In the long term, St. Elizabeths East Campus is supposed be a new neighborhood full of companies, residents, and educational users. In the medium term, it’s getting a collection of restaurants that’ll serve the hungry Coast Guard workers who’ll be moving in across the street.
In the short term—-as in, this summer—-the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is arranging weekend activities for six acres of fields behind a fence on Martin Luther King Avenue SE (the kind of thing that sadly can’t happen at Walter Reed or McMillan). To do it, they’ve kept on consultant Robert Charles Lesser & Co., which worked on the master plan, with a $250,000 sole-source contract.
The actual planning part, though, has been subcontracted to VerdeHOUSE, a year-and-a-half-old firm that connects people who want to throw events with people who own space. They’re responsible for booking the field, at no charge to users, on weekends in July through the end of the summer. CEO Morgan Greenhouse has already blasted out the opportunity to her list of people who use space, and imagines there will be barbeques, soccer camps, concerts, and other “things that are inclusive and fun.” The Ward 8 Farmers Market will open a second location there. The goal, she says, is to “give it a geographical location in peoples’ heads.”
Greenhouse has done projects in many parts of the city, but nothing yet east of the river (though she says she’s tried, and not yet been successful). That bugs some of the folks who’ve worked there for a long time, like Arch Development Corporation, which put on a similar thing in Anacostia over the past few months.
“I have nothing against VerdeHOUSE,” says Arch’s CEO Duane Gautier. “But I find it very interesting that there are three to four organizations east of the river that could’ve put on these productions, and they did not put it out for a public bid…southeast organizations are not viewed as being able to run projects in southeast.”
It also happens that VerdeHOUSE’s other big project this summer is arranging events at the Powerhouse in Georgetown for the sons of Herb Miller, who’s helping to lead the redevelopment of St. Elizabeths.