Momentum Grows for RFK Stadium Redevelopment

DC appoints GSA’s Nina Albert to DMPED and launches stadium study

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After years of sitting in limbo, the push to redevelop the RFK Stadium site in Washington, D.C., is finally gathering momentum. 

Several stadium-related moves over the past month demonstrate that it’s top of mind for D.C. officials.

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In particular, two developments in D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) could help set the stage for a stadium face-lift.

Late last week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced her appointment of Nina Albert, the former General Services Administration’s commissioner of public buildings, to lead DMPED. The agency oversees economic developments in the district, but has been without a leader since former head John Falcicchio resigned in March following a sexual harassment scandal. 

During her tenure at the GSA, Albert managed approximately 370 million square feet of government-owned and -leased space across the U.S. She also previously served as vice president of real estate and parking at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Following that news, DMPED announced Tuesday that it had selected JLL (JLL) and the Robert Bobb Group, a D.C.-based consulting firm, to lead a “sports study” that aims to analyze the financing and economic impact of new and existing district stadiums.

“D.C. is a proud sports town that values our professional teams and the critical role they play in the District’s vibrancy,” Albert said in a statement. “The sports study will continue our work to support D.C.’s sports teams and further understand their contribution to our city’s economic and cultural landscape.”

The move comes several weeks after movement on the congressional front. On Sept. 20, the House Oversight Committee passed legislation that would extend D.C.’s long-term lease of the stadium land, which is owned by the federal government, for 99 years. It also broadly expands the District’s ability to redevelop the land beyond just a new stadium and recreation areas, which are the only two avenues that the current lease allows. 

The bill passed by a vote of 31-9, with broad bipartisan support. It now awaits a full House vote.

The bipartisan D.C. Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Campus Revitalization Act restores control of the currently vacant site of the RFK stadium to the citizens of D.C. to help transform this part of the city,” Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said in a statement.

Mayor Bowser has not been shy about her intention to bring the Washington Commanders NFL franchise back to the district. “There’s only one location — and when I say that, I’m talking about D.C., Maryland, and Virginia — and that’s at RFK,” Bowser said at a press conference in February 2022. All three jurisdictions are vying for the future Commanders stadium. 

“There’s really only one place for the team in this region. I mean, I know, I’ve been a little coy, but … there’s only one choice,” she reiterated at an event this July, according to Commander’s Wire.

The football team has played in Maryland at FedEx Field in Prince George’s County since 1997, and is expected to remain there until its lease expires in 2027. RFK Stadium meanwhile has sat abandoned since 2017, when final tenant D.C. United left for its new home at Audi Field, just a few miles away. 

Back in 2019, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the nonvoting congressional member who represents D.C., introduced a bill that would allow the district to buy the 190-acre stadium lot from the federal government. But that bill appears to have stalled by 2022, following a disagreement between Boswer and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on how to acquire the site, according to reporting by The Washington Post

D.C.’s existing lease of the stadium site ends in 2038. It is currently the largest tract of unused land in the district. 

Nick Trombola can be reached at NTrombola@commercialobserver.com.