The District of Columbia’s well-respected children’s hospital is poised to take over almost 12 acres of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site, a deal hospital officials say will provide growing room for new research facilities and could create a hub of biotechnology and drug companies.
The land transfer announced Thursday caps years of negotiation between the U.S. Army and Children’s National Health System, which includes a flagship hospital on Michigan Avenue NW in D.C. as well as medical facilities throughout the District and in Virginia and Maryland.
“This is a big deal for Children’s, and we think it’s a big deal for the city and the region and even the nation,” said Kurt Newman, hospital president and chief executive. “It’s more than just the land and the buildings. It’s really a vision for creating a center of research around pediatric medicine.”
No money will change hands, though hospital officials anticipate spending hundreds of millions of dollars redeveloping the property. Just under $100 million of that amount has been budgeted for the coming years, according to Charles Weinstein, executive vice president and chief real estate and facilities officer at Children’s National.
The parcel, which Army officials are scheduled to formally hand over Thursday, includes several existing buildings, most notably the former Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Weinstein said the hospital intends to use the property for research, treating patients and administrative work, but will not begin fleshing out its plans until next year.
Newman said the new facilities will allow the hospital to expand its work in promising fields of pediatric research, such as genetics, neuroscience, immunology and cancer studies.
He said he also envisions the site as a home to other medical institutions or pharmaceutical and biotech firms seeking to locate near the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As recently as last year, hospital officials were unsure whether they would be able to acquire the property, part of a larger campus vacated by Walter Reed in 2011 when the Army’s medical facilities were merged with the expansive National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.
Children’s National faced a rival in the U.S. State Department, which was also interested in the land.
“This was a real dogfight, but we were finally able to get this land for a public-health benefit,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), adding that the hospital’s acquisition of the property would benefit “the entire region.”