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The Future of Development is East of the River

Mayor Vincent C. Gray | 7/9/2011, 12:16 p.m.
A newly-released report by Mayor Vincent Gray's administration details his accomplishments surrounding the first 200 days in office.

When I view the future of our city, I see sustainable jobs and smart economic growth with economic goals reflecting where we want to be in the next 5, 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 matching 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 everywhere and affordable housing so that our teachers, firefighters, police and other middle-class public servants can live in the communities where they work.

And I see the Anacostia as a grand waterway running through the heart of it all 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. And, if so, everybody benefits.

It's already happening; there are cranes across Ward 8 even as I write this. At Sheridan Station, 114 new units of housing are being constricted. Matthews Memorial Baptist Church is building 99 new housing units at the Matthews Memorial Terrace project.

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

The centerpiece of these east-of-the-River development projects, of course, is the series of facilities planned for the St. Elizabeth' campus. The new U.S. Coast Guard headquarters there is scheduled to be completed by 2013 and the larger federal Department of Homeland Security headquarters is in the offing. The Coast Guard will bring 4,000 permanent jobs to Ward 8. And we are working on ways to complement this with retail and housing projects on the east campus which the District government controls - thus providing not only jobs, but also much-needed amenities for the new employees there and the residents of nearby 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 planned or underway. Recently, I attended three meetings in Ward 8 in one evening and the enthusiasm could be felt.

However, it is important that we continue to connect east of the River residents and communities to the many changes and opportunities on the horizon. We must ensure that residents are playing a role in shaping these developments. And, most importantly, we must make certain that residents have the opportunities and skills needed to compete for the thousands of new jobs on the way.