Gray, who will be accompanied by some of the District’s biggest names in construction, is counting on Chinese investment to accelerate the redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, McMillan Reservoir, the former Walter Reed Hospital campus, the O Street Market and the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington.
The trip, which includes the opening of the city’s first permanent overseas office, comes as Gray is in talks with Chinese financiers about funding the city’s planned $1.5 billion streetcar network.
“It’s where it’s happening,” Gray said of China. “What China has done internally for itself is pretty phenomenal. . . . And we are a tremendously low-risk investment.”
Gray’s trip comes at a delicate time for the District government, after Kwame R. Brown’s resignation as D.C. Council chairman and in the midst of a continuing federal investigation into the mayor’s 2010 campaign. In recent days, there has been speculation that Gray also could be forced to leave office early because of the federal probe.
But in an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, Gray said there is “no truth” to rumors that he might resign this summer.
“No truth to that, unless something’s going on in my head that I don’t know about,” Gray said. “I came to do certain things, and I am focused on those things.”
The District continues to add an estimated 1,000 residents per month and attract new investment, despite the controversy and scandal in the John A. Wilson Building. But shovel-ready residential and retail projects outstrip available domestic funding, causing developers and D.C. officials to look overseas for an infusion of cash and credit.
Last year, the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar invested more than $700 million to break ground on City Center DC, a downtown neighborhood being created on the site of the former D.C. Convention Center.
On Thursday, Gray toured the project with Qatari officials, including Ambassador Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al-Rumaihi. Gray said Qatari officials also expressed interest in financing a hotel on the site.
Gray said the District’s success in securing a cash deal for the City Center project has helped focus efforts to attract more investment from China, which is experiencing a boom in personal wealth.
“When Qatar decided to invest in City Center, that was really a wake-up call, not just to the District but to large-scale development teams looking to expand their scope in looking for equity,” said Jose Sousa, a spokesman for the deputy mayor for planning and economic development.