Ward 8 eager to see promised development

Officials work to see new arrivals aren’t isolated islands

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D.C. Council member Marion Barry says his Ward 8 constituents have been “greatly neglected” by previous mayors.

So it was good news when Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a friend and political ally, signaled a follow-through on his pledge to help areas east of the Anacostia River. In bold remarks, the mayor on Monday said “the future of development in the District will be centered in Ward 8” through a full slate of projects in government, the private sector, retail and real estate.

“We welcome all of this,” Mr. Barry said Tuesday.

But Mr. Barry does not want new arrivals, some already on their way, notably the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to become isolated campuses of employees who shuttle in and out every day, with no benefit to the ward. Construction companies, he added, tend to “bring in their own people.”

Mr. Barry cited Bolling Air Force Base, located on the southwestern edge of Ward 8, as an example of isolationism.

“It’s an island to itself on the Potomac River,” Mr. Barry said. “Same thing’s going to happen at Homeland Security.”

To turn the tide, he said, new entities in Ward 8 must place a premium on hiring D.C. residents and be a springboard for development, notably restaurants, off their campuses and into the surrounding community. The ward has been a “food desert,” he said, in need of more than its smattering of carry-out eateries.

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown said laws and regulations have changed in the past 10 years to ensure the hiring of more D.C. residents, with projects such as the Nationals Park as precedent.

“There will be more accountability, more focus, more attention,” he said, noting the new development extends to areas such as Martin Luther King Avenue and other sectors of Ward 8 that are not part of a select campus.

Mr. Gray also has signaled he is aware of these concerns and has called for a federal-local partnership to leverage any potential benefits to the community.

“My office is working closely with Secretary Janet Napolitano and her team to achieve these goals so that we do not wind up with a federal enclave, but have a federal catalyst for community development,” he said at his State of the District address in March.

Homeland Security is completing its headquarters on the St. Elizabeths Hospital campus, a large parcel that is the focal point of several ambitious development projects in Ward 8.

The U.S. Coast Guard is scheduled to open its headquarters on the hospital’s West Campus in 2013, bringing with it about 4,000 employees. Aside from Bolling, it is “the largest magnitude of development in the history of Ward 8,” the mayor said.

Mr. Gray said appropriate “companion” development is in the works for the hospital’s East Campus, including office space, retail and restaurants. Printer supply company MVM Technologies announced on Monday it will generate about 300 jobs when it moves its operations to the city and locates its headquarters on the site.

The sprawling hospital campus still needs final approval on zoning and planning, a “major task” that may take a few years to complete, according to Mr. Barry.

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