Policy: Health Care

District inches closer to developing Walter Reed Army Medical Center

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Local,DC,Eric P. Newcomer,Health Care

The vacant Walter Reed Army Medical Center may move one step closer to become a budding Ward 4 neighborhood with homes, stores, businesses and schools when the D.C. Council votes on the site's strategic plan Tuesday.

The Small Area Plan gives the mayor's office the power to decide how a section of the 110.1-acre property can be put to use. The legislation is part of the city's effort to prepare to take control of the site, which the federal government had agreed to turn over to the city after the District submits required documents and plans. Until then, the property remains in the control of the U.S. Army.

The bill does not allocate any new money for the site. The city estimates that developing Walter Reed will end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars -- some of it paid for by the federal government. The mayor's budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, which will go before the Council at the end of May, sets aside $1 million for the site next year.

About 54 percent of the site -- approximately 1,673,000 square feet -- is planned for multifamily residents, and an additional 25 percent is designated for office space.

Even as the city develops plans for the property in Ward 4, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development was reluctant to offer many details about the city's desired end result.

"We're going by the master plan that we've worked on for quite a while," said Chanda Washington, a spokeswoman for the deputy mayor's office. "We have visions in terms of residential mixed use -- and maybe a charter school. But it's much too soon [to speculate]. We don't own the land yet."

The District is still submitting information to the Army in order to take control of the property. In order to meet federal requirements, the District plans to put homeless assistance programs on the site.

Tuesday's vote comes as the city moves closer to selecting a lead developer for the site. Just Monday, the city announced that it had narrowed the field to five teams.

"At this time, we are excited to move forward with a group of prequalified teams that all have a strong range of financial and experiential skill sets that are needed for the site's overall development," Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins said in a statement.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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