Residents, City Differ on Closed Hospital Land

Future of DC General Site Unsettled

     Much of the talk in Ward 6 and Ward 7 has been regarding the future of a 67-acre plot of land in eastern District of Columbia known as Reservation 13.

     Reservation 13 is made up of the Hill East neighborhood, part of the Anacostia River, and the former site of the District of Columbia General Hospital. After being open for about 200 years, the hospital closed in 2001.

     The residents of the area surrounding this site have recently come to a disagreement with Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. councilmembers on what the land should be used for. Many of the residents think that the community would economically benefit the most if D.C. Council adheres to the original plan.

     “The plan that we worked on and agreed upon was housing, which would bring in a lot of revenue because of property taxes and retail,” says Ward 6 resident Mary Donovan, 68. Donovan was involved in the original plan for Reservation 13 nine years ago. She believes that the current councilmembers should stick to the original plan to help the community grow.

     The master plan for Reservation 13 was drafted in February 2003. The plan includes parks, office space, and housing. Since 2003, there have been no steps toward putting this plan into action.

     On  March 22, the mayor and D.C. councilmembers met with members of the community to discuss and clarify Gray’s vision for the site. The mayor wants to use the area to bring the Washington Redskins back to D.C. The Redskins currently play their home games in Landover, Md. and practice in Ashburn, Va.

     Gray expressed how adamant he was about making a deal that would encourage the owners of the Redskins to return to D.C. The proposed plan includes a football field, training facility, hall of fame, hotel and medical center to study concussions and head injuries.

     “We need a catalyst for development for Hill East,” Gray told the audience of a few hundred at the meeting. “We’ve seen that because nothing has happened for nine years. What we’ve focused on was those projects that will return immediate dollars to the District.”

     Like Donovan, members of the community believe that a residential area with retail and affordable housing would bring in more revenue and opportunity to that area.

     “I think they should stick to the original plan,” says small business owner Daryl Snowden, 44. “I don’t think that giving it to a wealthy sports owner is the best thing.”

     Some residents think that D.C. Council’s focus should be on the community and not the Redskins.

     “It concerned me very much that three of the councilmembers who spoke over and over again how much they love the Redskins and how they wanted the Redskins in the city,” Donovan says in regards to Councilmembers Jack Evans, Yvette Alexander and Michael Brown who strongly support the idea of bring the Redskins back to the District. “I don’t think that’s a reason for chucking what the community worked on, which I thought was a good plan. I don’t buy that from them.”

     Though residents are vocal in their disagreement with the mayor’s desire to build a Redskins’ facility, Gray made sure to emphasize that this plan was not set in stone but only conversation.

     “Nobody wants to bring out anything that is half baked to a community. I think the worst that you could ever do is bring out a proposal to somebody, and there are more questions than there are answers,” he explained. “That’s one of the reasons why there was no community meeting around this, because there was nothing to present, and there still is nothing to present.”

     Action toward developing Reservation 13 may not be happening anytime soon if the mayor’s plan to bring the Redskins to D.C. is successful since they have a lease at FedEx Field in Landover until 2027, according to Gray.