Twenty Three Dreams for Walter Reed
On Tuesday, ANC 4A had two presentations on its agenda: Howard University, and a small Chinese-language charter school called Yu Ying. Both praised Ward 4 to high heaven, seeking the Commissioners’ support in their attempt to locate in the same place: A parcel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which at this point is a 62-acre blank slate.
The land has been in play since last fall, when the General Services Administration decided it didn’t need the acreage after all, and the Army offered it to the District instead. In November, the city issued a request for notices of interest, giving non-profit groups and city agencies the chance to let their imaginations run wild about what they could do with the space.
Twenty-three groups responded, ranging from a group of “Concerned Citizens” arguing for senior housing to WMATA, which would put in a bus maintenance facility. They laid out their proposals at community meetings in mid-April (video here), and are now waiting on the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA) to choose one or more of them to advance, which should happen by June or July (some, like Howard, are asking for the whole space, while others would be small enough to combine into the area). In putting together the master plan to present to the Army by the end of 2010, the city has brought in urban planning firm Perkins + Will, which also consulted on San Francisco's Presidio park and is also working on a similar large dormant area in Oakland.
Now, since community preferences will factor into the LRA committee’s choice, groups are making the rounds to line up support. The audience at Monday’s ANC meeting was composed mostly of emissaries from either Howard or parents from the Yu Ying School. In her presentation, Howard Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Robin Newton made special mention of how even though she resides in Ward 5, she had a soft spot in her heart for Ward 4, having grown up around the corner from the church where the meeting took place.
Meanwhile, Howard is in the early stages of designing its campus plan for the next ten years, and has just recently convened a citizens advisory committee to provide input. Moving the entire academic medical center and health sciences several miles northwest, taking 1,800 employees and their students with it, would hugely impact the area around the main Howard campus—and they haven’t quite figured out what to put in its place, if anything.
“We will leave a medical care presence in that community,” Newton said—doctors offices, etc. “That’s the only thing we can really commit to.”