The historic, 1850s campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital got another economic boost Wednesday.
District officials ceremonially broke ground on a $5 million food, retail and entertainment pavilion that will be built on the east campus of the hospital grounds.
The pavilion is supposed to be ready by late summer when the first of 14,000 Department of Homeland Security employees begin moving onto the west campus of St. Elizabeths, which is being transformed into the national headquarters for homeland security. About 4,000 U.S. Coast Guard workers will be the first to move in.
But, by design, there are few food service options on the DHS campus itself, and the city wants to take advantage of that to redevelop a Southeast area that has long suffered from high unemployment and lack of development.
“This is just what Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue needs,” D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said. Norton has been a leading force in getting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds for the Homeland Security headquarters. She said she believes it will dramatically improve private economic development for the whole area.
James Bunn, a veteran civic activist in the community for nearly 50 years, said he also believes it’s the catalyst the neighborhood needs.
“I’m hoping that this will help revitalize Ward 8,” he told News4.
Mayor Vincent Gray led the groundbreaking for the District’s first commercial development.
St. Elizabeths is a total of 350 acres –- one of the largest intact development sites in the country. About 175 acres lie on the west side of King Avenue. It will be all federal agencies under Homeland Security.
On the east side, the District has 175 acres for local development. The city is looking at commercial, residential and educational development.
Veteran Washington developer Herbert Miller has done projects from Georgetown to downtown D.C. He is looking at opportunities at St. Elizabeths.
“It hasn’t been appreciated enough for its advantages,” he told us. “And St. Elizabeths is probably one of the most beautiful set of buildings in the city.”
A Final Note. Why is there no apostrophe in the St. Elizabeths name? City officials told The Washington City Paper that the apostrophe was inconsistently used and finally dropped decades ago.