Kamis, 06 Desember 2012

Latest Plans for St. Elizabeths Irk Preservationists

Gateway Pavilion rendering. Image: DMPED site
An architecturally edgy cultural venue, Gateway Pavilion will bring new life to DC's Congress Heights neighborhood, its high-profile design team told the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) Thursday.  The board heard comments on the design for an "interim" arts and cultural venue planned for the heart of the 173-acre campus of psychological hospital St. Elizabeths Campus East.  It did not vote on the plans.

Plans for Gateway Pavilion call for a dramatic, wing-like roof and a five-module system that can be re-positioned to adapt the landscape of the venue, such as a for farmers' market or a concert stage, the design team told the HPRB.  The pavilion is being cast as a temporary, or "interim", anchor for a larger, planned 750,000 square foot build-out of the East Campus.

Gateway Pavilion model at WDCEP Showcase
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) selected the design team of Davis Brody Bond, KADCON, and Robert Silman Associates in a bid to design and develop the venue on the city-owned land.  The high-profile firms are, individually, behind such sites as the National September 11th Memorial and the reconstruction of D.C.'s Eastern Market. 

St. Elizabeth's, perched on the fringe of Ward 8, sits on the brink of a major overhaul under a master plan by the General Services Administration (GSA), the property management arm of the federal government, that calls for 4.5 million s. f. of office space to one day house the Department of Homeland Security.

Construction on the West Campus is already underway, and the East Campus package is set for delivery in 2023.  The entire campus is expected to one day host about 14,000 employees.  The new headquarters for the U.S. Coast Guard could bring 4,000 workers to the neighborhood by August.

Gateway Pavilion. Image: DMPED site
"Our challenge is to continue to brand the campus as something that is not a mental institution," said Ethan Warsh of DMPED.  He said the design met the Department's goals of bringing food options and entertainment amenities to the neighborhood east of the Anacostia River, and to an increasing number of workers in the area.

The concept design has gone before the Commission on Fine Arts, the body charged with overseeing design changes to historical properties in the District, which recommended several changes including increasing walkability and sight lines across the property.  The proposed design calls for bike parking, rooftop rainwater collection, and self-composting toilets.

Gateway Pavilion model at WDCEP Showcase
But the venue's seductive, green design isn't wooing everyone.  A member of the DC Preservation League (DCPL) argued the design obscured the historic buildings, and that the neighborhood needed basic retail more than it did entertainment venue and quick lunches.  

"This was also an area that we discussed should be the last possible space for development," said Rebecca Miller of DCPL. She said the neighborhood won't benefit from "fast, casual lunch places."  Backers said the site would be able to host eight to ten food trucks at any given time.

Instead, Miller said, neighborhood residents need places to buy basics, such as stockings.  "It cannot be all things to all people," Warsh, of DMPED, later commented.  "It can only be what $5 million will get us."

Note:  An earlier version of this article, in quoting the DC government's website, may have misleadingly implied that KADCON and Davis Brody Bond worked on the Eastern Market DC restoration.  That is incorrect.  Robert Silman Associates was the structural engineering firm on the project.
GSA Master Plan for St. Elizabeth's Campus.

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