Celebrate Strasburg? Yeah, But Where?

Nats neighborhood drawing new development interest

So Stephen Strasburg blew away the opposition Tuesday night in his rookie debut, but where do you go to celebrate after the game? 

Not too many choices are available in the blocks around the Nationals' ballpark. The temporary Bullpen bar --  with tents on a open lot -- is right outside the centerfield gates and is a great place, but fans want more.

But the crowd that was drawn to see Strasburg pitch is giving new enthusiasm to local developers trying create new nightlife, homes and retail in a neighborhood that once mostly was known for rundown warehouses and industrial sites.

"Strasburg will put more fans into the seats, and our neighborhood has taken root," said Michael Stevens, who runs the Capitol Riverpark Business Improvement District.

Thousands of new people have moved into the rising condo and rental buildings, Stevens said, and he expects retail and restaurants to follow.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, the city's biggest proponent of the baseball stadium, said it already is drawing more tax revenues than first expected. Despite some critics, the stadium development is creating new economic development for the city, he said. As the national economy improves, construction and startup funds will become available.

"Developers are ready to go," he said.

The Akridge Company, one of the leading development firms in Washington, owns rights to lots of land around the stadium. You can see its promotional signs all along Half Street SE as you walk to the stadium.

"There's no question" that significant development will soon be joining what's already there, Akridge President Matt Klein said. "It's not a question of if. It's a question of when."

Nationals President Stan Kasten -- charged with building the Nats team into a winner -- said the whole goal of the Lerner ownership franchise is to put on a quality team, draw a quality fan base from the Washington region, and help build the neighborhoods that surround the stadium.

"When a team gets better," he said, the whole area benefits. 

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