Housing Complex

The New Coast Guard Headquarters Has Arrived. But Will It Help Ward 8?

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This afternoon, a group of local and federal VIPs—from Mayor Vince Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)—gathered at the St. Elizabeths West Campus to cut the ribbon on the new Coast Guard headquarters.

The campus is set to house 3,700 Coast Guard employees, who will move in over the next few months; the Department of Homeland Security is supposed to follow sometime thereafter, though its buildings on the former mental hospital grounds still have quite a ways to go. I previewed the site back in November, and the Coast Guard buildings impressed with their modern feel, great views, and vast green roof.

“With the ribbon-cutting of the magnificent new headquarters, today is a historic day for the Coast Guard, which has never had its own home," Norton said in a statement. "In planning the DHS complex, and the Coast Guard headquarters in particular, we have taken the steps to help the DHS complex be a part of the revival of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, as federal agencies have done in other areas, such as NoMa and the Capitol Riverfront.”

But is that really going to happen? NoMa and Capitol Riverfront have both seen booms as federal offices have integrated themselves into the heart of the neighborhoods. At St. Elizabeths, that'll take quite a bit more work.

First off, the two neighborhoods between which the St. Es West Campus is sandwiched—Anacostia and Congress Heights—don't exactly have sterling reputations among nonresidents, and they have very little in the way of food and retail options. Second, the campus sits between the Anacostia Freeway and the Suitland Parkway, making it very easy for employees to get in and out without having to spend any time at all in the surrounding neighborhoods. And third, the Coast Guard already has a commuter culture: According to DHS' Carol Mitten, about three-quarters of the Coast Guard employees coming to St. Es currently drive alone to work.

There are already some safeguards in place to prevent Coast Guarders from treating their new headquarters as a drive-through. The West Campus will have only one parking space for every four full-time DHS/Coast Guard employees at St. Es—and many of those spaces will be set aside for car- and van-pools. The Transportation Management Plan for the campus sets a target of just 15 percent of Coast Guarders driving alone to work. The hope is that many will take the Metro to Anacostia or Congress Heights (and possibly a DHS shuttle from there)—forcing them to interact at least somewhat with the nearby neighborhoods.

Additionally, the Coast Guard cafeteria will have only 260 seats, in addition to a 50-seat snack shop. Again, the hope is that workers will leave the West Campus to get lunch—possibly in the adjacent neighborhoods, though more likely at the food trucks of the temporary Gateway Pavilion across Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in the East Campus. That's better than staying put at the Coast Guard headquarters, but it's unclear how much it'll really do for Ward 8, or whether the Gateway Pavilion will serve the neighborhood or just the feds.

We won't know for sure what St. Es means for Ward 8 until the East Campus' mixed-use development gets underway. At best, it'll be a new employment and retail anchor that will link Anacostia and Congress Heights and leverage the daytime population provided by the Coast Guard and DHS to give the area an economic jolt. At worst, the much-heralded DHS complex won't be all that different from nearby Bolling Air Force Base, so isolated from the community that it might as well not be there.

Photo via @mayorvincegray

Comments

  1. #1

    Managing is easy if you hate your employees, which the Coast Guard clearly does.

  2. #2

    "Forcing them to interact..." At least the robbers and thugs will have some business.

  3. #3

    ^^^What he said

  4. #4

    This is a disaster.

    I work at Bolling, and there are zero options on that side of river or off base food options.

    In addition, who the hell wants to be at the Anacostia metro station after dark??

  5. #5

    This development has the potential to change Ward 8. I think eventually it will make a huge difference!

    However, that whole stretch of MLK is or was supposed to part of the Main Streets or Great Streets list for revitalization. That has not happened.

    The business owners on MLK have had every opportunity to get help from the city to improve their business with loans and grants. Yet still there's nothing but unappealing take out and check cashing places, and it really just seems dirty.

    I doubt anyone from the Coast Guard is going to spend a single dollar at the existing businesses and that is a huge opportunity lost for those business owners.

    City planners for St Elizabeths East should have had Phase 1 completed at the same time. Instead they will be lagging behind by several years. It WILL happen though.

  6. #6

    When the Coast Guard moved from L'Enfant Plaza to Buzzards Point in the 70's we were promised by Adm Hayes that it would be a great area, waterside promonades, a real vibrant community. It never happened. This looks like it will extend HQ being one of the last places you want to be transferred to. Military moving in and out of the DC area are forced to live distant from HQ to find somewhere affordable and end up with long difficult commutes. I see it as one more bad place the Coast Guard was forced to accept. This isn't going to help morale at DHS. It is a plan to help Ward 8, it isn't done with concern for the Coast Guard members.

  7. #7

    Just wait until a few coast guard employees get beat up and robbed on their way to/from the metro/lunch. Money for more parking and a bigger cafeteria will quickly find its way into the budget.

  8. #8

    It couldn't hurt. But there is that big wall thing between the office workers and the community!! If I had the money, I would be buying property in that area.

  9. #9

    This wasn't designed for either the citizens of ward 8 nor the coast guard employees. The only reason it's there is because there was some available land that met the "let's create a fortress" desire/requirements of DHS.

  10. #10

    This facility with the new Reeves Center being built in Annacostia will, in all probability, serve as an anchor for the local economy. Just as the Reeves Center did for U Street NW.

  11. #11

    I think it's pretty debatable that Reeves ever anchored much on U St. Sure, there is some lunch time traffic generated, but that's not what (re)built U St and, arguably, even that is much less than the foregone opportunity cost of having condos or even an office building there.
    And that analysis doesn't even take into account the massive misuse/disuse of the ground floor retail and interior arcade space at Reeves.
    All in all, Reeves has long been an economic minus, not a plus.

  12. #12

    drez--you obviously were not in DC in the early 80's when the Reeves Center was built, becaue you have no idea of what you are saying. There were NO CONDOS or anything close to it in that area. It was blighted like MLK Ave in Ward 8 is today. Bringing city government operations "uptown" to U Street was a bold and succesful act of urban renewal. Although you think the lunchtime traffic is irrelevant, a lot of small businesses thrived becuae of it and people began moving into the area instead of away from it. The Reeves Center's success in stimulating the development of 14th Street is what makes it now seem obsolete.

  13. #13

    I agree with everything Corky said in comment # 12, I arrived in DC in 1993 and U Street was pretty much a wasteland. Along with the Reeves Center, the arrival of the U Street-Cardoza metro stop, Republic Gardens, and State of the Union probably all deserve credit for driving at least the nighttime traffic on U, before the street became the destination it is today.

  14. #14

    @Corky

    You are wrong too. U street back then (and 14th) was much more blighted than MLK Ave today. MLK Ave is undergoing lots of development right now, so there's no comparison.

  15. #15

    No, of course this project won't contribute much to Ward 8. Which is old news:

    http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2006/02/enclave-development-wont-save.html

  16. #16

    I am local but came of age in the late 80's. Reeves was obsolete by then. Nothing around Reeves is attributable to it's presence, certainly not the nightlife, high end restaurants, and condos the area is now known for. Not even the second hand stores and furniture shops of the '90s.
    That an office was put there in the '80's is entirely subsumed by the growth of the central business district and overall population boom in ward 2.
    Reeves is a vanity project and a waste. Sorry.

  17. #17

    Consider this: if Reeves was never built, what would 14th and U look like today? Would it still be blighted? Would the large amount of development- condos, shops, restaurants, etc around it failed? Of course not. Those things would have happened anyway. And the property where Reeves now sits would have been part of it, instead of the anachronism it now is.

  18. #18

    after the first day of the move, there is no potable water. that means there is no DRINKABLE water. what a shit show. that means that the cafeteria couldn't cook food. Personnel were going back over to the old HQ to drink coffee, so they did not have lead in it. The CG is the cheapest organiztion there is. Watch Tropic Thunder. That is all you need to know about it. Call the CG if there is a spill on the beltway. It is shallow enough that they might be able to respond. What a bunch of fucking losers.

  19. #19

    there are mice running around this place. no drinking water either. nothing like starting in a new work space with mice scurrying around! This is drinkinh water the gifggest disaster lnk. How arw 4000 0eople goint to survuve wtout ice, water??? This IS the biggest piece of Shit plan we have Ever had to implrmrmnry. tHESE PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW A HORSE IN TH GRPOUND IF THEY SAW ONE ..

  20. #20

    I was truly shocked to read the following paragraph: "There are already some safeguards in place to prevent Coast Guarders from treating their new headquarters as a drive-through. The West Campus will have only one parking space for every four full-time DHS/Coast Guard employees at St. Es—and many of those spaces will be set aside for car- and van-pools. The Transportation Management Plan for the campus sets a target of just 15 percent of Coast Guarders driving alone to work. The hope is that many will take the Metro to Anacostia or Congress Heights (and possibly a DHS shuttle from there)—forcing them to interact at least somewhat with the nearby neighborhoods." While I am treating the new headquarters as a PLACE OF WORK, someone deliberately planned and implemented "safeguards" to make my commute more difficult and more time consuming than it already is in this area???!! And planned to "force" me to go out and buy lunch in this ugly, dangerous area?? How ridiculous is this??!! That will NEVER happen. I will carpool to work, and stay away from the Anacostia metro station and the nearby neighborhoods. I am very determined to "drive through" to/from work, put a full day of work in the office, take a break in the yard to eat the lunch I bring from home and never, ever spend a dime in ward 8. And I will not be "forced" to "interract" with it either. I will "drive through" this area as fast as I can. I will not interact a minute, and not spend a dime.

  21. #21

    ...Similar to how Israeli settlements interact with their West Bank neighborhoods. Seriously?!? If they wanted interaction they would have made it an open campus with local establishments scattered throughout.

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