Gray unveils design for St. Elizabeths gateway

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Local,Crime,Ben Giles

D.C. officials unveiled designs for a new public space at St. Elizabeths Hospital's east campus that they touted as a boon for the neighborhood and a wave of federal workers coming to a long-unused development in Southeast D.C.

The city has budgeted $5 million to build a gateway pavilion on the campus, along Martin Luther King Avenue SE in Congress Heights, in what is now a fenced-off area of Ward 8 that's mostly restricted to residents.

Designs call for a 22-foot tall walkable pavilion, with space for farmers markets and other cultural and arts activities in a multi-purpose space underneath.

"We think that this will be the centerpiece for Ward 8, as well it should," said D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray at an announcement Saturday morning at the east campus. "It probably should be the centerpiece for the District."

The gateway project on the 170-acre campus is a collaboration between Kadcon, a local construction firm, architects Davis Brody Bond and the engineering firm Robert Silman Associates.

Construction is expected to be completed next summer, in time to accommodate 3,700 new employees coming to work at the Coast Guard's new facility on the west campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in August 2013.

The west campus is also the future home of the U.S. Department of Homeland security, and officials want to ensure a balance is struck between a new high-security federal facility and a neighborhood with a need for more retail and food options.

The gateway will send a message to potential developers that shows how dedicated the city is to overhauling St. Elizabeths, according to Ethan Walsh, project manager for the deputy mayor's office of planning and economic development

"Once this is built, you're going to see some of the strongest public architecture in the city here," Walsh said.

Gray highlighted Microsoft, French lighting company Citelum and SmartBIM, a building information modeling company, as three target tenants that, should they open offices at St. Elizabeths, could help lead the enclave's redevelopment.

Designs for the gateway are flexible to provide the city cost-saving maneuverability if necessary, according to Walsh. Plans call for construction of the project in several phases, and the city will choose which ones it can do to ensure the project is completed within its $5 million budget, he said.

bgiles@washingtonexaminer.com

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