While the Washington Nationals are winning games, the nearby development is scoring points with baseball fans and neighborhood residents alike. Calling it “an amazing transformation,” The Atlantic Cities’ Kaid Benfield says that the area is developing faster than the Chinatown neighborhood did post-Verizon Center. But the outlook for the southeastern Washington, D.C., neighborhood wasn’t always so optimistic.
Unfortunately, the stadium opened for business at the same time as the dawn of the Great Recession, which brought most real estate development in D.C. and elsewhere to a halt. It didn’t help that the team—the Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos—was awful. It seemed as if neither the Nats nor the neighborhood was turning out as hoped.
Now the tides are turning: the Nationals sit atop the National League East standings, most of the redevelopment projects approved back in 2004 are completed or underway, and neighborhood residents say crime rates are down. Benfield says:
Today, the neighborhood’s new projects are about 30 percent built. In addition to the new commercial properties, the area’s residential population has increased from about 1,000 to more than 3,500 and should eventually reach 16,000.
Cities have long counted on sports teams to pull in revenue, and in many cases, it seems to work. City officials often bank on new stadiums to revitalize communities by bringing in new businesses and residents. In London, for example, officials are so sure that the Olympic Games will draw in scores of new people that they are going beyond the traditional temporary building that accompanies the Olympics, and are instead erecting sustainable infrastructure. As in in D.C., the idea is that the games will have a lasting social and economic effect on the city—even after the athletes head home.