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The game didn't have the outcome fans hoped for, but there were a fair number of moments to cheer about for the pretty-darn-huge crowd that played hooky to show up at Nationals Park for the 2009 home opener. I took a pile of photos, of the pre-game ceremonies and just a bunch of tableau shots from around the stadium, which eventually I'll get installed on my main ballpark page. And, just for the heck of it, here's some reminders of what the area looked like before and after the stadium.
Now, off to the ANC meeting, which I'm already late for.
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Jason Cherkis at the City Paper expounds on everything going on around the ballpark ("Nationals Park: No Revival Yet. Here Are a Few Reasons Why"), and issues a point-by-point refutation of the "excuse making on the part of city officials and developers" in Sunday's Post story. Of course, the stadium and the vast majority of the ballpark-related development is in Southeast and not Southwest, but it's not like he's the first to make that mistake....
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I don't really feel like linking to this NBC4 piece on "Major Southeast Renovations in Limbo" (working off of Sunday's Post piece), but it does give me an excuse to wander into the Post archives and pass along a couple morsels from a March, 1998 piece about the MCI (now Verizon) Center, three months after it opened. The article is entitled "Neighborhood Isn't Cheering About Arena's Impact":
* "Although thousands of people have journeyed to the once-forgotten downtown neighborhood to watch professional basketball, hockey and other events, the three-month-old arena has not yet become the seven-day-a-week destination that team owner Abe Pollin envisioned when he built it."
* "Some neighborhood businesses are counting on Discovery because, except on game days or during concerts, the building has failed to produce the return that city leaders imagined when they hailed MCI Center as an engine for revitalization. 'It's not the pot of gold we thought at the end of the rainbow,' said Danny Callahan, an owner of the Rock sports bar across Sixth Street NW from the arena."
* "Restaurant owners say the arena has boosted business, but not to the extent they had hoped. [...] The arena has actually hurt business on nonevent nights. The old regulars don't drop by anymore, because they never know when the area will be swamped with arena patrons, and parking prices have shot up."
At least Nationals Park got a year before the it's-not-doing-what-people-said-it-would-do slew of articles. And what a shame that the MCI Center, after that disappointing start, never amounted to anything....
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More posts: Rearview Mirror, Nationals Park
 

[Note: I'm back in town after almost a week away (reminder to self: next year don't skip town the week before the home opener), so apologies if my coverage of the various events and media pieces has seemed even less scintillating than usual. And now I'm going to end the week with one more less-than-perfect entry, which I should have written before I left but didn't do it until now....]
If you haven't been back to Nationals Park or the surrounding Near Capitol Ballpark River Yards neighborhood since last year's Opening Day, here's what you'll see that wasn't completed on your last visit:
* 55 M Street - Right on top of the west entrance of the Navy Yard Metro station, at the head of Half Street, is Monument Realty's 275,000-sq-ft office building, which has been finished in the last few months and which will be home to Artomatic this summer. No office or retail tenants have been announced, although WBJ reported a few weeks back that Gordon Biersch may be eyeing some of 55 M's ground-floor space. The rest of Monument's Half Street site remains a large hole in the ground, with financing for the planned 350 residential units and adjoining hotel directly across from the ballpark nowhere to be found.
* 70 and 100 I Street - Sibling apartment buildings officially known as the Axiom and Jefferson at Capitol Yards first began move-ins in late summer 2008, and their combined 700 units are reported to be about 50 percent leased. (They're the big brick buildings sitting just south of the Freeway.)

* Onyx on First - Another apartment building (though it had been originally planned as condos), Onyx opened at the corner of First and L streets in late fall of 2008. It has approximately 266 units.

* 100 M Street - On the site of the old On Luck cafeteria at First and M, this 240,000-sq-ft office building opened right at the tail end of 2008, and is close to 40 percent leased, with Parsons occupying about one-third of the space. A SunTrust Bank branch is under construction on the ground floor--there's additional retail space where a restaurant could be a possibility, though no deals have been announced.

* 909 New Jersey - Finished mere moments ago (it opened last week), this 237-unit apartment building at New Jersey and I by JPI (developers of 70 and 100 I) is catching eyes with its blue-edged nighttime profile, and is generating piles of "have they signed anyone for their retail space?" messages in my inbox (answer: not that I've heard so far). Baseball fans walking down from Capitol South will also appreciate the wide new sidewalk now just one block south of the freeway.

As for what's currently underway, there's the first phase of townhouses at Capitol Quarter (where the first residents will move in this month and where work will continue into next year), the 200-unit Velocity condo building at First and L, and the 440,000-sq-ft office building at 1015 Half Street (which will be completed in 2010 but will already be cursed for obscuring the view of the Capitol dome from some seats in the ballpark that had it last year). There's also construction continuing at Diamond Teague Park, right across from the ballpark's grand staircase, but the somewhat optimistic timeline of having the water taxi piers completed by Opening Day has now been revised to "midseason."
Work had begun on rehabbing the brown-and-white Pattern/Joiner Shop at the Yards last year (which folks walking to the ballpark from the Nats Express drop-off will see), but financing problems brought the work to a halt early in 2009, and Forest City continues to look for money to restart the project.
The most prominent structure that's disappeared in the past 12 months is the former WMATA bus garage on Half Street just across from the subway entrance, demolished two weeks ago to make way for Akridge's planned 700,000-sq-ft mixed-use development, though that project won't get underway before 2010. (The south end of Akridge's Half Street land is where the [not-a-]beer garden may appear later this summer.)
But, as has been written about extensively elsewhere, as of now there's no new places to eat since last year (though a deli is coming to Third and K in May), and most likely no additional projects will get underway before next year.
So, study this little guide and amaze your friends with your knowledge of what's what as you look at the ballpark's surroundings.
 

Racing out the door here for the day, so I'll just quickly post this link to today's A1 WashPost piece, "At Nationals Park, District of Dreams Hits a Slump," another entry in the one-year-after-the-ballpark stories being run by various local media outlets. The short version: there's nowhere to eat, developers paid too much for land, the economic crunch that's hit the rest of the country is reflected here, and city officials say that people shouldn't have expected everything to be ready immediately.
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Metro has just put out a press release detailing their service plans for Monday's 3:05 pm Nats home opener against the Phillies, which includes rush hour service starting at 1 pm, and extra trains when the game ends. (Though they should have checked their link to the old Monument Half Street construction cam before including it in their release, since the camera is no longer operating.) There's also the wmata.com/nationals page for additional details on the bus lines that run near the park--but remember that the DC Circulator bus that runs between Union Station, Eastern Market, and New Jersey and M is not run by WMATA, so DCCirculator.com is the place to go for info on that, though so far there's no details on how late it'll run on Monday (normally it stops at 7 pm).
With President Obama apparently not throwing out the first pitch after all, there might not be quite so much of a need to arrive early, but the Nats have still planned a lineup of special events, and are opening the Center Field Gate at 12:30 pm, with batting practice starting at 12:45. There will be a band playing on the new stage in the Center Field plaza and another one up on the Scoreboard Walk. Nats Extra, the MASN pregame show, will be broadcasting live from the Center Field plaza at 2 pm, and the official pre-game ceremonies (hosted by David Gregory of Meet the Press) will start at 2:35 pm. Nearby residents and office workers who won't be at the game should prepare themselves for the planned "flyover by four helicopters, a OH-58 Kiowa, two UH-1 Hueys and one UH-72 Lakota" during the National Anthem. The Nats have their own transportation page, at nationals.com/waytogo, though as I noted a few weeks ago, it still needs a bit of freshening for 2009 (the Metrobus page is still dedicated to the N22).
UPDATE: I'll add this on, since this is ballpark-related: the four parking lots at The Yards are available for baseball parking (just not as part of the official network of Nats lots this year), for either $25 or $20 per game; call or e-mail for more information. Other cash lots include the garage at 100 M and the small surface lot at 250 M and I believe the lots under 80 M and 1100 New Jersey, though I'm not 100% sure. The official Nats cash lot (where you can also buy single-game parking via their web site) is Lot U at 3rd and K, and costs $15 this year. In other words, if you want to drive down near the ballpark and pay cash for parking, you should be able to find a spot, though these lots may be more full during weekday afternoon games, since they're also used by commuters. I plan to update my Stadium Parking page soon.
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More posts: circulator, Metro/WMATA, parking, Nationals Park
 

From a piece in Friday's Post about [the lack of] food and drink options near Nationals Park: "The Velocity Capitol Riverfront condominiums, slated to open at First and L streets SE in the fall, will have a sports bar as part of its ground floor retail space." This is slightly different from what the Velocity sales office was telling prospective buyers earlier this year, which was that an Italian bistro was being planned.
The article also gives more details on the Akridge "block party" space at Half and N, mentions Artomatic, and talks about access via Circulator bus to the restaurants on Barracks Row.
 

From the WashTimes: "President Barack Obama won't be at Nationals Park on Monday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Washington Nationals' home opener.
"According to a White House aide, Obama will decline the team's invitation to throw the pitch in the game against the Philadelphia Phillies, brushing back a presidential tradition that dates back to 1910."
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City Paper does some digging on the "Beer Garden" item on ANC6D's April 13 agenda that I posted about yesterday: "Andrew J. Kline, representing Robert 'Bo' Blair, said at a March 25 meeting of the Alcohol Beverage Control Board that his client wants to create a 'festival site with amenities' near Nationals Stadium, but that 'beer garden is not our term, I don't know where that came from.' [Note from JD: that's what it said on the ANC agenda.]
"Blair, who is on four licenses in the city, according to Kline, plans to hire private security staff, and there will be one main entrance to the festival site. There will be no cover for admittance, and there will be a separate tent where alcohol is served where staff will check IDs. Their preliminary proposal indicates a trailer will be used to lock up liquor when there's no game."
UPDATE: Further information in a WashPost piece on food and drink options near the ballpark: "And the real estate firm Akridge, which plans to eventually turn the space of a former Metrobus garage at Half and M streets into shops, offices and residential units, is hoping to convert the now-empty lot across from the centerfield gate on N Street into something of a block party this season. 'The concept is a tented event space -- partially tented, mostly open -- with live entertainment, food and beverages," says Akridge Development Manager Adam Gooch. 'Half Street is supposed to be the entertainment area.... We're trying to get some life down here.' Permits, schedules and most of the details of the project have yet to be finalized[.]"
 

Some very quick links:
* The Nats unveiled the new statues of Frank Howard, Josh Gibson, and Walter Johnson in the Center Field Plaza at the ballpark yesterday; here's coverage by WTOP, City Paper, WashTimes, and Nats320. But the Post's art critic isn't too impressed.
* The Post's Marc Fisher ruminates on the the futures of both the Nats and the unfinished neighborhood surrounding their new home: "But despite the optimism each new season brings, there is a growing unease, questions about whether fans will really support the team and whether the city's investment will provide the promised returns. Times and moods change." And Fox5 has its own look at the neighborhood in advance of the Nats's home opener.
* In nonballpark news, the city has posted the final draft of its Boathouse Row planning study; you can see more about this easternmost section of Near Southeast here, along with my summary of the last public meeting on the study. (There's a link to this study from the new blog by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.)
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More posts: Boathouse Row, East of 11th Street, Nationals Park
 
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