As Ward 4 faces the near certainty of Walter Reed Army Medical Center's closing, residents have begun asking what the change will mean for the future of the site. District Extra asked advisory neighborhood commissioners from the ward to describe their vision for the Walter Reed grounds.
Some commissioners clung to the idea of keeping a medical facility at the 113-acre site, noting the shortage of hospitals in the District and the dependence of some elderly residents on Walter Reed.
Cherita Whiting, vice chair of ANC 4B and commissioner for 4B08 in Riggs Park, said she favors a continuing health service for older people such as her grandmother, who otherwise would have to travel farther for care. "It's pretty unfair to uproot these people," she said. "The most important thing is to make sure these seniors get proper care."
Judi Jones, commissioner for ANC 4B07 in Lamond Riggs, voiced a similar concern, saying, "If they could leave some of the medical services there, the community would appreciate it."
James Jones, commissioner for ANC 4A08 in Crestwood, said a number of residents in his neighborhood are former military people. "We've lost a good neighbor," he said. Instead of the site's continued use as a medical facility, he said, he would like to see the District move its government buildings there. "It's a nightmare trying to see them on Pennsylvania Avenue," he said.
The Crestwood commissioner also suggested a partnership involving the District, the federal government and the private sector. "It may also be enough space for public housing as well," he said. "There's enough space for a private developer to provide public housing."
Others said they hope to see commercial uses that could provide jobs or housing.
Wesley Hickman, commissioner for ANC 4B04 in Brightwood, expressed concern primarily about jobs and said people in his neighborhood hope commercial development at the site will replace some of the jobs that the hospital's closing would take away. "We'd like to see jobs continue to be available to the community," he said.
ANC 4B06 commissioner Michael Burke of Manor Park was the only person interviewed who said he didn't mind the fact that Walter Reed could close. Instead, he discussed possible uses of the huge tract of land in an otherwise developed part of the city.
"I'd like to see some more commercial development. Put some of the trees back that have been chopped down, maybe a few condos," he said. "We could make it look like the rest of the community. I'd prefer to see single-family homes and something creative. It's a chance to get creative with what we do with the spot."
Timothy J. Wilson contributed to this report.