Former Walter Reed could have commercial future

The former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., may see a new future as a mixed-use development.

Since 2011, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center has been vacant following 102 years of treating U.S. Army veterans of combat from World War I to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, the facility, which sits on 110 acres in Washington, D.C., may have a future as a sprawling mixed-use development, tentatively named Parks at Walter Reed.

The New York Times reported that local officials in the nation's capital recently appointed a master development team led by Hines to transform the former medical center to a $1 billion, 3.1-million-square-feet center that could take 20 years to construct. Parks at Walter Reed would include about 2,100 residential units, 250,000 square feet of retail space, 90,000 square feet of offices, a science center, restaurants, a hotel and conference center, and 20 acres of open space.

Officials say the redevelopment will retain the historical nature of Walter Reed's many buildings. The project would take up 66.7 acres, as the U.S. State Department is taking over the rest for a "foreign missions center" for 20 to 30 chanceries, the newspaper reported.

"Projects like Walter Reed loom large because it's rare to get large hunks of land for development," said Harriet Tregoning, Washington's planning director, to the Times.

The transformation of Walter Reed would create 4,500 construction jobs and 2,900 permanent jobs, as well as contribute local tax revenues of $37 million to the city.

Capital transformation
One of the biggest changes District of Columbia residents may enjoy about the proposed project is that Walter Reed would now be free to access instead of fenced off, as it has been in the past. Companies surrounding the facility have expressed satisfaction that not only will city residents be able to go onto the formerly exclusive area to shop, eat and work, but that the people who live at Parks at Walter Reed will increase traffic at other nearby businesses.

"We regard this as a very important project given its historical significance and the interest of the community to have the Walter Reed campus connect to the surrounding neighborhoods," said Chuck Watters, Hines senior managing director, in a statement emailed to the Times.

Formal groundbreaking likely would take place in 2017, but until then, Victor Hoskins, deputy mayor for economic development, told the newspaper that the city hopes to start work on housing for the homeless and charter schools much sooner than then. The area also likely will be home to farmers markets, outdoor musical performances and other arts events in the near future.

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