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St. Elizabeths Redevelopment Framework Plan

TESTIMONY OF 
JOHN F. PHELPS
ACTING REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR
NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION
U.S. GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
BEFORE THE
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CITY COUNCIL
JOHN A. WILSON BUILDING
1350 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, NW
WASHINGTON, DC
DECEMBER 3, 2008

 

Good Afternoon.  Chairman Gray and honorable members of the District of Columbia Council, I am pleased to be here today representing the General Services Administration in support of the District’s efforts to advance the St. Elizabeths Redevelopment Framework Plan and bring about much needed economic development and investment east of the Anacostia. 

As the Regional Administrator for GSA’s Public Buildings Service, I have purview over the National Capital Region personnel in our agency who carry out our mission to provide high-quality, safe office space for federal workers throughout the Washington metro area.  In the Washington region, the 1,500 employees of the National Capital Region have responsibility for 96 million square feet and, in DC alone, the GSA manages 55 million square feet. 

Critical to the success of our efforts to make investments in this great city is a partnership between GSA and District government.  There will be no clearer demonstration of the importance of that partnership as we witness the future development of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and the two (2) campuses of St. Elizabeths that buttress this “Great Street” in Ward 8. 

As I am sure you are well aware, since early 2005, GSA has been working to develop a master plan to consolidate the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters on the federally-controlled West Campus.  While we have been working collaboratively with the District, our recent efforts have accelerated as we seek to make progress on approximately $3 billion of investment in the 4.5 million square feet of space that will become home to DHS.  In the past few months, our partnership with the District has been paramount to the success of this project as we expect nearly 750,000 square feet of secure office space plus parking to be included in the East Campus development, thereby meeting the programmatic needs of DHS and helping to mitigate the impact on the National Historic Landmark. 

It’s hard for me to describe the synergy that can be accomplished when local and federal governments work in concert.  Our working relationships are only the first step in the dynamic future we will witness as we see that synergy unfold in real time, bringing economic vitality to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.  Residents throughout the District of Columbia, especially from Ward 8, will benefit from job creation, new and expanded businesses, and new neighborhood amenities and prospects associated with the 14,000 DHS employees that will be seeking goods and services in the area. 

The Small Area Plan for the East Campus is not only vital to and therefore integrated in our plans for the West Campus, but more importantly it is tightly interconnected to the surrounding community.   A key component of the plan is opening up the East Campus and directly linking proposed amenities with the adjacent Congress Heights neighborhood.  We laud the successful efforts of the District’s Office of Planning at collaborating with community stakeholders and government agencies to provide a strategic framework for what we believe will be a dynamic mixed use development in both new construction and the adaptive reuse of historic buildings that are a part of this important landmark.

GSA deeply appreciates and recognizes the efforts of the City to promulgate the development agenda of this community.  The Small Area Plan highlights the spirit of the community and the vision of the District’s leadership and GSA looks forward to continuing our dynamic working partnership with the District of Columbia.  We would specifically like to acknowledge and express appreciation to the Office of Planning and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, as well as numerous Council members and staff for their efforts. 

We also thank the residents of Ward 8, and community and national organizations for attending public meetings and providing us with valuable feedback as GSA continues consultations on the DHS headquarters consolidation at St. Elizabeths.  This unique opportunity will help preserve this respected National Historic Landmark while providing much needed opportunities for new development.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the important efforts of Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and her staff in their support of this project and her advocacy for her constituents. 

Before I close, I’d like to give a quick update on where we stand in our efforts. 

  • In November, GSA submitted its final Master Plan to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the Commission of Fine Arts, and published the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Public Comment.   The Public Comment period of the EIS closes on December 8th.  I am also pleased to announce that the Commission of Fine Arts approved the Master Plan on November 20, 2008.
  • Within a week we expect to finalize a Programmatic Agreement that will wrap up the first phase of consultation associated with our obligations under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
  • On January 8, 2009, NCPC will hold a hearing and, we hope, vote to approve the final Master Plan.  Assuming we secure NCPC’s approval and GSA receives funding from Congress, construction on the West Campus will commence in the summer of 2009 allowing the United States Coast Guard to occupy their new headquarters building in 2013. 

Your approval of the Small Area Plan should allow GSA and DHS to continue our partnership with the District of Columbia in pursuing our goal of delivering 750,000 square feet of space plus parking on the East Campus for DHS occupancy in 2014, with total occupancy for DHS at St. Elizabeths projected in 2016. 

In closing, let me reiterate how pleased we are to be partnering with the District on a project that will have local, national and, quite frankly, international significance.  We believe the collective redevelopment of nearly 350 acres for both the Department of Homeland Security Headquarters and mixed-used revitalization of the East Campus represents boundless opportunities for residents, businesses, the City and our employees.  As a result, there could be little doubt that we again express our enthusiastic support for the Saint Elizabeths Redevelopment Framework Plan Support Resolution of 2008 contained in PR 17-1154.  We look forward to your approval forthwith. 

Thank you for the opportunity to address you today.


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