Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why I support the Washington Entertainment Sports Complex in Ward 8

Originally published on 9/15/15. 
The Advoc8te says "Hell to the Yeah" for economic opportunity to come to Southeast.
When news broke yesterday of the possibility of a new sports complex being built on the Saint Elizabeths East campus The Advoc8te was ready to do a backflip (sports pun intended).

Since then more details have emerged. The Washington Post's Jonathan O'Connell has the skinny. You can read all about that HERE.


Part of the reason (heck, a lot of the reason) I moved to Congress Heights in 2007 was because of the promises of investment in Saint Elizabeths and the surrounding community. Unlike when I missed the opportunity to buy in Shaw all those years ago I wanted to be able to afford homeownership in a community with ready access to transportation, dining, retail and entertainment. 

As of 2015 our options in the immediate area surrounding Saint Elizabeths East are challenging to say the least.  I still have to drive outside of Congress Heights for about 95% of my retail needs. And not so little things such as public spaces in Congress Heights are something less than a dream. Forget the "park" at the corner of MLK and Malcolm X being an eyesore -- two weeks ago I saw a dead body laid out on a bench! Houston -- we have a problem and its name is not "gentrification" it's "ghettofication" -- the act of disinvesting in "poor" communities for the benefit of a more affluent community's progress. 

One thing Congress Heights residents has in plenty were failed promises. Each plan was more outrageous and a tad bit more unbelievable than the one before. For me, the solution was simple, create something that already had a large amount of community and investor interest and do it well enough and fast enough and big enough in Ward 8 to have an impact. We already knew what was poppin' and what projects people would natural travel for -- just put at least one of those projects east of the river! Unfortunately I kept seeing project proposals for Saint Elizabeths East  that were contrary to that or even contrary to what the District was actually doing --- despite press release promises. Some of this stuff was even contrary to good sense. For example, you can't build a "tech hub" out of thin air in Ward 8 yet concentrate your tech money and amenities west of the river. It doesn't work like that -- particularly when you have very limited food, retail, transportation and housing options near said hub.  Heck, my cell phone service is spotty at best. My neighbors and are I suffering now because of those failed philosophies and policies. My condo, which I purchased in 2007 for the very modest price of $150,000 is now appraising at $65,000 -- and I am one of the lucky ones! Some of my friend's who own Ward 8 condos have units that are appraising for less than $30,000! Then I have friends who just walked away from their condos entirely. And then there are the things that I can't tell you about that are happening to east of the river condos.

So when the Washington Post broke the story of Events DC possibly building a sports and entertainment complex at Saint Elizabeths I paused for a moment but then I thought about it and said, "Hell to the Yeah!" Finally, a project with legs -- and financing -- that could actually spur some economic development (and home prices) in our community!  Better still, a project that could bring some much needed retail and jobs to a community in need of both! Break out the pom-poms!

So while I am not much in the habit of issuing endorsements and while the details of this project are not yet solidified please sign me up as a supporter. I think this project -- if done correctly and soon -- has the potential to be the golden ticket for Congress Heights. A project that can act as a catalyst for revitalization and investment in Ward 8. 

Score one for the home team!

UPDATE: This project is not meant to solve all of Ward 8's challenges but hopefully it will act as a catalyst for quality jobs, amenities, services and housing. I hope it will get the ball rolling on what has been a stagnant economic situation. As many years that east of the river has had to take a back seat or sacrifice so that west of the river can prosper I find that $50 million is a steal. And the idea of placing a cap and limitations on this project, when this hasn't happened for west of the river projects (many that have a negative impact on our communities) is just distressing. Let's not delay further economic progress in Ward 8 over $5million dollars. Ward 8 residents in need of jobs literally (and figuratively) can't afford any further delay. 

1 comment:

tonette sivells said...

I can't wait to see how it goes