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Walter Reed transferred from U.S. Army to D.C. Government

Walter Reed transferred from U.S. Army to D.C. Government. (Mike Carter-Conneen/ABC7)

After several years working and waiting on the federal government, the District of Columbia now has control of 66-acres at the old Walter Reed army hospital. D.C. will pay about $22 million for the property.

This transfer of control allows for the start of construction at the site. The project will create more than three million square feet of residential, retail and office space in upper northwest.

At the Walter Reed development project Wednesday afternoon, there was a homecoming of sorts for D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. She started working on this in 2007 as a local ANC commissioner, then Ward 4 Council member. Now Mayor, she signed the paperwork formally transferring control over the property.

“Big city projects take a long time and it takes a lot of people to stay persistent and committed to getting them done,” she said.

Neighbors are happy to finally see some momentum. “It's just been sitting here completely unused,” said Mark Brown.

Much of the excitement is focused on a new grocery store. “Instead of going to Silver Spring, we'll keep our dollars in D.C.,” said Gloria Sulton.

Some were disappointed when word got out – first reported by the Washington Business Journal – Wegmans was not coming to the Walter Reed site.

Several weeks later, the supermarket chain reiterated that nothing has changed.

“We have been unable to reach an agreement on economic terms or on an acceptable development plan. We are doubtful that a deal will be struck,” said Wegmans Media Relations Coordinator Jo Natale.

Meanwhile, the developer said he is negotiating with another grocer, with an announcement possible in the next six weeks.

Hines senior managing Director Chuck Watters was careful not to reveal any more details. He said, “It's a name that will be pretty well known and I think they are well known for being community oriented.”

The past few years have been tough for small business owners along Georgia Avenue, not far from Walter Reed. They say, when the Army base moved its operations out to Bethesda, much of their customer base disappeared overnight.

Some businesses shut down. The owner of the nearby Angelico Pizza says his lunchtime sales dropped 50 percent.

“The day they left, you feel a void,” Mo Bencheikh said.

Now, there's finally hope, but nearby businesses realize this development will take time to bake in.

The 18-month-long demolition of the main hospital building is set to start in summer 2017, making way for new retail and housing which is projected to open in 2020.

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