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Gray says $140 million needed to develop St. Elizabeths campus

By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, December 20, 2010; 4

The District's mayor-elect warned last week that many of the plans for redevelopment of the east campus of St. Elizabeths hospital could be for naught if the city cannot find $140 million for infrastructure needed to develop the property.

Speaking to federal officials and business leaders assembled last week at a meeting of the Chesapeake Crescent Initiative, a regional business group, Vincent C. Gray said he is eager to leverage construction of the new headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security on the hospital's west campus into jobs, housing and training opportunities on the city-owned east campus.

But he warned that the city is in need of the money to outfit the property with roads, sewers and other infrastructure. Without shuttle bus service and new roads, traffic caused by the DHS headquarters will make the development "not a vision of the future but a nightmare," Gray said.

He also said he wanted to see subsidized housing in the area so that current residents would not be displaced, asking, "How do we balance gentrification with the rejuvenation of these parts of the city?"

The Chesapeake Crescent Initiative is pushing for the creation of research and education facilities in the area around the campus to create new businesses and jobs, particularly in the fields of renewable energy and security. Among the ideas being discussed are research facilities by Carnegie Mellon University, a Community College of the District of Columbia campus and offshore wind farms. More than 100 stakeholders gathered at the Cannon House Office Building last Thursday to discuss potential partnerships with the federal government.

Initial attempts at landing federal funding to this point, however, have failed. Over the summer the District attempted to work out a lease deal with the federal government for a planned Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters building on the east campus -- which would have afforded the city infrastructure costs -- but was rebuffed. In May, local universities, states and property owners applied through the Chesapeake Crescent for $130 million to build a green research center on St. Elizabeths, but in August the federal government chose the Philadelphia area instead.

Gray said he raised the funding shortage with President Obama when they met for lunch earlier in the month and that he expected the president to seek "20 to 30 percent" of the needed money in his 2012 budget proposal to Congress. Developer Herbert S. Miller, who is leading the initiative for the Chesapeake Crescent, said the effort to build a cluster of research and commercialization in the area will continue as the city searches for infrastructure money. "The opportunity is unbelievable and the great thing is that homeland security is very interested in participating," he said.

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