a baseball stadium,” Mayor Anthony A. Williams said. “It’s about building a living, breathing neighborhood.”

Big questions remain about the project. The D.C. Zoning Commission will be presented with the plan on June 26 and must approve any construction of parking above ground. The D.C. Council still must vote on the sale or lease of the necessary land to Western Development and its investors, and it is still unclear whether the Nationals’ new owners, led by the Lerner family, are comfortable with the new parking strategy.

Construction of the ballpark and parking must be completed by March 2008, according to the contracts with Major League Baseball and the stadium construction team, Clark Construction.

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