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Mayor Gray gets approval from HUD to negotiate land transfer for housing site

There will be new housing available on Georgia Avenue in the future
Photo by Professor Metze

Finding a place for the homeless might appear to be as simple as opening the door of a shelter and inviting people to come in out of the freezing cold.

However, the reality of the dilemma is far more complex. In going out on the streets of Washington, D.C. and talking to a homeless person the present writer found that the fear of fights in some shelters actually outweighed the fear of the freezing cold.

"I don't want to go inside the shelter," said one homeless person, after the journalist asked why was the homeless person staying outside in the cold. "You don't understand. They will fight me in the shelter."

The concerns expressed by the homeless person, who did not want to be photographed or identified, calls attention to the need to have homeless shelters that provide comprehensive services for the homeless as well as safety and security against violence or any physical bullying. It was the view of one person. However, every person has the right to feel safe in a homeless shelter.

Mayor Vincent Gray signed the Bully Free law in D.C. to protect all D.C. residents from both physical and mental abuse from any form of being the victim of more powerful people. Now the District is also poised to create a comprehensive homeless program that will help to deal with the problems that create chronic homelessness.

Gray and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins today announced that the Local Redevelopment Authority’s (LRA) Homeless Assistance Submission and Reuse Plan for the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site was approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on January 24, 2014.

HUD’s approval clears the path for the LRA to negotiate an Economic Development Conveyance with the U.S. Army to transfer the property, and enables the Army to complete the Environmental Assessment required under the National Environmental Policy Act in anticipation of the transfer and redevelopment of the site. The LRA first submitted the documentation to HUD in July 2012.

“We are now one step closer to executing the vision for this site that has been formulated by the community over many years. The redevelopment of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center will provide vital new housing accommodations for our veterans and seniors and shopping opportunities for our neighbors to reduce retail leakage in the area. It will also create jobs and provide many more amenities for residents, making this one of the premier destinations in the District of Columbia,” Gray said.

In November 2013, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) announced the selection of Hines-Urban Atlantic-Triden Joint Venture as the master developer for the site. HUD approval represents another milestone in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, moving the District closer toward site transfer from the U.S. Army.

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus housed the main U.S. Army General Hospital that served wounded soldiers and veterans for over 100 years. During the 20th century, the medical facility transformed as the city grew around it and new functions were brought to the campus, which became a necessary destination for high-profile visitors.

The LRA portion of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus is composed of 66.57 acres situated on the eastern half and southernmost area of the 110.1-acre enclosed campus located in Northwest Washington. The site is bounded by Fern Street and Alaska Avenue NW to the north, 16th Street NW to the west, Aspen Street NW to the south and Georgia Avenue NW to the east. The balance of the campus – 43.53 acres – is planned to be conveyed to the U.S. Department of State and was not a subject of the District’s Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking a master developer for the site.