Four Years Later, District Waits for Army to Turn Over Walter Reed
After over 100 years of operation, the land that was once the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) sits unoccupied in Ward 4. In 2011, the WRAMC merged with the National Naval Medical Center and became The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. Following the closure of the WRAMC, city officials worked to find the most appropriate way to redevelop the WRAMC land, while still honoring its history. The District of Columbia Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, through the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), selected the Hines-Urban Atlantic-Triden team to redevelop the property.
The Hines-Urban Atlantic-Triden team plans to develop the land into The Parks at Walter Reed. A website for The Parks at Walter Reed describes the future uses for the space including retail shopping, a hotel, research departments for George Washington University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and twenty acres of green space. The plan also includes over 2,000 units of housing; according to the website, “20% of the total units onsite will be affordable.” The affordability of the remaining 80 percent of the units is not described.
The Ward 4 community was involved in the process of determining a redevelopment plan. In a June 2010 Public Workshop, community members and stakeholders gathered to express their goals for the land. The goals included providing a variety of housing including affordable, veteran, and senior housing.
The LRA received twelve Homeless Assistance Providers’ (HAP) proposals to use the space, and three were approved: H.E.L.P Development Corp. (HELP USA), So Others Might Eat (SOME), and Transitional Housing Corporation (THC). The plan was approved in 2014 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“HUD determined that the Plan appropriately balances the needs of the District of Columbia for Economic redevelopment and other development with the needs of the homeless community,” the approval letter from HUD to Mayor Gray states.
HELP USA will create “no more than 75 units permanent supportive housing” for homeless veterans and their families. HELP USA honors the military history of the WRAMC, while also working to achieve the first goal listed in the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness Strategic Plan, 2015 – 2020, to “finish the job of ending homelessness among Veterans by the end of 2015.” According to the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness, veteran homelessness has been on the decline, both in D.C and the nation as a whole.
“Ending Veteran homelessness will serve as an important proof point that when the resources are invested in the right interventions, homelessness is solvable,” DC Interagency Council on Homelessness states in their 2015 5-year plan.
SOME will create “no more than 40 units of permanent supportive housing” for homeless individuals age 55 and above, responding to the needs of homeless seniors in the area.
THC submitted a separate proposal to create permanent supportive housing for homeless families, but the LRA chose to only approve THC’s office space proposal. THC is well established in the District, providing permanent housing, rapid re-housing, and affordable housing to families experiencing homelessness, including veterans and their families. THC will have 6,000 square feet office space “to support its homeless activities.”
“It [THC] had strong qualifications and experience in developing permanent supportive housing to address the District’s homeless needs. Since HELP USA’s program in part serves homeless families through development of housing, the LRA approved of THC’s proposal for office space to provide for a mix of uses that address the District’s homeless needs,” the LRA wrote in their explanation for approving only THC’s request for office space.
Frank Demarais, Interim Executive Director at THC, in an interview with Street Sense, said THC is excited about the opportunity to have office space, although nothing is final. THC has an agreement with the city, but because the Army hasn’t turned the property over to the District yet, he does not expect the office space for another two to three years. Demarais said the District is “focused and committed” to redeveloping the land, but cannot begin to build until the Army officially turns the property over. Demarais believes the opportunity for HAPs to be apart of the Parks at Walter Reed will be “very helpful for Ward 4.”