Georgetown in Hill East?

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that Georgetown University has Reservation 13/Hill East Waterfront at or near the top of its list as a potential location for a new campus. And just yesterday, the Post also reported that Georgetown is in negotiations with developer Forest City Washington to advise the university on its expansion plans.

The university appears to be looking for a large parcel(s) of land to expand and relocate its medical campus and the Medstar Georgetown University Hospital. They’ve identified the Hill East Waterfront as one location that meets many of their objectives – large undeveloped parcel of land, Metro access and a location that expands the campus beyond its traditional NW neighborhood.

But would a new Georgetown University medical campus and hospital be a good thing for Capitol Hill and Hill East? It’s an intriguing idea that is worth exploring.  I’ve spent the past couple weeks gauging Hill East resident reaction and feedback to Georgetown’s potential interest in Reservation 13 . The following is a list of the top pros and cons I’ve heard from residents.

Pros

  • Catalyst for Development – Though the Gray Administration plans to issue a Request for Proposals for Parcels F1 and G1 soon, it is clear that development of the entire Hill East Waterfront is not at the top of the Mayor’s priority list. And who knows when (or if) Mayor Gray or subsequent mayors will proceed with development on the entire site. A new medical campus and hospital would clearly use a large portion if not all of the 67-acre site, potentially bringing development to the waterfront sooner rather than later (perhaps much later). And if the campus is built with the Reservation 13 Master Plan in mind, the campus/hospital buildings could be built with first floor, outward facing retail in mind.
  • Access to Healthcare/Physicians – Capitol Hill has a significant shortage of physicians that practice on the Hill. In addition to emergency care, a hospital would bring access to physicians for residents in Ward 6 and Ward 7. This would be a big benefit for our large senior population as well as for the influx of young professionals and families moving to the neighborhood.
  • Large Daytime Workforce  – Hill East is a very residential neighborhood. Since there is not a lot of office space, the lack of a daytime workforce can make it tough for restaurants and retail to survive on the eastern end of Capitol Hill. A medical campus and hospital would bring a large daytime workforce and student population which could help support residential/retail development, both on Reservation 13 itself and on the eastern end of the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor.
  • Georgetown as a Neighbor – Georgetown University could be a great neighbor by working closely with the community, developing the site so that it closely mirrors the vision laid out in the master plan and helping to connect the Anacostia River waterfront to the neighborhood.

Cons

  • Inconsistent with the Master Plan – As I tried to explain to both Mayor Gray Councilmember Jack Evans during the Redskins training facility meeting, the Reservation 13 Master Plan does not include a stadium. It also doesn’t include a medical campus nor full hospital (though the plan does set aside 2 1/2 acres for healthcare use). How much of the retail/office/housing envisioned for the site would be sacrificed for a hospital/medical campus? Will the neighborhood and city lose an opportunity to see the original vision of the master plan realized?
  • Hospitals can be islands – Hospitals have a tendency to be inward looking and do not necessarily spur development around them. They tend to have their own in-house shops and cafeteria, which typically only serve hospital workers, patients and their families. The Reservation 13 Master Plan envisions a site that is clearly connected to and serves the surrounding neighborhood. Could a new medical campus/hospital really be built to serve both the mission of the institution and the interests of Hill East residents, who want Reservation 13 to be an extension of the neighborhood?
  • Ambulance Runs – Noise can often be an issue for neighborhoods surrounding hospitals, particularly with ambulances using neighborhood streets to access emergency facilities. A new hospital would certainly bring additional noise, but it is tough to predict how much without additional details. Most residents told me that the ambulance runs wouldn’t bother them – we already hear a lot of sirens in the neighborhood.
  • Georgetown as a Neighbor – Georgetown University does not have a great relationship with its current neighbors, one of the reasons they are looking to expand beyond their traditional campus. Should Hill East residents expect a different relationship with the university? Support for the plan will be contingent on ample community feedback and a commitment by the university to build a positive relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.

What are your thoughts? Do you think a Georgetown University medical campus/hospital would be good for Hill East?  Please post comments below!

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5 Responses to Georgetown in Hill East?

  1. anon says:

    the university does have a strained relationship with its neighbors, but the main pressure point involves students (undergrad and grad) living in group houses in the surrounding neighborhood. While plenty of nearby residents are no fans of the hospital complex, their attitudes about the university are largely shaped by the behavior of the students and the university’s inability/unwillingness to reign them in. That may be less of an issue if an east campus serves exclusively as a medical campus

    The Virginia Hospital center in Arlington should be considered as a good example of a hospital which respects its neighbors and balances emergency needs with the surrounding community. There is a posted and strictly observed cutoff period for siren noise. In DC, emergency personnel routinely use sirens late at night even when there is no traffic and favorable traffic patterns on major arterials.

  2. Ken Jarboe says:

    Brian — thanks for keeping us up to date on this. I would welcome hearing Georgetown’s plans. There was a piece in the Post’s Capital Business on Monday that said G’town has retained Forest City to help with their development plans. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/georgetown-university-looking-to-forest-city-washington-to-chart-expansion/2012/08/24/e59cef32-ed30-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_story.html)
    Forest City has done a good job of mixed used development at the Yards and CapperCarrolsburg – so it would be interesting to see their take on HillEast Waterfront.

    However, when the talk is of a hospital complex, I get nervous. It is difficult to envision a hospital campus that meets the goals of the Master Development Plan of keeping the site open and connecting and extending the neighborhood to the waterfront. I would note that the idea of developing the site as a campus (as opposed to a neighborhood) was explicitly considered and rejected as part of the neighborhood’s planning process.

  3. It is an interesting proposal, especially thinking at how Cornell University just got a big chunk of real estate in New York City (half of Roosevelt Island) to develop a new engineering and business incubator business.
    http://tech.cornell.edu/about/

    Maybe Georgetown U is willing to cooperate with some other research/academic partners and emulate what is being done in NYC? (NIST is here, UMBC, U Maryland – so many potential partners)
    Something on this lines would start to be resonant with the MasterPlan – just look at how the new George Washington University hospital campus area looks now that the Whole Foods went it and some of the new office and residential buildings have been finished – a great example of urban integration of an academic & health care center!

  4. Hill Buzz says:

    […] Commissioner Brian Flahaven weighed the pros and cons of Georgetown University’s rumored interest in Reservation […]

  5. Dave says:

    I absolutely agree a Georgetown medical campus and hospital would be a positive impact upon the Capitol Hill community…especially considering the vibrancy university faculty and students can bring to an area, not toe motion the economic shot in the arm to include all the pros mentioned above. In addition, I need not remind you that what currently exists in that space is a huge drain on our community and to replace this squaller with a world leading university campus would be more an any community could ask for. I vote a resounding yes, bring Georgetown in…we need to move on the before the opportunity slips away and we end up with a Walmart distribution center or another affordable housing project that would set us back 20 years.

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