Bringing Baseball Home

Bringing Baseball Home

With letter of intent, residents contemplate selling for baseball.

Pentagon City neighbors are demanding protections from a possible baseball stadium. Meanwhile, Rosslyn residents are facing the possibility of a stadium not just in their back yard, but in their living room.

Even though a Rosslyn stadium would mean the destruction of all four residential buildings at the River Place cooperative housing complex, baseball is finding a warmer reception there than elsewhere in the county.

?At least one building has indicated that we are open to discussions,? said Hashmat Ali, president of the North building at River Place and vice president of the River Place owners association. ?It?s a pretty challenging project, and I think we all are open to ideas.?

River Place is one of five sites being considered for a stadium if Major League Baseball decides to relocate the Montreal Expos to Northern Virginia. Three of those sites are in Arlington ? two in Pentagon City, one on River Place?s 14.6-acre plot of land between Route 50, Route 110 and North Lynn Street where the four 12-story buildings currently stand.

Not all residents are happy with the possibility of losing the housing. ?I don?t think it?s a good thing,? said Richard Poulin, an 80-year-old who has called River Place home for the last two decades.

He?s not against major league baseball. Poulin, a Boston native, grew up a Red Sox fan. But he is concerned about putting a stadium in the middle of heavily developed Rosslyn. ?I don?t think it?s necessarily a good spot to have the team here,? he said.

But there?s not much to do about it, Poulin said. Faced with a nine-figure sale price for River Place, Poulin throws up his hands. ?I?d have to go; can?t fight that,? he said.

THAT OFFER COMES from Lincoln Properties, a Dallas-based company serving in an advisory capacity to the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority. Lincoln approached River Place owners with a letter of intent to purchase the property for between $63-64 million per building.

?We received the offer on, I believe it was April 17,? said Ali. ?But basically it?s not an offer, it?s a letter of intent to purchase.?

River Place is cooperative housing, meaning a group of owners jointly own the buildings and lease the land on which they are built. The current property lease expires in 2052. A board of directors chosen from among the owners governs each building. ?We?re all interconnected,? said Ali, ?We all hold multiple positions.?

Buying the property would be costly for Lincoln or anyone else. Stadium authority officials estimate total cost of a stadium at the River Place site would top $600 million, making it by far the most expensive location. Estimates on Pentagon City sites range from just under $400 million to about $435 million.

That could mean Rosslyn is just not financially feasible. Authority chairman Michael Frey indicated at a press conference in March that the high cost of the Rosslyn site means the authority will only pursue the site if Arlington officials indicate it as their first choice.

COST CAN BE prohibitive, but it can also be a selling point in the court of public opinion. Milton Carb, a River Place resident, is more than happy to collect a check for his property. ?I like that,? he said. ?I can make money on my apartment.? Carb isn?t ready to jump to conclusions yet, but he is already contemplating moving out of the area if he is bought out.

Others are more apprehensive about the possibility of having to look for a new place to live. Some residents do not own cars, and depend on access to the nearby Metro station to get to and from work. Washington rental and home markets could make such housing hard to replace.

Mike Frank, who lives a block away from River Place, disagreed. ?From the standpoint of the buildings, I don?t think it?s any great loss,? he said.

The red brick buildings were built in 1957, and some residents say the complex is at the end of its life, with or without a stadium replacing it.

?I can see them tearing these buildings down,? said Andrew Thomas, who has rented a River Place apartment for six years. ?I could totally see some kind of luxury high-rise here.?

Thomas says losing his apartment wouldn?t hurt his quality of life. ?I?ll just move,? he said. ?It won?t be a big deal.?

If that?s going to happen, said Ali, Lincoln will have to up the ante. Their initial letter named a price for the buildings but didn?t figure in any money for commercial space, including parking, also located on the site.

?It?s probably the most attractive site, but there are a number of issues related,? he said. ?Obviously if somebody has to come in and buy it, they probably have to make the offer more credible.?