Someone brought this property
to my attention and i was immediately interested in it as a possible site for our campus. It is the site of the mostly closed DC General Hospital, DC Jail and other facilities of the health and correctional services. It is fronted by a park along the Anacostia River, located south of RFK Stadium and adjacent to Capital Hill. I could see the buildings retrofitted and repurposed for mixed use; programs could be developed to renew and integrate the health and correctional facilities along community service lines. The acres of parking lot would become orchards and farms.
I had put this in the back of my mind until today when the Washington Post ran an article
on it, reporting on the latest attempts by the city to select a developer. A neighborhood group
has been formed around it and they have favored one of the proposals. I posted the following to the group's board and also as a comment on the WP article:
"Whatever is done, the riverine park needs protection and rehabilitation as a wildlife corridor and storm water filter to reduce further pollution of the Anacostia. The site also holds two underground fuel storage tanks which could be considered for repurposing as biodigesters to produce methane for fuel and/or electricity generation to make the project energy-sufficient. The current proposals would be viable if it were business as usual, but i suspect it's not. Small comfort can be derived from the suspicion that in the present economic collapse, nothing will happen anytime soon."
"A radical approach is needed to develop this site sustainably to include repurposing of existing structures, maximum density with minimum footprint, maximum greenspace including farms, inclusion of local and small business, and integration of health and correctional facilities with neighboring communities."
My aspirations for this site may sound like pie-in-the-sky, but in the present economic climate and the paradigmatic shift taking place, nothing is impossible. I'm constantly inspired by Majora Carter's achievements in cleaning up and developing South Bronx. I recognize many parallels here, not least the social justice aspects with regards to the inmate population, the residents of the area and their access to health care and right to a non-toxic environment. The proposed development would exclude them and increasing property values would force them out.
But time and circumstance are on our side. The property has been a white elephant from the time of Mayor Anthony Williams. The presence of the hospital and jail and what to do with them, the polluted river and sewage overflows are not appealing to the average buyer. Where is the financing to come from in this economic meltdown? Furthermore, despite whatever LEED standards the proposers may have considered, the development model likely depends on energy from cheap oil which is slowly becoming obsolete.