The redevelopment of the St. Elizabeths East campus took a big step forward today with the groundbreaking for a community pavilion. D.C. leaders say it's just the start of a new chapter for Ward 8 and will bring much-needed amenities to residents there.
"This has been a long time coming," says ANC 8 Commissioner Mary Cuthbert,who started working on redeveloping the campus in 2000. "And it's finally coming to fruition. And I'm excited."
Wednesday, Cuthbert joined other D.C. leaders to break ground on the Gateway Pavilion - a focal point of the District government's $113 million plan to retrofit the old hospital buildings and transform the campus into a technology hub, with tenants like Microsoft and Citelum.
"But they will be restored with a historic quality to them to be able to be used for 21st century purposes, even though they were constructed, most of them, in the 19th century," says Mayor Vincent Gray.
Officials say the Gateway Pavilion will open on the campus next fall and when it does, it will feature a 16,000 sq. ft. open-air market with fresh food, casual dining and pop-up retailers.
"Bringing in women's apparel and soft goods and hardware to this location, so that the community can get the amenities that it has missed, that it drives 15-20 miles to get to," says Victor L. Hoskins, deputy mayor for planning and economic development. "We are going to transform this community."
The plan also calls for an academic anchor institution. So far, 19 universities have submitted proposals.
"Universities are really excited about future employers being located on the same campus, so they'll be able to go right across the street," says Catherine Buell, St. Elizabeths East executive director.
Eventually, a pedestrian walkway will also connect the pavilion to thousands of Department of Homeland Security employees on the west campus across Martin Luther King Avenue.
A security gate will also come down, making the pavilion more inviting to nearby residents.
"We can spend our money here and really enjoy the community where you live," Cuthbert says.