The House passes a bipartisan bill allowing DC to redevelop.jpgw1440

The House passes a bipartisan bill allowing D.C. to redevelop the RFK Stadium site

After a rare bipartisan push to help D.C., a bill passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday with overwhelming support that would allow the city to redevelop the eyesore that is defunct RFK Stadium.

The bill, the DC RFK Memorial Stadium Campus Revitalization Act, passed by a vote of 348-55. If passed by the Senate, the bill will allow DC to transform the federally owned riverfront property into an attractive mixed-use development that could include commercial and residential uses – and possibly a new stadium for DC Mayor Muriel's Washington Commanders E. Bowser (D) pursued.

The mayor has long viewed the RFK legislation as the first step toward beginning more serious discussions with commanders Owner Josh Harris is luring the team back to its former home, and Wednesday's passage brings Bowser closer to that goal — even if it's far from guaranteed.

“Tonight’s vote was a significant step forward in our efforts to realize the full potential of the RFK campus – for our residents and visitors, the community and DC’s comeback,” Bowser said in a statement.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, as is usually the case focused on DC in terms of crime and police issues. His leadership and partnership with Bowser and DC Del Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the bill's lead co-sponsor, became one of the most intriguing political developments of the last year and ultimately served as a powerful bipartisan combination that helped push the bill forward Finish line of the house.

Comer said he decided to introduce the legislation after speaking with Bowser about how redeveloping RFK could provide a major economic boost for the city and make the crumbling stadium an asset for D.C. again, stadium or stadium here.

On Wednesday, Comer touted Congress's intense oversight of the city — including last year's bipartisan rejection of the city's revised criminal code — and said this bill was an extension of that “constitutional duty.”

The bill “represents Congress doing its job of overseeing the district by authorizing the best possible use of the district’s lands to help the city prosper,” Comer said. “We should want this for the nation’s capital, as the home of taxpayer federal employees and as a city that hosts millions of American visitors and tourists from around the world each year.”

The legislation would transfer administrative control of the 174-acre riverfront property from the federal government to D.C., for a 99-year lease-free period, and allow for a range of development options, from a soccer stadium to restaurants, retail and housing. The city would cover any costs associated with remediation or environmental assessment of the site, as well as demolition of the vacant stadium and future development and maintenance of the site. Norton and Comer called the agreement a “win-win” for D.C. and the National Park Service, which would no longer bear the costs of maintaining the land. The bill would also set aside 30 percent of the land for park and open space and require maintaining access to the Anacostia River.

“We cannot allow the largest unused piece of land in Washington to continue to deteriorate when it could be put to productive use,” Norton said on X.

Bowser and Council President Phil Mendelson (D) sent a letter with a similar message to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday morning. They urged support for the bill so the District could pursue new development that could “create thousands of new jobs” and “become an attractive destination not only for the enjoyment of District residents but also for the 21 million visitors who travel there.” “. State capital annually.”

Maybe strategically, They made no mention of a possible football stadium – which Mendelson didn't like anyway and which was also an issue for some members of Congress who oppose the idea of ​​using public money or public land for a stadium. The legislation prohibits the use of federal funds for a stadium – but not local funds.

As the RFK bill passed the House of Representatives, regional competition to house the commanders in a new stadium hung in the background. Harris has spoken with Bowser, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) about the possibility of a new stadium in one of the three jurisdictions – and in DC, more serious discussions depend entirely on Congress passing the RFK legislation.

The bill passed Wednesday despite uniform opposition from the Maryland delegation as Moore fights to keep the Commanders in their current home — which will soon no longer be called FedEx Field.

“Like other members of the Maryland delegation, I believe that Prince George's County, Maryland should be able to compete on a level playing field to retain the Washington Commanders,” Ivey said. “But this bill gives DC an unfair advantage. It is certainly not a level playing field when an interested jurisdiction receives a free transfer of federally subsidized land.”

Raskin's vote was not recorded, but when a reporter asked him why he did not vote, Raskin ran back to the House chamber try to fix that. He said he wanted to vote no.

Raskin, typically one of DC's home rule's staunchest allies, said he doesn't view this bill as a home rule issue because it affects federal lands – which he said made restrictions on the land appropriate, such as not supporting multimillions -Dollar sports franchises with local or federal public money.

Asked if he would turn down public money for upgrades to FedEx Field, Raskin said it depends. He said if D.C. got the gift of federal land and also provided public money to lure the commanders, he thinks Maryland would have trouble keeping up and it would be unfair.

“It creates a completely different scenario. It creates the problem I want to avoid. The problem I want to avoid is the federal government’s involvement in a massive bonanza for a private franchise,” Raskin said.

Moore told reporters Wednesday that he remains in “very, very close contact with the team.”

“My and our insistence that the commanders remain in Prince George's County is not waning at all,” he said.

FedEx ends Commanders Stadium naming rights deal two years early

Virginia residents are now more focused on the potential of a new basketball and hockey arena for the Washington Wizards and Capitals after their billionaire owner Ted Leonsis announced a handshake deal with Youngkin to move the teams from Capital One Arena to DC to a future home in Potomac Yard. This major loss to DC – and downtown's recovery – only raised the stakes for Bowser as she continues to pursue the Commanders.

The commander observed the property. Mark Ein, a minority owner, noted the “incredible bipartisan landslide of support” for the bill.

But even after the House of Representatives passed the bill, a new soccer stadium in RFK – or development there – is still a long way off.

First, the bill will go to the Senate, where there is currently no obvious sponsor to support it. D.C. bills are rarely considered individually in the Senate, and the RFK bill would be subject to the filibuster, which requires the support of 60 senators to advance. Some non-controversial bills may seek a unanimous vote — although that would also be highly unlikely, since a certain pair of Marylanders also want the commanders to remain in their state.

If the bill is passed by Congress and signed by President Biden, DC would more formally enter the commander competition. The decision would be Harris's. Moore has previously agreed to use public money to upgrade his current stadium, and the state has already invested $400 million in the area's Blue Line corridor revitalization project. Bowser and Mendelson had made a $500 million offer to Leonsis to upgrade Capital One Arena to try to retain the teams, leading some observers to question whether that would serve as the basis for possible Commanders talks could.

Additionally, Bowser would need the support of the DC Council, which, while agreeing on using public money to maintain the Capitals and Wizards, is divided on using public money to build a new football stadium. The surrounding neighbors have also expressed skepticism about the plan.

Many have advocated for the property to be used for more affordable housing, which Bowser said should be included in any development there. She said she envisions a vibrant, mixed-use space with restaurants, parking and recreational opportunities — not “a lot of asphalt parking and just one use.”

Some longtime members of Congress who spoke in favor of the bill expressed nostalgia for the days when RFK was a “cornerstone of the sporting heritage of our nation's capital,” as Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) put it.

“Just two miles from Capitol Hill, RFK Stadium has been a premier sports and entertainment venue for nearly 50 years,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-R-A). “Today, the stadium and the land surrounding it sit empty on the banks of the Anacostia River.”

Legislation, they demanded, could finally change that.

Erin Cox contributed to this report.