Gray will create entities to oversee St. Elizabeths and Walter Reed projects

By Jonathan O'Connell
Monday, February 28, 2011

One of the first economic development moves Adrian M. Fenty made as mayor was to do away with two quasi-independent redevelopment agencies that he called unnecessary and wasteful.

Among new mayor Vincent C. Gray's first moves will be the creation of new entities to oversee the city's larger, long-term developments, though his administration says they will not be re-hashed versions of the National Capitol Revitalization Corp. and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., which Fenty and the D.C. Council closed in 2007.

Gray (D) will create special-purpose entities specifically to guide planning and development of two of the city's largest projects, the city-owned east campus of St. Elizabeths hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, according to a city official who spoke on the condition on anonymity because the mayor has not disclosed the plans yet.

Victor Hoskins, Gray's newly appointed deputy mayor for planning economic development, told the D.C. Council last week that the administration was planning to create new entities but that they would not resemble redevelopment agencies that managed large portfolios as NCRC and AWC did. "What we are looking at is more geographically specific and also project-specific anchors of land, instead of broad-sweeping areas," he said.

In an interview, Hoskins said the entities would not resemble the NCRC and AWC, which acted as developers and raised private financing. The structure Hoskins said, is "geographically specific, it's time limited and project-specific, that's the difference." He declined to name the properties the entities would oversee. "The mayor is going to be rolling this out," he said.

Plans for both St. Elizabeths and Walter Reed rely on federal government action. The District owns the east campus of St. Elizabeths but is waiting to see whether Congress approves money for infrastructure and for a headquarters building for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Department of Homeland Security, citing cost concerns, has proposed delaying construction of the building for a year but D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said that she does not "see a delay at the moment in the FEMA development."

"I don't think anyone sees anything to be gained in stopping a project like that, which is a national security project and which frankly costs the federal government more money [to stall], because you'd have to stop operations," she said.

The District is waiting on the State Department to determine what portion of the Walter Reed campus the city will receive after hospital functions are relocated this fall as part of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission action.

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