The mayor of the District told guests at a recent unveiling of a pavilion project in Southeast that its development and completion portends the stepped-up development of sections of Ward 8.
Mayor Vincent Gray, (D), announced the design-and-construction team chosen to build a facility on the St. Elizabeths complex that he said will have a unique structure and use environmentally sound methods.
Gray, 69, said on Saturday at the St. Elizabeths East Campus in Southeast before 40 people, that the St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion will be built with the collaboration of the design-and-construction team of KADCON, Davis Brody Bond and Robert Sillman Associates, all of Northwest. The pavilion is part of the re-building of the St. Elizabeths East Complex as it's converted from a largely mental health facility into an unit that will house food vendors, farmers' markets, casual dining spots, weekend and after-hours activities and cultural and arts events.
"We now have a seminal opportunity to activate the site for commercial activity prior to the St. Elizabeths East Project Phase I completion in 2015," said Gray, at the Oct 13 event. "The design excellence and architectural and construction prowess that the winning firms will bring to the Gateway Pavilion are [what] the District's proposal for interim use here demanded, and we look forward to its construction and use by local and regional consumers."
The pavilion is unique in its design because it will have two levels. The lower level will be the place where the farmers' markets and vendors sell their wares and the upper level – which is to be directly above in an open air space – will be the site for meetings and concerts.
The uniqueness of the pavilion's design is illustrated by the planned fusion of the building with its surroundings, such as the grass, trees, and the soil. It will incorporate one facet of sustainable living by harvesting rainwater into an underground cistern capable of supplying water for irrigation and restrooms, instead of relying on the District's water supply.
Peter Cook, an architect and a principal with Davis Brody Bond, said the pavilion will be one of the most unique buildings in the city.
"There is nothing else like it because it is of the land," said Cook, 49. "This facility is an integration of the land with the pavilion and it will be used by the Congress Heights and St. Elizabeths community."
Pavilion Project Manager Ethan Warsh, 29, said he expects the project to be completed by the summer of 2013.
D.C. Council member Marion Barry [D-Ward 8] said the building of the pavilion as well as development of the rest of the St. Elizabeths complex on both the east and west campuses "will give hundreds of jobs to D.C. residents in general and Ward 8 residents in particular."
"Ward 8 is on the move, we have a new Ward 8," exclaimed Barry, 75. "You see a different spirit here. It's been a long time coming."
Barry said buildings like the pavilion will spur economic development in the ward, but he cautioned that ward residents who have lived there all along should not be forgotten.
James Bunn, executive director of the Ward 8 Business Council, appeared excited about the project.
"This is supremely important," said Bunn, 70. "This is good that we will see this during our lifetime and our grandkids will be able to use this. There is a great future for this part of the city."
However, Ward 8 resident Brenda Jones tempered her praise for the project.
"I think it is wonderful but I believe that those who live in Ward 8 should benefit from the jobs and other opportunities that the pavilion provides. Ward 8 business owners should have the chance to be a part of the building of this pavilion, also," she said.