D.C.'s Last Frontier

WI Staff | 8/1/2012, 5:52 p.m.

Big changes are coming to Ward 8 and residents need to get prepared.

Government contractors are gearing up. More than 200 of them showed up at a pre-solicitation workshop at the Lincoln Theatre on Friday, July 27 to hear about millions of dollars in real estate development projects coming to the District this year. Four of them are coming to Ward 8.

In addition to the massive development in Ward 8 on the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital where Homeland Security and the Coast Guard are building new headquarters, the East Campus is opening up to vast possibilities for redevelopment for what the D.C. Office of Planning is calling a well-planned, mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable, livable community.

Residents from across the District are gearing up, as well. Lured by last Saturday's Summer Celebration that included walking tours, hundreds patronized the new farmers' market, now open on weekends, and got a hint of what's to come once the gates surrounding St. Elizabeths East come down. A pavilion will soon be built to provide residents with a visual of the development as it takes place.

Two long abandoned historic homes and a former liquor store on a large parcel on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Ward 8 are on the schedule for development, too. And, Barry Farm, which presently houses more than 500 low-income residents, is slated for redevelopment aimed at attracting new homeowners from the thousands of employees and contractors of Homeland Security who will be able to live close to where they work.

Victor Hoskins, deputy mayor for economic development, stated in a press release that, "We [District officials] know that quality development, particularly on once-vacant or federally controlled parcels, must be done with proper engagement of our residents, the development community, and with well-thought out planning that can create viable spaces where the District's residents can live, work and play in new commercial, office, residential and cultural offerings."

Undoubtedly, Ward 8 is about to go through a metamorphosis of unforeseen proportions. This is the last frontier for the District's widening economic development program and developers are chopping at the bit for a piece of the action.

Hoskins' vision is shared by many ... but mainly by those who know what is yet to come. Just as some agency heads are clearly stating that all of the District's new developments must include Certified Business Enterprises (CBEs) and that all contractors must adhere to the District's First Source program, it will be incumbent upon Council member Marion Barry, Mayor Gray, related agency heads and the local media to keep the residents informed and engaged. The new developments should create jobs and better housing but with lack of knowledge, the benefits will only impact a few.