Abe Pollin passed away yesterday. He is most known for being the owner of the NBA's Washington Wizards. Pollin was the longest tenured NBA owner and was revered as a dedicated man who wanted to and did succeed at the highest levels; in a region without the sports cachet of an LA, New York, or even Boston. Pollin gambled, and again succeeded, by bringing the Wizards, then the Washington Bullets, to downtown DC from suburban Maryland in 1997. At the time, no one knew what would become of DC's dying Chinatown district. He built the MCI Center (now Verizon Center) against his own wealth. The results could not have been better.
The area around the Verizon Center is a poster child of what was envisioned under the "sports stadium affect on lagging downtown" phenomenon of the 1990s. The trend was a reversal of the previous 25 years or so of urban development in which stadiums were placed in the suburbs, following the money and parking.
The Verizon Center works precisely because it is where the money is --East End DC-- and there's no need for much parking. It's right above a Metro stop with direct links to Alexandria, Silver Spring, Bethesda, uptown DC, Silver Spring and anywhere else ridable on three Metro subway lines. The strategy worked. Verizon Center is now but a component of Penn Quarter, Chinatown, Metro Center and Downtown DC. The sports venue is the Sears to a mall development; the anchor for all the other activity around it. Whether the teams win or not. By the way, the Wizards were victorious last night, albeit by one point. So, here's to Mr. Pollin.
Below, a repost of of my ode to Verizon Center from early last year. I stand by all of what I wrote at the time; it was and is a true asset for this part of the city.