By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 7, 2010; B02
Howard University has submitted a $1.1 billion plan to move its hospital and health sciences operation to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus after the facility closes next year and the District assumes control of its more than 62 acres from the federal government.
University officials say the ambitious proposal would bring a top-notch teaching hospital to an underserved area.
"We're very excited about the possibility," said Eve Higginbotham, senior vice president and executive dean for Health Sciences. "We believe it would be a win-win for the District, Ward 4 and the patients that we serve in Ward 4."
Higginbotham said that if the bid is successful, the project would be built in three phases, starting in 2012 and ending in 2017.
The new hospital would probably be financed through a partnership with a private hospital management company, according to the proposal. Other money would come from fundraising, leveraging non-core assets and other means.
The university is one of 23 organizations, including charter schools, arts programs and food pantries, that have expressed interest in the land, which is generally bounded by Georgia Avenue and 14th, Dahlia and Aspen streets.
When Walter Reed closes, its medical operations will be shifted to a campus at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and an Army hospital being built at Fort Belvoir in southern Fairfax County.
The proposals for the District land are being evaluated by the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority, a committee of eight agency directors and five residents. It is expected to make a recommendation to the military by June or July.
"We have been reviewing bids for financial feasibility and gauging how community members like and don't like the proposals," said Sean Madigan, a spokesman for Valerie Santos, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.
Howard wants to use all 62.5 acres to house its hospital as well as its colleges for pharmacy, medicine, nursing and allied health sciences. The other proposals would require only portions of the land. Metro, for example, is proposing to build a 200-bus facility at Walter Reed.
Reaction to Howard's plans has been mixed.
Stephen Whatley, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who lives near the campus, said the massive nature of Howard's plan could make it "a hard sell in our community."
The neighborhood needs a hospital, he said, but it also needs senior housing and mixed-use development. Whatley said that when the District learned that it would get the land, residents envisioned senior housing, open space and restaurants.
"If the District had all 113 acres, we could have the best of both worlds, but the District only got 62.5," Whatley said. "Howard's plan is quite large, and it would block out everything else that the neighborhood wanted: mixed-use with retail and amenities."
Higginbotham said that in addition to offering health-care services to the neighborhood, university employees would provide a much-needed economic boost to Georgia Avenue.
"We are looking to do very similar to what the University of Colorado has done with the Fitzsimmons base," she said. "The community is enjoying an economic renewal because of that move."
Higginbotham said the university has an alternate plan that would not take up all 62.5 acres, but she said it has not been determined how much land would be needed for that proposal.
"We're in the early stages of this process," she said.
Sara Green, also a member of the ANC, said she doesn't think that enough information or time has been given to weigh what will happen at Walter Reed.
"This is a major decision," Green said. "And a number of us are concerned that the community needs more time to digest this."