"Inside One City" Column

Vincent C. Gray | 7/6/2011, 11:16 a.m.
The Future of Development is East of the River...
District Mayor Vincent Gray./Courtesy photo

The Future of Development is East of the River

When I see the future of our city, I see sustainable jobs and smart economic growth with specific economic goals reflecting where we want to be in the next five, 10, 20, and 30 years. I see a workforce-development system that has at it roots training and educational opportunities that prepare our residents with skills that match industry demands. I see strong career - technical education programs in our public schools and a public higher-education program that prepares residents to meet the demands of growth industries such as technology, hospitality and health care.

I see magnificent new office and residential buildings emerging in neighborhoods in every ward of our city. I see revitalized communities in every ward and affordable housing so that our teachers, firefighters, police and other middle-class public servants can actually live in the communities where they work.

And I see the Anacostia as a grand waterway running through the heart of it all and connecting the city - like the Seine in Paris or the Thames in London - rather than dividing it.

A decade ago, when District leaders contemplated the next frontier for development in our city, they looked at places like the Georgetown Waterfront, U Street and other districts adjacent to areas that were already affluent or gentrifying. Today, however, I believe the future of economic development in the District of Columbia lies east of the Anacostia River.

It's already happening; there are cranes all over Ward 8 even as I write this. At Sheridan Station, 114 new units of housing are going up presently. Matthews Memorial Baptist Church is constructing 99 new housing units at the Matthews Memorial Terrace project.

I recently announced that the District would build a brand new, state-of-the-art Ballou High School adjacent to the current school. We will build an indoor aquatic center in Barry Farm. And we have made more progress in the last six months than we have in the previous six years on the Skyland Town Center project, which would provide 2,600 temporary and permanent jobs in Ward 7.

The granddaddy of all these east-of-the-River development projects, of course, is the massive series of facilities planned for the St. Elizabeth's campus. The new U.S. Coast Guard headquarters there is scheduled to be complete by 2013 and the larger federal Department of Homeland Security headquarters is in the offing. This project will bring 4,000 permanent jobs to Ward 8. We are looking at ways to complement that with retail and housing projects on the part of the campus the District government controls - thus providing not only jobs, but also much-needed amenities for the new employees there and the residents of the adjacent communities.

On July 9, I will host a Ward 8 Community Summit at Savoy Elementary School. This event is meant to connect residents of the ward with the many projects that are planned or underway in the ward. There is great enthusiasm in the pipeline of east-of-the-River developments.