A farmer’s market will debut this summer on the east campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital to gin up interest for the city’s planned restaurant pavilion at the Southeast project, District officials said Tuesday at the ICSC convention in Las Vegas.
Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins said the open-air market will operate Saturdays and Sundays, a specific opening date has yet to be determined. It will be located opposite the west campus entrance on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, on the site of the future pavilion.
Hoskins had a fresh stack of postcards advertising the May 2013 arrival of the pavilion and encouraging merchants to sign up. His office will offer discounted leases to area restaurateurs interested in opening temporary operations at the pavilion.
“We’re talking about some very innovative ways of leasing to restaurants and retailers for the next 18 to 24 months,” Hoskins said. “Once the pavilion is built, we are going to give locals the opportunity to test out concepts in a less structured environment.”
The deputy mayor and his team are in talks with area food truck operators, and count about 15 vendors that have so far expressed interest. He wants a mix of local and national merchants, with the hopes that national vendors will advertise for the site.
A request for proposal on the design of the pavilion will be issued in June. The Department of General Services plans to create an advisory panel to select to select the winning design. Hoskins envisions a cyber café with free Wi-Fi and seating areas to create communal space.
With the U.S. Coast Guard opening its headquarters on the east campus in spring 2013, the city is eager to provide the agency’s 4,400 employees with options beyond the 300-seat cafeteria. The federal government workers, with an average annual salary of $91,000, could generate steady sales for food merchants on site.
There are few dining options in the surrounding area, though some 900,000 people live within a 15-minute drive.
The city is investing $113.5 million in the east campus over the next four years to improve infrastructure that will support redevelopment of the 180-acre site.
City officials want to transform the former mental health hospital site into a mixed-use complex of offices and research facilities that will lure technology companies to the area. Tech giant Microsoft is considering the campus for an innovation center that would provide services and programs aimed at growing local software companies.
“The redevelopment of the campus will inject a lot of energy into the economy east of the river,” said Mayor Vincent Gray (D).
The mayor anticipates office workers and area residents will also benefit from the retail amenities and services planned for the west campus, where the Department of Homeland Security will relocate.
Gray said he is talking to the General Service Administration to ensure the retail planned for the west campus will be accessible to area residents, not just office workers.
In the past 12 months, he noted, Sheridan Station and Matthews Memorial Terrace apartments have opened and added a total of 435 residential units to the area, making even more compelling case for retail.