If you were trying to set up a Tale of Two Cities narrative in Vince Gray‘s “One-City” District, you could do worse than Hill East and Walter Reed.
At Hill East, it’s been the worst of times. After several abortive efforts to develop the 67-acre site on the Anacostia River, the city received only one response to its latest request for developers there. Amid questionable demand, scaled-back ambitions, whittled-down incentives, and mixed signals, the future of the site is murky.
Compare that to another 67-acre site, the portion of the former Walter Reed army medical complex that’s slated for D.C. development. Last month, the city announced that nine developers had responded to the request for qualifications for Walter Reed. And now the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development sends word that it’s short-listed five of those teams and invited them to respond to the request for proposals that will be issued within the month.
The five selected teams are:
- Forest City Washington
- Hines • Urban Atlantic Joint Venture
- Roadside Development
- Walter Reed Associates, LLC (The Wilkes Company, Capstone Development LLC, and Quadrangle Development Corporation)
- Western Development
These are heavy-hitters in D.C. development: Hines is completing the huge CityCenterDC project downtown, for instance, while Roadside is working on the CityMarket at O in Shaw.
So why’s Walter Reed thriving while Hill East is struggling? Part of the answer is that the former medical facilities at Walter Reed have shut down, while Hill East is still full of active social services that need to be relocated. But part of it is the city’s commitment to developing Walter Reed that seems to be lacking at Hill East—-officials constantly trumpet Walter Reed while Hill East seems like an afterthought. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that Walter Reed is in Ward 4, where the councilmember is a formidable mayoral candidate and chairs the Committee on Economic Development. Hill East, meanwhile, is awkwardly situated in Ward 7, the residents of which are nearly all on the other side of the Anacostia, while most of its immediate neighbors are in Ward 6, which has already seen its share of big development projects and whose councilmember is seen to have less influence among his colleagues.
Whatever the reason, Ward 4 residents should get ready for some cranes on the horizon. They’re on their way.