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D.C. Mayor Gray Approves Hines for Walter Reed Development

James Wright | 11/13/2013, 3 p.m.
A jogger runs past the shuttered Walter Reed Army Medical Center site in Northwest. Nancy Shia

The mayor of the District has selected a development company that plans to transform the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site into a mixed-use development that will include exclusive retail, housing for seniors and veterans and a unique state-of-the-art science park.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) took the advice of advisory neighborhood commission 4B in Northwest on Nov. 5 and selected the development company partnership of Hines-Urban Atlantic-Triden of Bethesda, Md., to be the master developer of Walter Reed.

"Moving the Walter Reed redevelopment project forward and bringing new housing and amenities and jobs to the District are among my top priorities and this team will help us to accomplish that," said Gray, 70. "The Hines-Urban Atlantic-Triden joint venture brings a wealth of experience to the task of getting this long-awaited project done."

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Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest

In 2011, the federal government shuttered the century-old Walter Reed campus in Northwest and moved most of its operations to Montgomery County, Md. Since then, Gray and his planning and economic development office have aggressively worked to put the site under the District's jurisdiction.

The 66.57 acres that’s yet to be handed over to the District from the federal government includes valuable Georgia Avenue frontage – a prime real estate location – due to the number of cars that travel along the busy corridor every day. The frontage has the potential of 3.1 million square feet for construction while the remaining 43.5 acres of the site will house federal agencies.

Hines plans to rename the Walter Reed campus The Parks at Walter Reed. It will include townhouses, condos and apartments and living arrangements for seniors, veterans and, something that’s new in the District, housing for artists.

A highlight of The Parks at Walter Reed is a commerce and science park that’s supported by The George Washington University in Northwest and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Both universities will conduct research in bioscience with an emphasis on health. Hines also wants to include a Hyatt hotel and conference center on the site.

On Sept. 12, Hines, along with representatives of development firms Roadside and Forest City presented their Walter Reed development plans to 4B commissioners and 60 residents at the Emery Recreation Center in Northwest. Chuck Waters, the senior vice president of Hines and the leader of the joint partnership's Walter Reed project, said that a key component of The Parks at Walter Reed is a prospective upscale grocer such as Wegmans or Whole Foods.

Hines has developed relationships with institutions such as CulturalDC and has also formed alliances with various restaurants and retailers that include Carolina Kitchen Bar and Grill, Cava Mezze and PetSmart.

Waters, during the Sept. 12 meeting, said that Hines has a lot to offer the city and its residents through the development of the Walter Reed site.

"The Parks at Walter Reed will generate 4,600 construction jobs, 1,600 permanent jobs, over $1 billion in direct investment and $37 million in new revenue to the city," he said. "We are developing the CityCenterDC project downtown and we have the commitment and the financial resources to get this project done." There are no plans to have District taxpayers foot the bill for infrastructure or to cover cost overruns, Waters said.

On Sept. 23, 4B formally endorsed the Hines plan for Walter Reed by a vote of 5-3, with one abstention. Faith Wheeler, the commissioner for 4B02, voted for Hines.

"I found that what Hines wanted to do [for Walter Reed] was the most compatible with the character of the community," said Wheeler, 72. "I liked their community-oriented approach to the project and they want to retain the historical character of what Walter Reed used to be."

In a few weeks, representatives of Hines and District officials will negotiate to enter into an exclusive rights agreement that explains in detail what will be required of Hines prior to entering into a land disposition agreement with the city.

Victor Hoskins, the deputy mayor of Planning and Economic Development, said that a major milestone has been reached with the Walter Reed project.

"Our office is eager for the Army to convey the site, so the District can work with the development team to create jobs, retail and housing for District residents," Hoskins said. "My staff and I look forward to working with the selected team to continue the negotiation process."