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.
- 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.
- 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!