The Other Side: St Elizabeths East

St Elizabeths East – Current Condition (Photo: Crystal Bae,

While GSA and DHS have been working on the much-delayed DHS Headquarters Campus on (primarily) the west side of the former St Elizabeths Hospital site, the District of Columbia has been planning its own redevelopment project on the east side of Martin Luther King Blvd.  This fall, the District’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development (DMPED) presented its vision for the 180-acre site as an innovation hub, an “environment where bright minds come together to think, create, innovate, educate, and create significant economic opportunities.”  On November 27, DMPED released a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) for a development team to redevelop four contiguous parcels, totaling approximately seven acres, that will comprise the first phase of ground-up development at St Elizabeths East. (And no, that’s not a typo: the District’s branding efforts for this project include dropping the period after the abbreviation for “Saint,” for reasons that remain inexplicable to us.)

The District already has undertaken numerous site-wide predevelopment efforts at St Elizabeths East, including the following:

  • Creation of the St Elizabeths East Master Plan and Design Guidelines to direct development on the campus;
  • Implementation of site-wide matter-of-right zoning to clarify development opportunities and create certainty for all stakeholders;
  • Commitment of more than $100 million in state-of-the-art roadway and utility infrastructure improvements, with construction of those improvements expected to begin next fall;
  • Recruitment of prospective high-profile anchor institutions (Microsoft, Citelum USA and SmartBIM have been identified as “preliminary selections”) to establish a programmatic tenant base; and
  • Development of the Gateway Pavilion, an interim-use structure designed to attract residents, workers, and guests to the property with restaurants and other programming that is expected to be completed next summer.

DMPED will hold a pre-response conference and site visit for prospective development team members at St Elizabeths East on January 16, 2013. RFEI submissions will be due on March 15. The department then expects to ask short-listed respondents to make presentations to the community and the District later next spring, to select a development team next summer, and to submit a disposition agreement and accompanying legislation to the District of Columbia Council next fall.

The release of this RFEI is part of the second step in the District’s disposition strategy for St Elizabeths East, and will be followed by a series of development offerings to the national development community through subsequent RFEI processes. (The first step involved identifying the preliminary anchor institutions named above.) The third step will be to identify and select one or more catalytic university user(s) that will leverage the amenity base created through the anchor institution(s) and the first phase of ground-up development and, ultimately, lead to the creation of a new center for education, largely based in existing historic buildings.

While the market ultimately will determine what type of development takes place at St Elizabeths East, DMPED is hoping to attract a mix of for-rent and for-sale residential development as well as office users (expected to be attracted by the adjacent DHS Headquarters Campus) and retail facilities that will serve existing neighborhood demand and meet the needs of new residents and tenants.