Since January, 2003
 (a random before-and-after moment)
May 6, 2006
March 23, 2008
Cushing at N, Looking South (see more)

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 and Monument 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.
Comments (7)
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ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (10/2/12 10:57 AM)
The feeling is mutual JD. Our neighborhood is its own neighborhood and doesn't want to copy other neighborhoods. In a few years, it will be a mega downtown. Forget, the gallery place. I don't even know why people try to compare it with that. I am thinking a very clean, safe, well lit, respectful and family oriented neighborhood. You are in a city but you feel like you are in a suburb. You can have it and the suburb.

PJY03 says: (10/2/12 11:12 AM)
I was by Kruba Thai's space about 6 weeks ago, and it looked like their (very detailed) interior buildout was nearly complete. Do we really think its going to be 2013?

I think it won't become readily apparently that this neighborhood is not only viable but awesome until the Half Street development is complete. All the Forrest City developments are great, but the vast majority of people from MD/VA and even most of DC who ever come to the neighborhood get off at the Half & M metro exit and see empty lots and excavation pits. The neighborhood is a lot further along than public perception would suggest. We have a "front door" problem.

JD says: (10/2/12 11:21 AM)
@PJY, re Kruba, no, sorry, I wasn't hinting 2013. I paired it with Canal Park, opening in November, as a pre-2013 possibility.

And you are right of course about the "front door" issue. I can only reiterate so many times all the things that have gone on in the neighborhood, so I admit to skipping yet another rehash. And really, right now, even what's been going on elsewhere still isn't really what people are looking for when they come to a ballgame. There's Justin's, and there's the Fairgrounds. You can get food at a (few) other places, but mainly, people want food *and* drink, and even with the forward motion of the neighborhood, that still isn't available now. The Boilermaker Shops will change that, but still not in a way that Nats fans will see before Opening Day 2013.

conngs0 says: (10/2/12 11:39 AM)
JD, I got chills reading your post, and they weren't from arriving in my air-conditioned office after a wet commute either.

True, I'll bet that a lot of the establishment owners (and their financial backing) sure wish they had gotten the neighborhood up to speed in time to profit from the Nationals' success this season. But like a consistent contender in baseball, a great neighborhood needs to be built with patience and discipline. I'm absolutely ok with the fact that the neighborhood isn't yet ready for its close-up because I think that when it is ready, that close-up is going to look awfully good.

ZoolanderANDtheBoYz says: (10/2/12 12:00 PM)
@ conngs0..Are you still having a nightmare from the 2008 financial meltodown?

natitude says: (10/3/12 11:54 AM)
We should put Lerner and Rizzo in charge of Half Street development.

MJM says: (10/4/12 9:10 AM)
Akridge and Monument - your eyesores next week are gonna be an embarrassment

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