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Gray Moves Forward Despite Distractions

James Wright | 4/21/2011, 12:41 a.m.
Economic Development Remains the Focus...
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is working hard to make Washington a better place for all of its residents. Courtesy photo  

Economic Development Remains the Focus

The mayor of the District of Columbia is not letting issues regarding the conduct of his staff and key supporters deter him from serving residents and promoting the city as a good place to invest, live and conduct business.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is working to ensure that residents of the District are served despite the resignation of his chief of staff Gerri Mason Hall and the withdrawal of the nominations of confidant Lorraine Green as chairman of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority and Rochelle Webb as the head of the D.C. Department of Employment Services. George Mason University political scientist Michael Fauntroy said that Gray is doing the right thing.

"He needs to keep doing his job," Fauntroy, 44, said. "He still has some important issues to work on."
Gray, 68, has said that economic development is one of this top priorities and he has worked in that area since his swearing-in on Jan. 2. He attended the groundbreaking of the massive CityCenter DC development project in Northwest on Mon., April 4.

CityCenter will occupy the site of the former convention center bounded by New York Avenue, 9th, H and 11th Streets in Northwest. The initial stages of the project will have more than 185,000 square feet of retail that will be at the base of six buildings that will include 458 rental apartments, 216 condominiums and 520,000 square feet of office space. There will also be 1,555 below-grade parking spaces and an acre of public open spaces. The second phase of the project will include a 350-room upscale hotel and an additional 110,000 square feet of retail.

Gray said that CityCenter DC, which is worth $700 million and is believed to be the largest downtown development project in the country, will help the city expand its economic base and benefit local businesses.
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This effort has been a decade in the making, and we look forward to the progress that will be made on the site of the old convention center as the last piece of our downtown is redeveloped," he said.

"I am excited about the more than 190 District Certified Business Entities that are involved in the planning, design and construction of this project, and the thousands of construction and permanent jobs that it will create. This is a huge development for the residents and visitors to our city."

Former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt will serve as the head of the host committee of the XIX International AIDS Conference, which will convene in the District in July 2012.
Gray said that economic development projects in the city will help bring down the unemployment rate, particularly for residents in Ward 7 and 8, which are east of the Anacostia River and are the most economically-challenged.

He has said on many occasions that the development of the Skyland Town Center in Southeast will be one of the key anchors of economic development in eastern Washington.

In his State of the District Address on Mon., March 28, Gray talked about the development of the Walter Reed
Hospital site in Northwest, to the delight of D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4).

The mayor said that he may travel to the International Council of Shopping Centers meeting, known as ReCon, on May 22-25 in Las Vegas, to promote the city.

"I have been there before [and] there are usually thousands of people," Gray said.

"It is a good place to showcase the city and we usually have the best exhibit there."

Gray is excited about the international exposure the city will get when the XIX International AIDS Conference comes to the city in July 2012. The conference will have about 25,000 delegates from 200 countries and 3,000 working press. It's expected to generate $25 million for the District.

Gray has selected a host committee that includes former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt and D.C. Council member David Catania (I-At-Large). Gray said that the host committee represents the best of the city and "will help facilitate a wonderful experience for our visitors and work to ensure that the residents of our city benefit from the thousands of visitors."

Pratt, who Gray worked for as the head of the Department of Human Services in the 1990s, said that she's honored to chair the host committee.

"On this occasion, we can celebrate our natural assets," Pratt, 67, said. "We want to show the world that we can be a player in this emerging section of health."

Gray downplayed the importance of the revenue that will be generated from the conference, saying that the "important thing is to learn ways to help people deal with this disease."

Fauntroy said that if the mayor continues to work hard, District residents will forget the controversies.
"Don't get me wrong, he has got some problems," he said.

"However, if he shows people that he is making progress in his administration, he will be able to quiet those holdouts of [former D.C. Mayor] Adrian Fenty who are saying 'I told you so.' "