It was quite a night at the ballpark on Monday as the Nationals clinched the NL East Divsion Title
, bringing Washington its first first-place finish since 1933.
As I watched the celebrations (and boy, that was some celebrating going on), I thought about the pretty woeful team that moved into the neighborhood
in March 2008
, and how if we had all been guaranteed that at the end of the fifth season at the new ballpark
the team would be division champs, we would have thought it an amazingly short timeline (once we stopped laughing at the improbability of such a notion, especially after the dreadful '08 and '09 seasons).
Along those same lines, if we had been told on that night in March 2008 that no additional construction other than 55 M
would be seen on Half Street by the time the Nats hit the playoffs, and that there would only be one new restaurant/bar
south of the freeway/east of South Capitol available for post-season revelry, we might also have laughed at the improbability of such a notion. (Though by the end of that first season, with the global economy having all but collapsed, that same notion wouldn't have seemed quite so far-fetched.)
Even at the beginning of this year, with Davey Johnson fully installed, Strasburg coming back, Harper on deck, and Werth past his "rookie" struggles, a division title in 2012 looked like something that could happen, but that more likely 2013 would really be the year that the team would contend.
However, you wonder what developers, retailers, tenants, and the banks that control so many of the commercial real estate purse strings have been thinking as the team's stellar year unfolded, probably also having thought that 2013 would really be the year the team caught fire but then watching those tens of thousands of fans traipse down to N Street throughout 2012, and now realizing that the team will be bringing the national spotlight to Near Southeast, and the neighborhood is not quite ready for its close-up yet.
"Wait 'til next year!" is the symbolic phrase of eternal hope in baseball, and it does seem that 2013 may be the beginning of a new wave of openings and groundbreakings that have mostly been on hold for the past few years. Canal Park
, with its Park Tavern restaurant and ice rink, should be opening this November, and maybe Kruba Thai at the Foundry Lofts
will at last cross the finish line. Early 2013 should bring the launch of the Bluejacket Brewery and Willie's Brew and Que and other offerings at the Boilermaker Shops
, two blocks east of the ballpark. Perhaps Gordon Biersch actually will open at 100 M
in time for Opening Day. And later in the year Osteria Morini will come to the Lumber Shed at the Yards Park
And there could be a wave of groundbreakings on major projects--residential projects at Florida Rock
and the Yards
have 2013 start dates currently attached to them, along with the Park Chelsea
at New Jersey and I, and maybe the new office/residential/hotel/retail projects along 1st Street
as well. (Note also that 2013 start dates for big projects would dovetail nicely with the rumored 2015 arrival of the MLB All Star Game at Nats Park.) But Akridge
remain silent about start dates for their Half Street projects, and really, the only start dates that should matter at this point are the ones when dirt actually starts to be dug.
In the meantime, there will be much revelry as fans pass through the neighborhood to and from the ballpark in October, and everyone associated with Near Southeast can hope that Thomas Boswell is right, that this title could be "the first of many
," so that the Ballpark District can begin to resemble the grand plans made for it with much optimism a few years ago at the same time that the Nats have already begun to resemble the grand plans made for them with much optimism a few years ago.