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The plan for building out the District’s 62.5-acre site at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on northern Georgia Avenue cleared its first big hurdle last night, when the local redevelopment authority (LRA) voted unanimously to recommend a mix of uses and handful of non-profits to occupy the new public space.
The broad outlines remain similar to the reuse plan proposed back in August, with a few changes: There will be 850 units of housing insteadof 1,000, 200,000 square feet of retail instead of 175,000, and 90,000 suare feet of office space instead of 125,000, making for 2.2 million square feet overall instead of the original 2.4 million square feet. There will be 40 acres of open space, or 65 percent of the total site area.
The LRA also designated the lucky non-profits and educational institutions that will be able to take space in both new and historic buildings. The 23 initial proposals were screened for viability and eligibility under the Army’s guidelines, which require the medical center to be replaced by other public benefits, and some were invited to submit modified proposals.
For the homeless services component, Help USA in conjunction with Catholic Charities will provide 75 units of permanent supportive housing targeting veterans and families, Transitional Housing Corporation will occupy 4,000 square feet of office space, and So Others Might Eat will provide 44 units of permanent supportive housing. For the “public benefits conveyance” component, the two charter schools—Latin American Montessori Bilingual and Washington Yu Ying—will share a building, D.C. Fire and Emergency Services will have space for Engine 22 and Community Services Units, and Howard University will have an ambulatory care facility (which may not include 24-hour emergency hospital services).
All of those uses account for 18 percent of the space on the campus. The rest of the commercial users will be chosen down the line.
So what’s next? The plan will be presented to the public on October 14th. Between now and November 30, the city will nail down binding agreements with the site’s chosen users, and expects to have a bill with the reuse plan to the Council by December 7th. The deadline for submission to the department of Housing and Urban Development is February 1.
Although HUD allowed for the deadline to be extended, it’s still too fast for the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which had asked that last night’s vote be postponed so that the community could have further time to review the plans. Committee member and ANC 4B commissioner Faith Wheeler remains nervous about the viability of putting so much retail along that stretch of Georgia Avenue. “To me, it looks like Columbia Heights,” Wheeler protested. “We are not Columbia Heights.”