Gateway Pavilion Opens to Praise

James Wright | 10/24/2013, 6:24 p.m.
The first new facility in the rebuilding of the St. Eiizabeths East campus opened up to great fanfare recently with ...
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Vincent Gray joined city leaders in cutting the ceremonial ribbon for the opening of the St. Elizabeths East's Gateway Pavilion on Wednesday, Oct. 23.

The first new facility in the rebuilding of the St. Eiizabeths East campus opened up to great fanfare recently with dozens of city officials and Ward 8 residents attending.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and city government agency heads cut the ceremonial ribbon on Wed., Oct. 23 at the St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion, the newest building on the famed, historic campus in almost a century. Gray, 70, said that the pavilion, which has been renamed G8WAY DC, is more than just a new structure that has been erected.

"Today is an amazing day, because it marks the fulfillment of a major promise to the Ward 8 community," the mayor said. "Cutting the ribbon on the G8WAY DC pavilion symbolizes the transformation that is happening across the city and the opportunities that are coming to the District's East End."

The pavilion is an open-air market and pavilion area that is 16, 300 square feet and will provide space for over 40 vendors and as many as 10 food trucks at its curbside on the east. It has an enclosed flex conference and café area, which was added at the request of community leaders, and it entails 3,100 square feet.

The conference and café areas will be for pop-up retailers and café food vendors.

The second level is a rooftop amphitheater that can hold up to 1,000 people and can be used for concerts, dramatic performances and other outdoor activities. There will also be an area for a free Wi-Fi hotspot.

Catherine Buell, the executive director of St. Elizabeths East, said that it costs $8.3 million to build the pavilion and a little over four months to build. Buell, 33, said that Ward 7 and Ward 8 residents and businesses participated in its construction.

Gray said that residents of the homeless shelter that is located on the St. Elizabeths grounds will have unfettered access to the pavilion.

The pavilion is the start of the rejuvenation of the aged St. Elizabeths east and west campuses. The rest of the east campus will include a technological hub that could house a large Microsoft research and technology center.

"Who would have thought that Microsoft would come to Ward 8?" Gray asked rhetorically.

The west campus has the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters with its approximately 3,000 employees, some of whom are there presently. In a few years, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will also have its headquarters on the west campus that could bring 14,000 employees.

Norton said that the rebuilding of St. Elizabeths will benefit its surrounding community as well.

"This pavilion is the beginning of the transformation of Martin Luther King Avenue," Norton, 76, said "making it worthy of its name."

Charles Wilson, a Ward 8 political and civic activist, is pleased with the pavilion and believes it will start serious financial investment in the ward.

"This is awesome," Wilson, 36, said as he toured the facility. "This is a game changer. This place will encourage people to pay attention to the east end of the city, particularly Congress Heights."

Mary Cuthbert, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for 8C03 and a longtime, persistent advocate for responsible development of St. Elizabeths, is pleased with the pavilion.

"I want everyone in the city to come visit my castle," she said with a smile.