WASHINGTON (WJLA) - D.C Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton called it the beginning of a new era for Ward 8 with thousands of federal workers now reporting for duty on the Saint Elizabeths campus.
Norton joined Mayor Vincent Gray tuesday for a ribbon-cutting on a new community pavilion on the campus. District leaders hope it will generate new jobs, retail and food options for nearby residents.
Norton said, "What we are witnessing this morning is the beginning of a transformation of Martin Luther King Avenue to make it into an avenue worthy of the name Martin Luther King, Jr."
8C03 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mary Cuthbert worked with three different D.C. mayors to make this day happen.
Cuthbert even wore a crown to the ribbon-cutting. "I am so elated. I was crowned Mary, Queen of Congress Heights So I'm asking everyone in the city, to come to Ward 8 to visit my castle," she said.
The pavilion is part of Mayor Vincent Gray's $113 million dollar plan to retrofit old hospital buildings and transform the campus into a technology hub.
Dep. Mayor For Planning & Econ. Dev. Victor Hoskins said, "I think this is the finest piece of architecture in the District Of Columbia."
The 16,000 square foot pavilion was designed for pop-up retail, artists and food vendors - both national chains and local food trucks.
A tunnel now connects the space to thousands of potential customers - Department Of Homeland Security and Coast Guard employees on the Saint Elizabeths west campus.
Coast Guard Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown said, "It reminded me of the baseball film, the Field of Dreams: 'If you build it, they will come.'"
Project officials hope this will also be a destination for nearby residents and all Washingtonians.
The D.C. Government is currently accepting vendor applications, with space for more than 40.
To lure in big chains, the district is offering six months rent for just one dollar. To attract residents, starting Monday, the pavilion will host pop-up coffee events with free coffee and WiFi.