Barry to Fenty: You Stalled Poplar Point

Barry to Fenty: You Stalled Poplar Point At Least a Year! was originally published on Housing Complex on Feb. 02, 2009, at 2:49 pm

The Washington Post has obtained a letter from Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry to Mayor Adrian Fenty. Not surprisingly, the tone isn’t terribly cordial. Barry says that the mayor has set back the Poplar Point project in numerous ways—that it will be tough to find a new developer, tough to build enthusiasm in the community again, and tough to meet development deadlines. He concludes his letter like this:

Over my concerns and those of the people, many of whom it took a long time to convince to support any project at Polar Point, you charged ahead without us. I am certain that this serious misstep will have a lasting negative effect on the public support for the project. In addition, it will be difficult to attract a quality developer to the project. Even so, I remain optimistic that your administration will move quickly to resolve this situation. Your next steps will be crucial in maintaining the promise made to the citizens of Ward 8.

I keep coming back to something Philip Pannell said a year ago when I interviewed him about the possibility of a soccer stadium at Poplar Point.He believed an extra special attraction—like the D.C. United playing field—was necessary for Poplar Point:

“There are practically no stores that they could put on that point that people could not access is their own communities. So, just putting in retail will not make Poplar Point a destination point, neither will it make it a destination point by just having mixed-income housing. Although the waterfront is there and there will be green space and we would want visitors, why would people think that someone living in Fairfax is going to necessarily come over to enjoy the green space at Poplar point, when there’s plenty of green space in that county?”

We’re slowly turning every little bit of waterfront space into some magical retail/restaurant/river amusement park. The Poplar Point area needs a defining new feature or else it’s just the Southwest Waterfront, the Capitol Riverfront, and the Hill East Waterfront—but further away in an area known for its high crime levels . Now it looks like Poplar Point has no edge on any of these projects, time-wise or entertainment-wise. According to a recent Post article, “[D.C.] United owner Victor B. MacFarlane has not talked with Fenty aides in months,” and the stadium proposal has “all but died, also because of the credit market crunch, officials said.”

Really, who’s going to step up now and fill Clark’s shoes?


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