A journalist by training, Meline Toumani shocked friends and family by moving to Turkey and embarking on a journey to understand a people and a country she'd been taught were the enemy. The result is "There Was and There Was Not," part political history, part deeply personal memoir.
Base realignment and closure (BRAC) brings opportunity to the District. In September, Walter Reed Army Medical Center will move to new facilities in Bethesda and Fort Belvoir, leaving sixty-two acres of prime real estate along Georgia Avenue for the District to redevelop. We hear about plans for the future of the sprawling and storied campus.
- Muriel Bowser D.C. City Council Member (D-Ward 4);
- Randall Clarke Citizen member of the Local Redevelopment Authority Committee for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center
- Colonel Norvell Coots, MD Commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System
- Eric Jenkins Director of the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority.
- James Wood Planning and Strategies Leader for Washington, DC, with the design firm Perkins & Will.
Aerial Map, Current Walter Reed Army Medical Center Campus
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Moving one of the country's largest military medical facilities all at once, while it's still in operation, is no easy task. That's what's slated for this fall as the Walter Reed Army Medical Center shifts thousands of personnel and patients to two medical facilities outside the District, one in Bethesda, the other at Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIMeanwhile, more than half of the Walter Reed campus' 62 acres is slated to go to the District, including the prime real estate along Georgia Avenue Northwest. It's an extraordinary opportunity to re-imagine a stretch that's been separated from the neighborhoods around it by fences and by security gates.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining to discuss how and what is likely to be done by phone from San Antonio where he's attending a medical meeting is Col. Norvell Coots, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System. Col. Coots, thank you so much for joining us.
COL. NORVELL COOTSWell, thank you and good morning, neighbor.
NNAMDIYes. Indeed, you are my neighbor. I do live in the Brightwood neighborhood near Walter Reed. Col. Coots, the logistics of moving such a large operation must be extraordinary. What's the scale of this move?
COOTSWell, I mean, this is the biggest and most monumental move in the history of the military health system. But I'd like to say that we're not doing anything that anyone has hadn't already done, you know, moving all your patients from one building to another, closing one building, merging with another health system and standing up a brand-new hospital. Yet we're doing it all at the same time while fighting a war.
NNAMDIHow many staff and patients are moving from Walter Reed? And where are they going?
COOTSWell, about two-thirds of my staff is going to move over to the Bethesda campus to help stand up the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center as we merge with National Naval. And one-third of the staff is going to go south to the new Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. So I got staff of 5,000. So you can sort of see the magnitude of the personnel move.
NNAMDIHave any staff or patients been moved yet?
COOTSWe have started to shift a few clinical activities, but, you know, what a lot of people don't realize is that, since 1998, because of the National Capital Consortium for Training, our graduate medical education programs have been merged between us and Navy and Air Force and the Uniformed Services University, so that the doctors, all the trainees have been going back and forth through those different facilities for all of these years.
COOTSSo it's easy for us to move some clinical operations over in (word?) because we've relay been a merged system for about the last 10 or 12 years.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking about BRAC, Walter Reed development. We're the doing series on BRAC every Monday in June, and this is the final edition of our BRAC series, looking at the District of Columbia. We've already looked at Maryland and Virginia. Our guest is Col. Norvell Coots, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System.
NNAMDICol. Coots, the move itself is only five miles for those going north to Bethesda, which is most of the staff. But it's 35 miles for those moving to Fort Belvoir. How did you handle what would work for each of the staff?
COOTSWell, you know, we took a look at the needs of the mission first. And we realign the services, north and south, really looking at the beneficiary population and, you know, the complexity of their medical needs and where the wounded warriors were going to go. Once we did that, and we started to line up staff with those missions north and south.
COOTSAnd you can imagine with such a large number of staff moves, not everyone is going to necessarily get to go exactly where they wanted to go. But at the end of the day, it took us about a year or so to really align all of the names and faces to places. We wound up only with less than 200 people who were not happy either going north or south.
COOTSAnd since that time, we've really been able to give just about everybody the assignment of choice through natural attrition in the jobs and through realignment of some of the positions. So, I think, at the end of the day, everyone is pretty happy with whether they're going to go north to Bethesda or south to Fort Belvoir.
NNAMDIBut some of the medical staff have called for a delay in the move because they say that there aren't enough operating rooms ready at the expanded medical center in Bethesda to handle the capacity. How are you addressing that issue?
COOTSWell, you know, out of a staff of 5,000 at Walter Reed and nearly 5,000 at National Naval, you'll probably find two or three people who aren't happy with anything that's going on right now. But, in general, everyone is pretty much firmly behind these moves. We have been really planning the decrement of the OR capability for some time, and it's not really a decrement in complete services.
COOTSBut, really, what we're doing is we are renovating some of the older ORs over at Navy to bring them up to new standards to put these new boom technology in them to be able to support more modern equipment because we really want to make this a truly world-class facility, you know, throughout. So we've looked at how we're decreasing the ORs. We're fully utilizing all of the operating rooms in our integrated health system.
COOTSSo we're going to use the operating rooms out at Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center out at Fort Meade, Md. We're going to use the operating rooms out at the Malcolm Grow Air Force Medical Center. And even at National Naval, we're going to increase the operating room hours of those ORs that have already been renovated and brought back online.
COOTSSo instead of operating and utilizing them eight hours a day, we're going to utilize them up to 12 hours a day. So, really, in a given week, that's 40 additional surgical hours of time that will be available for use in those ORs. So part of it is a little bit more efficiency in the actual ORs that we have. Part of it is leveraging our capabilities across our entire integrated health system.
NNAMDISome local government officials have also called for a delay. They're worried that the roads around the hospital sites can't accommodate the number of daily commuters. The Pentagon, of course, is required by law to move personnel by Sept. 15 of this year. But Congress is, right now, trying to pass legislation that would allow for a delay in the BRAC moves. If that passes, is there a chance that the Walter Reed move might be delayed?
COOTSWell, you know, we serve at the subject and the will of Congress and the military leadership. If they pass a law delaying the BRAC, then we will abide by that law. But, right now, I'll tell you that Walter Reed is green to go and green to close. You know, I am firmly in control of all of those things that I can control. I can't control nature. I can't control construction and things like that.
COOTSSo, just given the circumstances, the way we're looking at it today, I think we're good. We're beyond -- on time and on target.
NNAMDIThe Defense Department is responsible for cleanup of any hazardous waste at the site. It's my understanding that there are PCVs and possibly some nuclear waste from the nuclear medicine department. What's the plan for the cleanup?
COOTSWell, that, actually, is probably better answered by our garrison commander who is sort of the mayor of the installation. But I can tell you that, yes, there -- we have met with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to look at the decommissioning of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the hospital itself, because we've had such a significant nuclear medicine department, such a very important nuclear medicine department there, that it's going to take about two years to fully decommission that building by the NRC guidelines.
COOTSAs to the other waste that might be on the installation, I really don't know about that because that's handled -- that will be cleaned up by a different agency.
NNAMDICol. Coots, one issue as in most of the base realignment and closure moves is traffic at Fort Belvoir. It's my understanding that the community is concerned that fire and ambulance responders will be delayed by traffic and that the Army has signed on to a fairly unusual plan to make sure the community is covered in fire emergencies.
COOTSYou know, I can't really answer that question because that's the Fort Belvoir military community having made that decision down there. I understand that there have been some concessions made and some kind of novel approaches made to covering all of the emergency services. But I'm not really familiar with those.
NNAMDIWell, here's a question you can answer. After Walter Reed's transition this summer, it's my understanding that your next assignment will be as commanding general at the Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Fort Gordon, Ga., and that you are therefore being promoted to brigadier general. How do you feel about that?
COOTSThat's absolutely correct. You know, I haven't even been able to concentrate and think about that future move yet because I'm so focused on making sure that the Walter Reed closure and this merger is a big success. But, yeah, I was nominated and confirmed by the Senate for promotion to brigadier general.
COOTSAnd, you know, hopefully, that will happen before I actually leave Walter Reed because I would love to do it in front of my staff because, you know, we truly are a family.
NNAMDIWell, congratulations on that and thank you very much for joining us.
COOTSThank you, sir. Absolutely. My pleasure.
NNAMDICol. Norvell Coots is the commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System. Now, we're going to talk about the changes unlikely to be unfolding in the District of Columbia on those 62 acres and inviting your calls, 800-433-8850. What would you like to see come to the Walter Reed campus? What do you think the area needs, shops, a supermarket, housing, a park, a movie theater or all of the above or maybe none of the above? 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio is James Wood. He's a principal at the architecture and design firm Perkins & Will, which developed the first redevelopment plan for Walter Reed and is bidding for the contract for the new redevelopment plan. James Wood, thank you for joining us.
MR. JAMES WOODThank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Eric Jenkins. He is the director of the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority. Eric Jenkins, thank you for joining us.
MR. ERIC JENKINSThank you.
NNAMDIAnd Randall Clarke is a citizen member of the Local Redevelopment Authority Committee for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Randall, thank you for joining us.
MR. RANDALL CLARKEThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAgain, your calls, 800-433-8850. Do you live near Walter Reed? Are you excited or concerned about development plans for the site? 800-433-8850. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there and find out about all things BRAC at our website. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet, @kojoshow. Eric, Walter Reed moving out, what does that mean for the District?
JENKINSThis is an exciting opportunity for the District. Since 2005, the District has looked at this site and thought about the potential that it could have. Last year, as you know, we went through a pretty exhaustive reuse planning process. We had our original 62 acres. Perkins & Will did a great job working with the community to come up with a reuse plan that's feasible and balanced.
JENKINSIt turned out, after our reuse plan was -- had reached unanimous approval by the committee, GSA decided to pull out, which offered opportunities and challenge, which I'm sure we'll speak about here, so...
NNAMDIOpportunities, indeed, because the plans that were unveiled for the site last year are no longer current because the city is now getting prime frontage along Georgia Avenue. Tell us how that came about. And what does the city have to do to get it?
JENKINSWell, since the beginning of the process a few years ago when -- even when GSA had claimed that northern 30 acres, we had approached GSA. And we had our eyes on that retail frontage from the beginning. Since -- when GSA pulled out, we immediately approached the State Department and the Army and said, look, the boundaries as they're set doesn't benefit anyone.
JENKINSWhy don't we come together and try to revise the boundaries? Those talks have been going on for the last few months, and I expect, in the next week or so, we should hear a final report on the revised boundaries.
NNAMDIWhat happens with the rest of the land? There are 113 acres there. The city is getting 62. What happens to the rest?
JENKINSThe rest will go to the State Department, and the State Department is interested in programming an embassy center for chanceries there.
NNAMDIIt's my understanding that some mails would be used for GSA, General Service Administration offices.
JENKINSNo. GSA has fully withdrawn their interests.
NNAMDINothing from GSA...
NNAMDI...just the State Department.
NNAMDIJames, opening up 62 acres for development in an urban center is almost unheard of. What kind of opportunity does this present?
WOODWell, imagine, for 106 years, a large portion of the District has been detached from the city. And that's really what this Walter Reed campus is. It's a hole in the fabric of the city that we can now look to stitch back together. This sits at a point between three key neighborhood communities. You look at Brentwood, Takoma and Sherwood Park, and they have an opportunity to come together at this location and create something that's meaningful to them, as well as meaningful to the greater Washington, D.C. market.
NNAMDIRandall, you live near Walter Reed. How did you get involved with the redevelopment process?
CLARKEI actually started back in 2005 when -- shortly after this was originally announced. At the time, I was the economic development chair for the Brightwood Community Association and the first vice president of the association and got a call. It surprised me because I didn't think I was a person who is politically connected enough to get into this kind of thing, but got a call from the then-council chair Linda Cropp, asking if I would be interested in being involved. And I was absolutely.
CLARKEWe definitely recognized this at the time, from Brightwood's standpoint, as a real opportunity to transform the Georgia Avenue corridor and the community. So who wouldn't want to be involved in that? And it just happened to turn out that I have a professional background that lined up with this as well. So I thought, you know...
NNAMDIWhat is your professional background?
CLARKEI work in commercial real estate development, have for the past 13 years or so, mostly in retail development, but also had a portion of my professional life where I worked in military privatization, the transfer of public property to private entities. So it kind of fell in line with what this process is.
NNAMDIThat's probably why you got selected over me, actually. Nobody ever even considered me. Eric, Georgia Avenue is part of the city's Great Streets Initiative. What are some ideas for how development at Walter Reed will fit in to the residential and retail stretch along Georgia Avenue?
JENKINSWell, Georgia Avenue is a primary corridor for the District and has been. We think Walter Reed can be a catalyst to actually connecting Georgia Avenue retail development from Walter Reed all the way up to Silver Spring and kind of spotting retail along that corridor. Also a connection to the south from Walter Reed down to Petworth, we think it can be a catalyst for a streetcar.
JENKINSWe know a streetcar is in the plan for, you know, I think, 20 years or so out. But we thing Walter Reed is a type of development that could help spur moving streetcar up on the scale of that.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Jim in Bowie, Md. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JIMYes. Good afternoon. Thank you, Kojo, and your guests. First statement, a comment, in the recessionary times that we live in, I know Walter Reed employs thousands civilian and military personnel. Personally, I don't think there's going to -- the impact of them leaving is going to be replaced possibly by a retail establishment. Number two, Walter Reed is a – already has the facilities for a world-class class medical institution.
JIMI think an excellent use of that would be a replacement for D.C. General, possibly a link with Howard University and for a tremendous medical campus. I'd like to get your comments and concern on that. But, right now, with the – all areas, sectors of retail somewhat suffering, I think moving a mass retail center there will not benefit most of the population in D.C. or the surrounding area.
NNAMDIWell, there are several things you have raised there. And I'll ask our guests to address each of them. I'll start with its use as a possible site for a medical facility because Howard University was interested in having both its hospital and its medical school, it's my understanding, relocated at that site. What happened with that suggestion, Randall Clarke?
CLARKEThere was some pushback. I can tell you from some of my fellow community members to the idea of having the entire campus -- the District's portion of the campus -- used for that single user. Howard did come back and work with the community and offer to scale down their proposal and fit in to the overall mix of uses. And so, I think, that's actually the – in the plan that we approved in the fall. That's what would take place.
CLARKEThere would be a -- I believe they called it an ambulatory care facility as opposed to a full-service hospital. But it would bring -- maintain the health care presence on the campus without the full service hospital and still allow for mix of uses that a lot of residents were really concerned with.
NNAMDIAnd, Eric Jenkins, another of Jim's concerns is that there are all those people who work there. There are going to be jobs lost, and presumably, there's going to be some business lost by retail establishments.
JENKINSYes. So that's really one of our key focuses, is to try to replace any impact that the loss of the jobs at Walter Reed would have, you know? We tried to answer the question, how much of an impact is there, really? A lot of the people that actually work at Walter Reed -- we've done some studies -- don't necessarily live in the area. They commute from outside the city.
JENKINSAnd Walter Reed, like many military campuses, provide kind of a full service for lunch and other retail type of opportunities. So we tried to kind of capture what -- how much of the loss of jobs are really impacting Georgia Avenue. On the study we did last year, we -- of the 5,000 jobs, we thought the program could replace roughly 3,500 of those. And that is just only in our 62 acres.
JENKINSObviously, State Department will employ a number of people as well. With the new boundaries, we think it's an opportunity for huge employment centers where we could probably exceed the 35, if not replace totally the 5,000 just on the District portion.
NNAMDIWe've got to take a short break. But, Jim, there was some significant community involvement in this process of discussion, which is one of the reasons why Randall Clarke is at the table with us. But do you have any follow-up questions?
JIMWell, just to piggyback on what's stated earlier. We take a look at, I think, all sectors of the retail and real estate communities around the country. Just about every major metropolitan area is hurting. D.C. might be a little bit different. But if I was community member in that area, I would be more concerned about generating income revenue from medium- and high-end jobs than possibly having a retail establishment.
JIMI've -- being there at Walter Reed and through there quite a few times, I'm very familiar with the campus...
NNAMDIRight. But I'm thinking we're not talking about a retail establishment. And before I go to that break, James Wood, given the kind of plans that were developed and the kind of plans that will not be developed, given the Georgia Avenue front, are you talking about a location that has the potential to develop significant jobs?
WOODThis site does have an opportunity to create jobs. This BRAC project is interesting in that you're not truly losing projects in this region – jobs in this regional area. Those jobs can be maintained at Bethesda as well as down in Fort Belvoir. So we can actually create a net-plus job here on this site that can benefit the greater community.
WOODThe drive for -- in terms of health care, though, I think the community spoke very openly about the wanting of a mixed-use campus here, that retails only about 9 percent of the proposed plan, that community health is part of the plan: offices, multifamily, residential. They're looking for a place maker here that accommodates many and all their needs, not just one single need such as health care. And that's what we heard through these public meetings.
NNAMDIAnd we're going to talk about that public meeting process in a moment. Jim, thank you so much for your call. Right now, we've got to take a short break. If you'd like to join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. How do you think that the Walter Reed development can best be integrated into the neighborhoods around it? 800-433-8850 or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're having our conversation about BRAC and the developments at Walter Reed. All during the month of June, we've been discussing Base Realignment and Closure or BRAC. This is the final in that series. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Or join the conversation at kojoshow.org. Joining us in studio is James Wood.
NNAMDIHe's a principal at the architecture and design from Perkins & Will, which developed the first redevelopment plan for Walter Reed and is bidding for the contract for the new redevelopment plan. Also in studio with us is Randall Clarke. He's a citizen member of the Local Redevelopment Authority Committee for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. And Eric Jenkins is the director of the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority.
NNAMDIGetting a number of calls. I'll get to the telephones in a second. But, Eric, it's my understanding that the community involvement in the redevelopment plan has been, well, smooth. Pretty much everyone's satisfied with the process. How often does that happen?
JENKINSWell, I'm not sure how often it happens, but I am thankful that it happened on this project. Last year, I think we held over 30 to 35 public meetings. We gave notice of those meetings with various different means. We had AmericaSpeaks going and knocking door to door. We sent emails out. We sent flyers out on our website.
JENKINSSo I'd like to take this opportunity just to mention there's a meeting, actually, this Thursday, LRA Committee meeting at seven o'clock at Fort Stevens Rec Center. And so it's open to the public. And so, again, we hope that we can receive good participation.
NNAMDIFort Stevens Rec Center being in the 1300 block of Van Buren Street Northwest. A lot of people in that neighborhood (unintelligible). That's where we generally vote. Randall, you were involved as a community member in these meetings. What was the process, and why do you think it worked?
CLARKEI think that, from the standpoint of the community members who are members of the LRA Committee, we were able to sit at the table with the district agency heads and other folks and hear the same information at the same time from the consultants. And, as a result, we were able to give some community input immediately as those conversations were going.
CLARKESo it may have helped smooth things out when it went to a larger community because community voices had already been heard. And I should mention that there are members of this committee on the citizen side from all of the surrounding neighborhoods from Takoma, D.C., from Brightwood, from Shepherd Park and, again, from Colonial Village. So they're all represented. They all have their own interests.
CLARKEBut we've been pretty uniform about trying to see this get done. And then once we got to the larger meetings, I was really impressed with AmericaSpeaks who basically served as a neutral operator here just to facilitate the meetings, make sure that people had an opportunity to express their opinions. They catalog those opinions, which, I think, was also important in real time in a lot of cases.
CLARKEAnd then things that weren't able to be discussed in real time, they catalogued, provided to the LRA so the answers could be posted on the website later. So, I think, that gave people a feeling that it was open, that they had an opportunity to get their voices heard and then see some of their suggestions included in the plan in later drafts.
NNAMDII know AmericaSpeaks came knocking on my door, James. Their facilitation apparently help to keep these meetings not only orderly, but help them -- help to keep them from being unruly.
WOODWell, I think it goes to show that there may be advantage of bringing a politically driven, consensus-building organization like this to a land use issue, such as Walter Reed, and we reap the benefits to that. They clearly understood in helping structure these.
WOODThis is about building consensus around the right solutions within a larger neighborhood, reaching out and getting those people to participate, having proper amounts of participation across all the neighborhoods and population, and then reporting that out, so that when people walked out away from these meetings, they felt they were heard and also understood their point of view in relationship to their peers.
NNAMDIAnd it's my understanding, Randall, that the process will now have to be reopened because of this new configuration, correct?
CLARKEThat's my understanding as well.
NNAMDIOkay. So more people will have the opportunity to speak. Let's hear from Kim Boyd in Washington, D.C. Kim is an ANC commissioner in my neighborhood of Brightwood. Kim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MS. KIM BOYDHi, Kojo, thank you for having me on. I was actually a part of some of these planning sessions that we had last year. And it probably was the catalyst for me to even get involved because I end up running for ANC after being involved in these different sessions. Though it's a bit disheartening to hear that it sounds like we may have to start over because I -- in these sessions, they really took into consideration what people in the community wanted.
MS. KIM BOYDAnd I think that, you know, unlike some of the Walmart sessions that people really, you know -- it was a collaborative effort, and our voices were very much heard. Now, with respect to the caller who, I think, called a few minutes ago from Bowie who said that, you know, the retail is something that, you know, maybe we shouldn't be trying to push for so much, he obviously doesn't live in Brightwood because most of the people in the community, I think, retail is probably number one.
MS. KIM BOYDObviously, housing, especially for the senior community, is important, but there is no retail in Brightwood. And that is why there is so much divestment that occurs on a daily basis. I spend money in Adams Morgan in Columbia Heights 'cause there's nothing where we live. And so, I think, retail is probably the most important.
MS. KIM BOYDAnd I feel like, once you develop Walter Reed, it will have a ripple effect that will end up going further down to Georgia Avenue that will eventually connect to Petworth because Petworth is lovely. They've done a lot there. But our part of Georgia Avenue, we have a lot more that we need to do. And, I think, Walter Reed will, you know, end up being the catalyst for that.
NNAMDIOkay. Kim Boyd, thank you so much for your call. We move on to Al in Washington, D.C.
NNAMDIAl, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALYes. Hi, Kojo. Hi, everybody. I have a quick question. It was the time of Anthony Williams that he was in the office. There was money being put to the side for the purpose of the development of Georgia Avenue and helping people to -- basically, their business and the small businesses for the purpose of, you know, (unintelligible) a store and things in that nature.
ALAnd to be honest with you, we don't know what happened to that. And nobody getting any benefit of this matter. Is that money that they've put to the side still available? Anybody working on it or they forgot about it or what the status of that is? I don't know.
NNAMDIYou haven't seen any changes in upper Georgia Avenue in the way some of those businesses look, Al?
NNAMDIHave you not seen some changes in the way businesses, especially on upper Georgia Avenue, have been looking for the past couple of years?
ALYes. I've been actually driving in Georgia Avenue almost every day. And I own a business on Georgia Avenue right by New Hampshire and Georgia Avenue, that there's a condominium and (unintelligible)...
NNAMDINo. I've been talking higher up, closer to Silver Spring. But allow me to have either Eric or Randall address that issue.
JENKINSSure. We do have a program, the Great Streets program, and that's headed by Derrick Woody. Derrick Woody, actually, was a part of the reuse planning process last year. He managed the consultants to the planning process, and so he kind of wore two hats while he was planning, helping to plan the reuse plan for Walter Reed. He also looked at opportunities for using some of the Great Streets resources on Georgia Avenue.
JENKINSSo, you know, I'm sure he'd be happy to answer any questions. You can direct those to our office, and we can get some more information on what's been happening.
CLARKEIf I can add, I do know that there is still a program with storefront improvements that has been taking place on Georgia Avenue. In the Brightwood corridor, I can speak to that specifically. It's administered via the Emory Beacon of Light CDC, which is located at Georgia, and their office is at Georgia in Rittenhouse. But they have been doing storefront improvement -- you might have seen some of that in the 60, 200 block of Georgia Avenue.
CLARKESome of that is already taking place. I can't speak to the area further south in Petworth. But I do know that those programs still exist and are administered by community groups.
NNAMDIAl, thank you for your call. We got this email from Ellen on Georgia Avenue. "I live directly across the street from Walter Reed. My neighbors and I are very concerned that the area that many of us fought the Army to keep a beautiful and green park from becoming a concrete jungle in the 1970s -- prior to 2001, our neighbors used that green portion as a park, there being no parks within a half mile walking-distance of this location.
NNAMDI"We are looking for a green buffer zone between the single family homes and any commercial development." Is that doable, James Wood?
WOODThat's yet to be seen. We are now just looking at that northeast corner and what the opportunities are there.
WOODI do know the original plan accommodated 40 acres of open space. Almost 65 percent of the original area we're looking at was going to be open in green. The historic lawn in front of Building One is going to be maintained in its original format, so there is a strategic look to make this as green as possible, sustainable. We've been challenged as part of this effort by the city to make this a world-class model sustainability.
WOODPart of that one is environmental, but it's also social and economic. We can't force on a built environment that doesn't match the needs and scale of the community.
NNAMDIMany of these buildings on the campus are historic. Will that limit some of the choices that can be made?
WOODIt doesn't limit. It creates great opportunities to adaptively reuse these buildings. The history of this campus is adaptive reuse, the original campus being a hospital. Majority of that old campus is now office, a multi-family residential in terms of housing for soldiers, so we've seen a transition this uses and will continue that transition. The future plan allows us to take some of that density that we were proposing earlier and spread it across the campus into a less-developed portion in the same cite though.
NNAMDIOn to the telephone. Here is Ralph in Washington. Ralph, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
RALPHHi. Thank you for taking my call. Quick question on the future process. What would the time frame be since things need to be revisited? And, secondly, what would the impact be of a proposed Walmart store just a few blocks south of there on any retail in Walter Reed property? Thank you.
JENKINSSure. Well, on the timeline, the first issue is for us to receive confirmation in the final boundaries from the Army and Department of State. Again, we've been in discussions with our federal partners for the last few months, and we expect an answer on that shortly. But as soon as that is firmed up, we think the planning process will take about six months. And after the planning process is complete, it will go to council for approval.
JENKINSAnd then we'll send the plan to the federal government, to HUD for final approval at the federal level. HUD will probably take six months or so to complete their evaluation. And at that point, we'll have to go through a federal NEPA process and other federal approvals. But we expect that the planning process could be completed by the early spring of next year.
NNAMDIA number of institutions submitted proposals for the site, charter schools, homeless service agencies and, we mentioned earlier, Howard University. Will that be the process again?
JENKINSYes. We'll have to go through that process. It's called the notice of interest process, where we open up opportunity for homeless organizations as well as qualifying public benefits providers. We're hopeful that we only have to go through this outreach process for the net new portions. So, to an extent, there is a revised set of boundaries that any portion that has already undergone this process of outreach would not have to be duplicated.
NNAMDIGot to take another short break. When we come back, we will continue our conversation on the BRAC redevelopment at the Walter Reed campus. The Walter Reed Army Medical Center is moving out. We're talking about what is conceivably likely to move in and taking your calls at 800-433-8850. What would you like to see come to the Walter Reed campus?
NNAMDIWhat do you think the area needs: shops, supermarket, housing, park, movie theater, all of the above? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation about BRAC Walter Reed redevelopment. We're talking with Eric Jenkins. He's the director of the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority. James Wood is a principal at the architecture and design firm Perkins & Will. And Randall Clarke is a citizen member of the Local Redevelopment Authority Committee for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
NNAMDIThe businesses in that neighborhood, Randall, are they concerned about what will happen when all of this construction begins to take place?
CLARKEAbsolutely. And we're fortunate to have two members on the citizen portion of the LRA who are from the business community. Tim Shy, who's a neighbor in Shepherd Park, but also owns Ledo's Pizza on Georgia Avenue, has really stayed on top of this from the beginning, reminding the rest of us that the timing of this is important to the small businesses.
CLARKEAlthough they may not get all of their business from current Walter Reed activity, significant portion could be lost in the period between the closure of Walter Reed and whatever this is on the redevelopment side takes place. I think we heard a discussion earlier in your conversation with the colonel about two years on the nuclear facility.
CLARKESo if you think about that and think about taking this large, daytime work population out of the neighborhood for some period of time before this can be built, it could really affect some of the small businesses in the area that do get business from Walter Reed today.
NNAMDIEric, James, some people have floated the idea of reconnecting some of the streets that stop outside of the Walter Reed campus and pick up on the other side. Which streets might be involved? I'm not sure how I feel about this because one tends to get used to the way things are and kind of reflexively oppose any changes to it.
NNAMDIBut I'm not certain because there's 14th Street, 13th Street, 13th Place and other streets like that who -- that don't go all the way through anymore.
JENKINSYes. So there -- you know, one of the things that the -- our initial set of boundaries didn't allow for was kind of east-west access. It kind of was, really, just a big cul-de-sac.
JENKINSIt allowed us to come into the -- our portion. We kind of had to find our way out. With us gaining access to that southwest corner along 16th and Aspen, it provides opportunity to have some east-west traffic. If, to the extent, we gain more portion to the north of the site, it'll help us gain north-south access. So we think there are huge benefits to this, to the plan -- actually, James kind of talked about some of those opportunities.
NNAMDIYeah, James, talk about some of the traffic circulation on the site and the challenges there.
WOODWell, thinking about the current 5,000 occupants that are on this site that are going away and replacing that with another, approximately, 3,500 to 5,000. We don't expect to see a big traffic impact in terms of the redevelopment of the site. It's an opportunity to address some of the local issues in terms of traffic and improve those as we redevelop the site. The community regularly spoke about a desire to reconnect to Rock Creek Park.
WOODThose people that live to the east of the site wanted increased access to the site. With new boundaries, we can start looking at some of the northwest connections. But I don't think there's any question that the primary north-south quarters are going to be 16th Street and Georgia Avenue. And that -- can we make Dahlia a stronger connecting point across? The center of the site will be yet to be seen as next phase of the project.
NNAMDIHere's Damon in Washington, D.C. Damon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAMONHi. Thanks for taking my call. On your show, Kojo, you discussed food deserts at length, and it's, I think, an important issue within a community. And I was wondering if the site has been considered for the creation of a sort of a food island. I was thinking about Will Allen's project in Milwaukee, where they used sustainable techniques to provide food basics to the underserved community.
DAMONAnd there's two things about Will Allen's project, its use of aquaponic technology that really has a minimal use of square footage with a maximum yield, and it's totally sustainable. I didn't know if that would be considered.
NNAMDIWell, I know, James, your firm hopes to make this site as environmentally efficient as possible. What are some of the possibilities to work on sustainability there? And can it include gardens?
WOODWell, I think two interesting points to that question, one of which we heard from the community, about a real interest around culinary arts, specifically, the opportunity to create restaurants, but also an education component to food and the creation and preparation of food. We've heard from the community a desire for community gardens here and access the ability to grow their own vegetables and such in this part of the site.
WOODSo we are looking at issues like that and abilities to leverage existing site to more locally produced product, from a green standpoint, and sell product from a retail standpoint.
NNAMDIJoining us now by telephone is Muriel Bowser. She is the councilmember representing Ward 4 in the District of Columbia. Muriel Bowser, thank you for joining us.
MS. MURIEL BOWSERThank you, Kojo. Thanks for having me, and thanks for having this great discussion.
NNAMDIFull disclosure, when Muriel Bowser started running for Ward 4, I said to her, two words are important to me: Georgia Avenue. Muriel, you have been listening to what's been said.
NNAMDIWhat are your thoughts about how this project is going to affect upper Georgia Avenue?
BOWSERWell, I think it's going to be a tremendous boom for upper Georgia Avenue, middle Georgia Avenue, lower Georgia Avenue and, really, the whole northern part of the District of Columbia. I really think that having an investment center will have government investing in the corridor as well as private sources. And that's the type of investment we've been looking for in the avenue for a long time.
NNAMDIYou said that the planning is crucial in order to get this right. How do you think -- what do you think about the planning so far and how it's been done?
BOWSERI think it's been great. Listen, we insisted on an open process. So the LRA has been meeting in the community in an open entrance parent process. I think, like Randall said, you hear from the quality of his statements that the citizen members of the LRA committee have been engaged and insistent that this -- really, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us in the District of Columbia.
BOWSERAnd it has to respond to what the people who live near there, work near there (unintelligible) expect.
NNAMDIWhat would it take for a redevelopment -- redeveloped Walter Reed to compete with the shops and restaurants in Silver Spring?
BOWSERI think that it has to be attractive, safe. We have to deal with parking. And that's one thing that's very exciting about the reconfiguration that we're in the middle of negotiating, that, along with that Georgia Avenue frontage, comes 1,500 parking spaces. That's what a lot of the small businesses along Georgia Avenue have suffered from in competition with south Silver Spring, to have predictable and affordable parking options.
NNAMDIJames Wood, it's my understanding that there are some 1,600 underground parking spaces at the site.
WOODThat's correct. There's a underground parking, which is the front lawn of the current hospital. It's the largest green roof currently in the city, is that parking garage roof, as well as a existing parking garage on the center north portion of the site. And that was something we were struggling with previously on the old delineated lines as we had none of the site parking on the District's portion of the site.
WOODWe had to create all that parking. And, now, with this potential to re-parcelize the site, we can gain access to that, which is a huge benefit to the District.
NNAMDIMuriel Bowser, we had a caller earlier who expressed concern about the economic impact of losing 6,000 employees who currently work at Walter Reed, as well as the families of soldiers who come and often stay long-term. What would you say to that call?
BOWSERWell, I think, first of all, Kojo, the residents of Ward 4 have been so delighted over many decades to support wounded warriors and their families who stay at Walter Reed. We, of course, want the site to be redeveloped and back into productive use as soon as possible. But we're also very excited about the opportunity to really, you know, open it up while a lot of workers go into Walter Reed on a daily basis. Many of them drive in.
BOWSERThey work. They stay there all day, and they drive out to their homes in the suburbs. So we -- while we get some benefit from the daytime traffic, we think that our city will be better served by having great quality retail, great housing for all levels of income, for people of all ages. And we do expect to have a great federal presence there with the State Department uses, too. So we will get those daytime workers back.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Ned in Washington, D.C. Ned, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NEDThank you very much. As a Boulder graduate in '75 of urban planning, our philosophy was if you create a community, retail will follow. And I'm working with, as a veteran of the Navy, at the National Capital Veterans Coalition. And we are looking to provide medically pre- and post-services to veterans that come back. And we're working with Howard Hospital.
NEDAnd I am looking forward to presenting our ideas because we're a merging of VSOs, Veteran Service Organizations, and unions to deliver a lot of the services. And, of course, Bicycle Nation is a part of that because as the bike paths have been laid out by the initial plan, we feel it's important that we put a facility, like you'd find at Union Station, to sell, house, repair bikes. It's good for jobs. It's good for that community...
NNAMDIYour bottom line is whether or not there can be anything like that...
NEDRetail will follow. Pardon me?
NNAMDIYour question, I guess, is whether or not there can be anything like that included in this plan?
NEDWell, we have the plan outlined, and we just need the gym and Building 20, which deals with the things that have been brought out recently, the culinary training and...
NNAMDIVery specific, Eric Jenkins. What can you say about that?
JENKINSIs this Ned Jarrels? (sp?)
NEDAnd the process is...
NNAMDIIs this Ned Jarrels?
NNAMDIIs this Ned Jarrels?
NNAMDIOh, of course. Eric.
JENKINSAgain, Ned and I have talked frequently over the last year. So Ned and his team submitted an application. It's part of the NOI process. And it was presented to the community. And we think, you know, a lot of the ideas that Ned has presented we have incorporated. And given the fact that we'll have to go through a similar process with the new boundaries, this is an opportunity for submission of new ideas and expanded ideas.
JENKINSAnd so we look forward to hearing again from Ned and his team to make those ideas part of the project.
NNAMDIWe got this tweet from BioInformer. (sp?) "Any opportunities for bio tech startup lab space at Walter Reed campus? The existing medical and lab space could be a great business incubator." Has that come up at all in any of the conversations as far as you know, James Wood?
WOODWell, business incubators have become a key part of that discussion with the community, the ability to create new jobs and train people in the District in new technologies. We are looking to leverage those existing facilities as much as possible. Part of the goals of the site the community helped develop was to develop a plan that allowed for -- to minimize site vacancy.
WOODAs this transition in the District, how can we engage the site and occupy the site as quickly as possible? It's opportunities like that, engaging that lab space or existing office space with some of these uses to make this a vibrant site and not a construction site for the near future.
NNAMDIAnd we have to underscore the notion that there are going to be more opportunities for community input into the plan that's being developed. Muriel Bowser, stay on the line. I'd like talk to you about another matter. But, first, allow me to thank the gentlemen in the studio for joining us for this discussion about development at Walter Reed after the Army Medical Center moves on. Randall Clarke, thank you for joining us.
CLARKEThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIRandall Clarke is a citizen member of the Local Redevelopment Authority Committee for the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Eric Jenkins, thank you for joining us.
JENKINSThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIEric is the director of the Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority. And, James Wood, thank you for joining us.
WOODThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIJames is a principal at the architecture and design firm Perkins & Will. Muriel Bowser, there was a shooting on Saturday afternoon, apparently around 5 p.m., in the vicinity of Georgia Avenue and Gresham Place Northwest sometime after the annual DC Caribbean carnival parade had passed by. It's my understanding that four people were shot, three wounded, one died. What did you want to talk about that? What do you want to say about that?
BOWSERSure. I just want to say the chief has made a statement earlier today, Kojo. While this unfortunate event happened on the day of the carnival, she believes that it had nothing to do with the carnival parade at all and, in fact, was associated with the ongoing gang beef down in the Ward 1 part of Georgia Avenue. So I think that's important to say we have supported and enjoyed Georgia -- carnival on Georgia Avenue for 19 years.
BOWSERIt is a day filled with celebration of the Caribbean-American heritage, which we really have a great deal of in our ward. So we want to send the message that we want to continue to have a safe and fun carnival on Georgia Avenue. And we're going to work on all the public safety issues that have to do with neighborhood beef, but also that have to do with the Caribbean carnival.
NNAMDIMuriel Bowser is the councilmember representing Ward 4 in the District of Columbia, where the Walter Reed Army Medical Center is located. Muriel Bowser, thank you so much for joining us.
BOWSERThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIEarlier in the conversation, we heard Col. Coots refer to a military officer as the current mayor of that campus. When the military moves out, who's going to be the mayor of the new campus, Eric Jenkins?
JENKINSWell, yeah, a caretaker period between when the Army moves out and...
NNAMDIThat was not the answer I was expecting. Randall?
CLARKEI would soon nominate you, Kojo. I thought that was the answer you want.
JENKINSThere you go.
NNAMDIThank you all for joining us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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