Officials broke ground on a portable building for shops and a community center on the St. Elizabeths campus in Ward 8 on Monday — designed by an architect behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The new 22,000-square-foot community space will include an interim retail village that will serve as an incubator for local retail and food concepts and provide job opportunities to residents.
Renowned architect David Adjaye is helping design a temporary retail space at the St. Elizabeths campus which will be in place for the next three years while demolition is done on old buildings near the Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Once the demolition is complete, the temporary buildings will then be moved to different parts of the District to be reused. The space will then be taken up by a new hotel and office complex.
The building will be structured with prefabricated timber, which simplifies future disassembly and reconstruction while also ensuring durability.
“This architecture, we hope, is something which is about the vision of the future, about the resources, how we’re stewards of our planet, how we use modularity, how we create great quality in all neighborhoods,” Adjaye said.
While the space is temporary, local businesses will be able to bring retail to the community while learning and growing before moving to a more permanent location.
“I’m excited about it, and it helps the community,” said Dionne Bussey-Reeder, owner of one of the local businesses chosen to open in the temporary space. “I work in this community, I live in Ward 7, so I understand the importance of doing the work that we do and providing opportunities to families in Ward 7 and Ward 8.”
“It gives me an opportunity to really iron out my kinks, get me in a good space, pay an affordable amount of money for rent,” Bussey-Reeder said.
This new plan comes after developments to St. Elizabeths in the past years, including the opening of the Entertainment and Sports Arena in 2018 and the unveiling of 88 townhouses at St. Elizabeths East in April.
Construction is also underway for a new Whitman-Walker health care facility at St. Elizabeths East Campus, which is expected to open in 2023.
The new retail center is set to open before the end of the year.