Housing Complex

Walter Reed Plan Approved, On Its Way to Council

Approximately what the campus might look like from above.

Ten months after the lines at Walter Reed were redrawn in the District's favor, there's finally a plan for how the campus will be redeveloped. Last night, the local redevelopment committee approved a base re-use plan that will the go to the Council as a bill for approval, and then to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

What's in it? Pretty much what's been contemplated from the beginning: 3.1 million gross square feet of development, of which over half will be residential, a quarter office space, and the rest retail and "creative" space. Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School will get 100,000 square feet for a middle and high school, Latin American Montessori Bilingual charter school gets 30,000 square feet, So Others Might Eat will maintain 40 units of housing for homeless seniors, HELP USA will build 75 units of low-income housing, and the Transitional Housing Corporation will get 6,000 square feet of office space. There will be no bus maintenance or storage facilities, according to specific language in the plan (so much for that dream of redeveloping bus barns on upper 14th Street and in Friendship Heights).

How fast will it move? That depends on a few things. Nothing can happen—including interim uses of the now-empty campus, unfortunately—until the Army conveys the land, which the city hopes will happen within 15 to 18 months. After that, the nonprofit users mentioned above will be able to move into their existing, historic buildings. From 2014 until 2017, the plan calls for construction of townhouses on Fern Street, as well as mixed-use buildings on the corner of Aspen Street and Georgia Avenue and Aspen and 16th Street. The big commercial buildout comes last, in about 2018.

But that could change if Walter Reed lands a big office tenant that wants to move faster. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been mentioned as a prospect, but it's a longshot. A big-box store—such as, yes, a Wegman's—would also move things along. In the mean time, the city is putting together a request for proposals for a master developer who would handle the process going forward.

All in all, a consultant estimated that full buildout will cost between $625 million and $640 million, including $80 to $90 million for infrastructure and $40 to $50 million for parking (which seems high, especially considering that the site now comes with more than 1,000 parking spaces under the old Building 2). How that gets paid for is to be determined.

Here's the plan, visually. I don't have a copy of the written plan yet, but will post as soon as I get it.

UPDATE, 4:00 p.m. – Here's the text version, which also includes 116,000 square feet going to Howard University, and a fire station across Georgia Avenue.

  • DC Guy

    Meh, the bus barn thing is disappointing. It is too bad that Murial Bowser is able to carry her constituents NIMBY water on the WMATA Board, rather than have WMATA act in the best interests of the region.

  • Silver Springer

    They're putting 115 units of low and homeless housing and no police substation. Now ell thought out, this plan.

  • RCDC

    DC Guy you can call it NIMBYism if you like, but why should the Walter Reed neighbors have to devalue their prime development asset with a bus barn to make development in Friendship Heights or 14th st easier?

  • RT

    I agree with Silver Springer. The fact that one of the first things going in is homeless and low income housing does not bode well for the future of this project. Either go dumping ground (and put the bus garage in) or go big and upscale (and try to get a Wegman's, technology campus, etc). You can't have it both ways.


    Low income housing mixed with market price sold real estate does not translate into an increased need for police presence. You probably won't have to worry about homeless seniors breaking into your house.

  • RCDC

    By the way, the BRAC law requires the District to consider homeless services for the property. It looks like the homeless/low income housing is primarily intended for seniors and vets so I don't think that should call for a huge police presence.

  • Michelle

    When you look at the site plan it is shameful that Muriel Bowser didn't have the courage to think big when it comes to the bus garages.

    Walter Reed's north south boundaries are 16th Street and Georgia Avenue which host 2 of the busiest bus lines in the region and the 42, D,E and H bus lines are not too far away either.

    And the low density of development, particularly since much of it is not even residential, should have made it easy to find a benign way to hide the buses.

    Which they are not in their current high density locations.

    So the District is essentially getting free land to house the new bus barn in a geographically optimal location which they easily could have paid to underground with the revenue from selling or redeveloping the Northern and Western Bus garages.

    But thanks to a lack of leadership and courage from Bowser (and some help from the Ward 3 Councilmember who prefers to stick her neck out for mice and not people or economic development) 2 neighborhoods/commercial corridors will in all likliehood be saddled with above ground open air diesel bus garages forever.

    Oh and WMATA is about to spend $50 million to renovate each of them.

    Should Bowser even be on the WMATA board with these priorities?

  • DC Guy

    Michelle beat me to it. Consolidating the current capital expenditures along with the ongoing operational costs of two facilities, rather than consolidating them into a single, state of the art and more environmentally sound underground facility would have made much more sense. Heck you could take the development rights of the two parcels, Western and Northern garages to pay for it and still have money left over.

    Short sighted at best.

  • djdc

    I wish the 14th Street bus barn would relocate to the Walter Reed site too, but why do you heap all the blame on Ms. Bowser? I'm not sure she can order WMATA to relocate its facilities, or can she?

    And how can she win? Her 14th St constituents would get mad if the barn doesn't move, and her Walter Reed constituents would get mad if it does move there. Though a discreet underground facility sounds so nice...

  • DC Guy

    The 14th street garage is the "Northern", and yes, Bowser actively blocked it. She should not have been put in a position to negatively impact the future operations of WMATA as a Board Member.

  • Dear Urbanist Nerds,

    I'm confused. Bowser's supposed to ignore her constituents and put a bus barn on the city's most valuable property? That would be leadership?

    And of course, Bowser is biased. her constituents dont want the barn so she doesnt either. Being biased doesnt disqualify a board member. The opposite actually, the WMATA compact assumes bias. That's why there are multiple representatives from each jx.

  • Alice G.

    I love how people comment like experts without knowing the facts. First the City is not being given the property; it has to purchase it and in order to do that it must make a financially feasible development given the Federal restrictions. The Feds require a portion of the property to be used for housing the homeless. They also require that public service providers be given preference before other public development.
    Putting the bus barn there was not feasible. I was on the NOI committee who discussed it and recommended against it. Muriel was not so quilt bashing her.

    There is noting you can do that will satisfy everybody so you just have to do what you think is right and have a thick skin.
    LRA Committee member

  • DC Guy

    Was an underground bus garage ever discussed as part of the solution? If not, why not?

  • Alice G.

    It is extremely expensive to do underground construction; almost triple the cost;
    not to mention the difficulty in dealing with the noxious fumes.

  • ralph

    why is it NIMBYism for Walter Reed neighbors to oppose a bus barn on the campus but not so when the 14th St. folks want to get it moved there from their neighborhood? Six of one, half dozen ...

  • DC Guy

    Except that you can consolidate the capital and operating costs of two garages into one, while also better managing the environmental impacts (and fumes). The revenue WMATA could recover from the disposition of the two facilities could more than cover the costs of the (more expensive) underground facility at Walter Reed.

    Too bad no one has seriously considered this option.

  • Colonial Villager

    I'm actually a bit shocked the bus depot didn't happen. It was such a bad idea from the beginning I assumed it would fly through unanimously. Thank you, Alice G. Now please get us a Wegman's...

  • Real DC Guy

    As a Shepherd Park resident, who has substantial investment in my home and very concerned about my long-term property values, I am VERY GLAD that Muriel Bowser nixed putting the bus barn on the WRAMC campus. Our neighborhood is a quiet, residential, almost suburban-feeling area and I for one would not want that to change. Its the main reason we moved here (suburban feel with downtown proximity). Its one of the main reasons all of my neighbors paid such premium prices for our homes. Bravo Zulu to CM Bowser... and yes, a Wegman's would be nice too.

  • http://westnorth.com Payton

    A land swap even for the Friendship Heights garage would have given the District an incredibly valuable piece of land. (The equivalently sized Wisconsin Place parcel a block away pays $2 million a year in Montgomery County property taxes, not to mention the sales taxes or the up-front sales price.) Of course, the NIMBY battles at both ends of the transaction would be legendary...

  • SeanInNWDC

    Why should BOTH Northern and Western relocate to Ward 4 (Walter Reed)? The bus capacity for Northern is 175 and for Western is 138. Relocating ALL buses will significantly increase the number of buses housed in Ward 4 to over 300. Buses will travel greater distances along 16th ST NW which will impact traffic, increase pollution and increase operational (fuel) costs. Why not develop a city-wide plan to locate smaller garages closest to their routes?

    Councilmember Bowser is looking at what is best for all of Ward 4.

    See the 2010 METROBUS FLEET MANAGEMENT PLAN, page 69 Garage Facilities

  • Ward4 Resident

    Very interesting comments. If residents on 14th street and Friendship Heights oppose the bus depot, what is wrong with ward 4 resident around WRAMC opposing it. Irrespective of whether or not it is financially prudent for WMATA (which we now know was based on fuzzy maths). Let Friendship Height residents propose another location in their neighborhood, and if they like DC Guy think underground is a solution; they can start digging the current site now. Dig up the site and put the bus depot underground with residential or retail development above ground. That is a win win situation for their neighborhood.

    No bus barns in WRAMC, go put them in upper NW.

  • Paquita

    The FBI would be more welcomed than the housing. I under-stand they are looking for a new location. Other mixed areas would be okay without creating congestion in the area. We could also use a medical facility, maybe a satelite of Georgetown or George Washington Hospitals.

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