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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: Apr 13, 2009
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4 Blog Posts

Tonight ANC 6D gave its support to a plan for "Festival Park on Half Street," a 14,000-square-foot combination food, drink, and activity space on the northwest corner of Half and N streets, on land owned by Akridge directly across from Nationals Park.
This is the "beer garden" that caused a bit of a stir last week, and representatives of Akridge, Georgetown Events, and Headfirst Sports were on hand to explain their concept to the ANC. A document handed out describes it as a space with "a large tent that will include a beverage station, a temporary stage for live music, porta johns, tables with seating, possible baseball netting cages for live instruction, and a children's activity area." It would be open on game days beginning three hours before game time and ending two hours after (or before midnight regardless of whether the game is over). The newly erected 12-foot-high wooden fence would surround the site, with one entrance where IDs will be checked and bracelets given to those 21 and older, with up to 12 security employees on hand. There would be food from third-party vendors as well as Georgetown Events' own restaurants (Surfside, Jetties, and the Rookery). There's also the possibility of activities in the space (such as farmers' markets or other events) on non-gamedays, though the lease for the space ends at the beginning of November.
Headfirst Sports (named by Sports Illustrated for Kids as the "Best Summer Camp in the Entire Washington Area") is planning to run in the park a "variety of games, contests, and competitions as well as small clinic and group instruction aimed at teaching young Nationals fans how to play and love baseball and softball." The operator of Headfirst also made clear his interest in working with youth groups from the neighborhood in sessions apart from the gameday activities.
The ANC commissioners were supportive of the plans, although they had a lot of questions (too bad you all missed the long discussion of whether the phrase "frozen drinks" is a legal term), and 6D07 commissioner Bob Siegel complimented the group, saying "you convinced us that this is going to possibly work." Some specifics still need to be hammered out in the "voluntary agreement" that Georgetown Events is entering into with the ANC, but the commissioners voted 7-0 to support the group's application for a "Tavern" liquor license. An April 30-May 1 opening date is being targeted, but there is still city bureaucracy to contend with.
As for the Akridge site, baseball fans heading to the ballpark today were met with a slew of new signage on the west side of Half Street advertising "Akridge at Half Street"--the new web site shows some of the art on the signs, and I also took a few photos of the fences and put them on my Akridge Half Street page, though the skies were so gloomy that I couldn't bring myself to post the complete set. There's a spot where local artists will be creating works right on the fence, and there is also a chalkboard where passers-by can write messages, as many did today.
UPDATE: Some additional details on the plans from WBJ.
 

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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