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The pioneering, if temporary, element of the St. Elizabeths East Campus development—-a “Gateway Pavilion” with a food vendor, food trucks, gathering spaces, and a farmer’s market—-was supposed to be finished in late August. Well, August has come and gone, and the construction crews are still at work. I paid a visit to the pavilion on Friday, and Department of General Services Director Brian Hanlon gave me a tour.
The development of the St. Elizabeths West Campus is already well underway, with the Coast Guard completing its move to its new headquarters there. But the East Campus is the one where mixed-use development is supposed to give a boost to neighboring Anacostia and Congress Heights, and it’s lagging behind. The city initially put out a solicitation to developers for projects along the southern edge of the site, but later rescinded that solicitation. Instead, it’s hoping to kick things off with an academic anchor institution; 12 colleges and universities are interested in coming, and the city will choose one or more by next summer.
That’s a long way off. The Gateway Pavilion, which broke ground in May, is intended to keep momentum up and get the public engaged with St. Elizabeths before the full scale of development begins. It’s designed to be temporary, but Hanlon calls it “a structure that’s going to stand the test of time.” He says it could stand as long as 10 to 15 years, or even longer if it becomes a popular hangout.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if people got attached to it and it ended up sticking around,” he says.
According to Hanlon, the pavilion will end up costing more than $8 million. It’s a substantial structure: about 400 feet long, 25 feet high, and 60 feet wide at its broadest point. Its roof will feature a landscaped plaza with two stairways leading below. Underneath will be an indoor space for a food vendor, a community room, and public areas, with WiFi throughout. A tunnel will allow Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security employees to access the pavilion directly without crossing Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue—-a convenience, though not one that’s likely to integrate those employees into the surrounding communities.
Chanda Washington, spokeswoman for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, says there’s still no firm opening date for the pavilion. Nor is there a date set for the city to choose the food vendor, or to open the tunnel. “It’s kind of fluid at the moment,” she says.
Hanlon expected to receive a temporary certificate of occupancy later in the day on Friday, which means visitors will be able to come as soon as city officials are ready to welcome them there. But there’s still a ways to go. Click on the photo below for a slideshow of the progress on the Gateway Pavilion.
Photos by Aaron Wiener