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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.

By David A Nakamura  |  October 22, 2008; 4:32 PM ET
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it's funny to see them both scuffling to see who can get more credit for this. the park service and the military both have a lot of office space on the east side of the river, so ms. holmes-norton is wrong with her statement about this being the first time the feds have 'crossed the anacostia'

Posted by: IMGoph | October 22, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

I don't see the development they are talking about happening. First, this is Homeland Security, not the most inviting of institutions. They won't even take down the walls; they will simply put the services needed by their employees inside. Additionally, these jobs will not be open to the neighborhood citizens, so that economic development won't happen either. Finally, this (the East Campus) is some of the best real estate in DC, so we lose that tax base assist as well. To mediate this imbalance, the UDC community college should be given the St. E's buildings next to the Congress Heights metro and be guaranteed internship/employment options with DHS.

Posted by: ctouhey | October 22, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

The St. E's project will bring 14K DHS federal employees into SE; along with a bunch of contractors as well. One cafeteria is not going to feed all those people - there will be spill over to the community. As far as construction jobs for folks in DC, talk to GSA as they will be writing the contracts. DHS has said that it has to be 4.5 Million Square Feet of Office space or the project will not happen, and the preservationist are the ones that don't like that density on the west campus. So, GSA and DHS approached the City about 700K square feet on the east campus. The city couldn't get a developer previously and has jumped at the chance for a solid first client on the east campus. That is a win-win-win. Unfortunately, Congresswoman Norton talks about money, but the appropriations committee hasn't heard from her or given GSA the 300+ million for the first part of construction. DHS has some money, but GSA has to get the lion's share and they haven't gotten any yet. Moreover, people have to realize that DHS on the west campus will be controlled access due to security - it is a different world since 9-11. They will open it for special occasions. But this is no different than before, the old hospital on the west campus was also controlled (unless you knew someone that worked there). Oh, one last thing - the wall is historic & the preservationist will not let them tear it down.

Posted by: Cosmo deMedici | October 23, 2008 12:59 AM | Report abuse

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