- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

The D.C. Office of Planning yesterday announced the city's master vision for a long-range redevelopment of more than 60 acres of land on the bank of the Anacostia River surrounding D.C. Jail and what used to be D.C. General Hospital in Southeast.
The overall vision for the area which technically is owned by the federal government is to make an urban waterfront that connects the Hill East neighborhood to the Anacostia River, City Administrator John Koskinen said.
The plan includes extending 19th Street and Massachusetts Avenue SE, increasing access to waterfront parklands and promoting mass transit use.
"This plan is pedestrian-oriented, has a human scale, and outlines what will be a convenient, safe and pleasurable place to live, work and play," said Andrew Altman, the planning office's director.
"I think it's a great plan," Mayor Anthony A. Williams told reporters at his weekly news briefing yesterday. "The overall theme is … to basically weave [the plan] into the fabric of the neighborhood and our overall vision for the Anacostia waterfront."
However, the redevelopment plan, set for review by the D.C. Council on March 29, still needs approval from the federal government. Officials expect that decision to come down in May once the National Planning Commission has had a chance to study the proposal.
Some members of the D.C. Council have voiced concern that the redevelopment idea, which has been bubbling within the inner circles of the Williams administration for the past year, lacks incentive to provide enough public health care for lower-income residents of Southeast.
In a move strongly supported by Mr. Williams, D.C. General Hospital was closed last May when the D.C. financial control board overruled a 13-0 vote by the D.C. Council to keep it open.
The control board which has since returned authority over such decisions to the city's elected officials signed a contract with the privately owned Doctors Community Hospital, moving trauma hospitalization cases to private hospitals and clinics across the city. D.C. General was reduced to an outpatient clinic, or little more than a large doctor's office.
Mr. Williams fought hard for the plan as a way to save money and still provide clinics for uninsured residents, who had been using the hospital's emergency room for a range of illnesses.
Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat, said that he's "highly suspicious" of the redevelopment plan announced yesterday, and that the mayor "has more of a commitment to buildings and construction than to the people of this city."
"When the mayor aggressively and prematurely moved to shut down D.C. General last year, he and his staff insisted they wanted to keep that site available for health care and that they had not plans for future development," Mr. Chavous said. "It sounded completely insincere at the time, and this process driven by the Office of Planning proves that is was insincere"
Although the vision outlined yesterday included no specific plan for a new public health care facility on the land, officials were quick to point out that presently there are also no plans in the "immediate future" to tear down any existing public health care structures.
"There is enough room for a public hospital on the 67 acres," said D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, who joined officials from the planning office in announcing the redevelopment vision. "But so far we don't have sufficient data that the new health care alliance is not meeting the needs created when D.C. General closed. Until we have that, we can't make plans for a new public hospital."
Mr. Chavous said many on the council want a hospital on that site before discussing other uses. "Any plan that comes before the council that doesn't have a specific commitment to a new public hospital, I will personally fight to make sure it's dead on arrival," he said.


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