City Leaders Unveil St. Elizabeth's Redevelopment
District officials unveiled plans today to partner with the federal government on a major redevelopment of the St. Elizabeth's campus in Southeast Washington, which they said will turn the walled-off mental hospital into a thriving neighborhood center.
Under the proposal, the city, which controls173 acres on the east campus, would offer a parcel of to house a federal agency. That would be used to complement the Department of Homeland Security, which is being relocated to the 183-acre west campus, just across Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
Using the federal building as a catalyst on the eastern half, the District would then seek build a mix of offices, restaurants and shops to create a town square-style center, which would draw business from the new workers and residents who live nearby, officials said.
In all, the east campus could encompass nearly 3 million square feet of development.
Officials hailed the proposal as a first-of-its-kind partnership with the federal government east of the Anacostia River.
"This is the first time the federal government has ever come across the Anacostia," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who will hold a public meeting in at 5:30 p.m. at the Petey Green Community Center, 2907 Martin Luther King Avenue SE. "We see this as a win-win. ..... It's never been done before."
The redevelopment became possible when the city began work on a new 292-bed St. Elizabeths Hospital building just to the south of the historic complex.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Planning Director Harriet Tregoning said they will hold a public hearing on the plan Tuesday and deliver it to the D.C. Council in November. The proposal requires council approval before moving forward.
By David Nakamura and Hamil R. Harris.
Norton acknowledged that she will have her work cut out for her convincing her Congressional colleagues to support the plan, especially because it might require an increase in federal funds. Norton said she worked with President Bush for years for the funding to relocate the Homeland Security agency, but it wasn't until the Democrats won a majority in the House and Senate that the funds were approved.
As if to illustrate how difficult the project might be to win buy in from all sides, even Norton and Fenty were jockeying to see who could get more credit. Norton had scheduled her community meeting for tonight a while back, but Fenty surprised her by calling a news conference this morning to announce the plan to the media. An aide to council member Marion Barry, who attended the announcement, said Barry wasn't even invited, though the hospital is in his ward.
Still, Norton was upbeat.
"We are jump starting the kind of quality retail that Ward 8 residents have been crying for and never getting and we are doing this courtesy of the federal government," she said.
David A Nakamura
October 22, 2008; 4:32 PM ET
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