Microsoft eyes St. Elizabeths Hospital's redevelopment

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer
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  • Developer seizing upon St. Elizabeths as catalyst (7/18/11)
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  • Tech giant Microsoft is eyeing the District's St. Elizabeths Hospital redevelopment project as its new home for a research and development center, city officials said Tuesday.

    Mayor Vincent Gray said an agreement is still being negotiated with the Redmond., Wash.-based company, which already has a corporate office in the District. If a deal is reached, Microsoft would be the second tech company to commit to St. Elizabeths -- and a huge boon to the city's goal of transforming the campus near Anacostia into a science and technology hub.

    Gray said the federal presence planned for West St. Elizabeths will be the anchor to attract companies dealing in technology, cybersecurity and innovation over to the city's 170 acres on the East campus. The U.S. Coast Guard is slated to open a new base on the federal side in 2013, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security are expected to move in but do not yet have a firm date because of federal budget cuts.

    St. E's -- by the numbers

    • $1.3 billion: money spent so far on building new U.S. Coast Guard HQ, opening in 2013
    • 3,800: USCG employees coming to St. E's
    • 14,000: total government employees eventually moving to West campus/federal redevelopment
    • 1-2: years before Mayor Gray thinks D.C. will know when DHS can move to St. E's West campus
    • 170: acres on East campus for city redevelopment
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    • 2013: zoning approval for East campus expected to be issued in spring
    •  

    "These companies, it makes sense for them," Gray said after his speech at the Chesapeake Crescent Initiative's meeting on security innovation. "A lot of contractors want to fall right in with these federal agencies."

    A spokeswoman for Microsoft did not respond to questions regarding its plans before deadline, however Gray said the company has not determined how large the facility would be. Worldwide, Microsoft has 11 research facilities employing about 850 researchers.

    Typically, D.C. has wooed marquee businesses using incentives. In 2010, the city lured real estate company CoStar from Bethesda by giving it more than $6 million in tax credits.

    MVM, a small company that produces printer supplies, has already said it will open a massive research and development facility at St. Elizabeths. It expects to hire 270 D.C. residents in its first year and up to 2,800 total.

    Gray likened the vision for St. Elizabeths to Johns Hopkins University's bioscience park in Baltimore, where a blighted area of the city was redeveloped to attract new residents and companies doing business with the university. But some critics say that project priced out longtime East Baltimore residents.

    In his speech Tuesday, Gray said he was wary of the potential for gentrification in Ward 8 following the redevelopment.

    "It's almost code for displacement," he said. "If that's what happens here, this will become a failed experiment. [Our goal] is to create a new way of life for the people who have made long-standing sacrifices to be in the Ward 8 community."

    lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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