Armed Forces Retirement Home Development Stalled

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Remember this? Remember all that debate about a public park? I guess it was all for naught.

The Washington Post had the big story on this yesterday. They wrote:

“The sagging real estate market has prompted the Armed Forces Retirement Home to freeze an ambitious plan to build housing, a hotel, a supermarket and medical offices on a sprawling portion of its Northwest Washington campus.”

Wow. This is really big news. I know this development was super controversial because a lot of green space was going to be developed. So I’m super curious to find out what you guys think – glad the development has stalled or will miss the development?

32 Comment

  • First the soccer stadium talks collapse, now this. This doesn’t bode well for other mixed-used developments downtown. I wonder how the Mcmillan filtration site talks are going?

  • The only part that was immediately planned for development was Zone A, the lower south east corner of the property. The neighborhood fight has concerned Zone C and Zone B. I don’t have a huge problem with developing Zone A because it has sufficient transportation access, etc. But there is no cause to pour concrete over Zones C and B, especially in this economy. Let’s get new businesses on Georgia Ave first.

  • I’m happy if this doesn’t happen.

  • They never got approval for zone C and B, but the neighborhood lost negotiation leverage when they got approval for zone A. Lets hope this works out where zone C is a park and zone A gets substantially scaled down development. According to the rules they cannot break this development (zone A) up in phases. They have to follow the federal process.

  • That’s too bad. We can debate about zones c and b, but zone A is a crumbling eyesore and I think the developement might have helped real estate values on the east side of the facility where I live.

    PS – anyone know what’s up with, from what I have heard, the rash of robberies at the Ft Totten Metro Station? Last night a Park Police Officer scared the crap out of my wife walking home around 8 pm.

  • yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

  • As a veteran and DC resident, I feel sorry for the current and future residents of the retirement home. This development was needed to help pay for their exepenses. Without this they are either going to have to get dedicated funding from Congress or curtail services.

  • Agreed Chris, that home seems like a sad warehouse for souls at times. And that area is so oddly underdeveloped between the massive old walter filtration plant wreckage, Hospital complexes, North Capital traffic interchanges, DDOT facilities, etc. Talk about infill potential.

  • I agree this was a bad timing for that kind of development. At current rates it may take a decade to get rid of all the properties that have been built during the boom. I think it would be more effective in revitalizing the area to concentrate on GA Ave.
    That area should be turned to a public park.

  • That area of the city would be perfect for a “skyscraper” pilot. It’s outside of L’Enfant City and far enough away from residential areas. It would also bring in a ton on groundlease revenue to the Old Soldiers Home. Build a metro or light rail spur, and you’re set.

  • OT, but does anyone know what was going on around N. Capitol and NH last night around 7:00? Tons of police and a helicopter with a spotlight all around.

  • @SG

    My kind of thinking. This is really underutilized land, and the city has plenty of park space. We should push the boundaries on development in the city. No time like a crisis to see how we can improve. I think that altering the height restriction could do a lot (increased density being the biggest impact). let’s try something on one of these zones.

  • Yay! fenced-in, useless space in the middle of the city will remain so. Meanwhile, AFRH is broke but sitting on potentially (but not) lucrative land. A real win for all.

  • I saw police cars on Gallitan west of Nort Cap. Presume it was at New Hampshire. Ghetto bird was circling with search light. There are some real fine apartment units over there that I am sure are full of the same folk robbing commuters on the Ft Totten path to the metro. I have a call into the US Park Police to find out whats up with that.

  • That path form Ft. Totten is indeed dangerous. I sometimes just pay the 1.35 to ride the 64 bus instead of making the walk for that reason.

    Anyone hear about the shooting at the Anacostia St? A guy shoots another person IN the station. He gets charged with assault with a deadly weapon and not the more serious Attempted Murder. This is what pisses me off. A guy can endanger hundreds of people by discharging a gun in a metro and get a watered down charge that may end up no more than a slap on the wrist…

  • I am very happy this green space will not be paved over. I do wish they would open this park up to the public, though. Maybe for a fee?

  • i will never understand people who think a park there makes sense.

    even worse, people who prefer it fenced in next to a freeway.

  • OT of post, but I’m curious about these references to robberies/dangerous elements to the Ft. Totten path… I walk the path every morning and night and have for the last year and have never experienced or heard of any robberies. I have heard of muggings over on the east side of the metro station (toward S. Dakota ave), but not to the west. Does anyone have any details on what’s been going on? Thanks.

  • you mean a wooded park in that area is dangerous? say it ain’t so! and here i was thinking they should convert the soldiers and airmans home into parkland!

  • and back on the topic of the post…..
    I agree completely with eric in ledroit, anon and SG. we need mixed use development in that spot. it’s an unused area in a prime location that needs positive growth. a park makes no sense there.

  • the totten –

    No one has asked for a park there, only on zone C and B. People support development there IF zone C and B are turned into a park.

  • @Anon – thanks for the explanation.

  • Chris, I thought the development plan was too dense and not practical. If a development plan is going to fail financially, it’s also not going to benefit the residents.

    I’m curious, though, is this not a VA-run facility? (FWIW, my background includes 4 years working at WRAMC, and my dad spent 7 years in a VA run nursing home. He was a WWII combat Vet.)

  • Hipchickindc,

    AFRH is not a VA facility. It is a DOD facility funded through payroll deductions from military enlisted personel, whom it is entended to benifit. The deductions go to a trustfund. Congress provides annual appropriations from that trustfund. The facility does not received any funding from the US Treasury General fund. The facility serves a very important function though it should not be confused as a nursing home. The military drawdown at the end of the cold war unfortunately coinsided with that retirement of the massive WWI generation. The unfortunate effect has been to dramtiacally reduce the number of troops contributing to payroll deductions and the result has been to leave the facility woefully short on funds. If you notice that when windstorms fell tress, they are typcially not removed. If you every get a close up look at the old hospital faclity (red brick georgian complex south of the primary campus, you will notice that it is literally rotting in place.

    The enhanced use lease was a good concept to raise funds for the operation of the facility and would have dramatically improved the care for the residents now and into the future.

    The plan approved the NCPC seemed to be to be a good comprimise between preserving open space and developing an area that would add value to the community.

  • No, it is not a VA-run facility. It’s supposed to be a self-supporting home for enlisted retirees (along the lines of the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London or Les Invalides in Paris). Residents pay a portion of their retirement pay, and active duty members pay an optional 50 cents a paycheck (or there abouts) to help fund it, but that has not proven sufficient. Plus, there’s the added burden of the Navy veterans who were moved up here after Katrina damaged the Navy’s retirement home in Gulfport.

  • Thanks, Chris and Steve, for the clarification.

  • I have met one of the vets (“Old Soldiers”). He was charming albeit very frail and a little ill (ironically, with Legionnaire’s pneumonia).

    I would really enjoy having more contact between the old soldiers and our surrounding community. Is there any good way to make this happen? Maybe a neighborhood vs veterans’ golf tournament?

  • I’m sure they’d be happy with simple visits. It was always heartbreaking visiting my dad at the Vets Home. There were so many people who seemed lonely. There is probably a volunteer coordinator if you call the main number.

  • wow steve – awesome info. PoP commenters amaze me!

  • bogfrog, don’t know if you’ll catch this or not, but someone just posted this info in the Bloomingdale listserv:

    People Animals Love (PAL) runs a pet visiting program. In the Bloomingdale/LeDroit neighborhood, PAL has visits at the Armed Forces Retirement Home and the VA Hospital. At the Retirement Home, you can visit solo, with an established group, or create your own group. Also, the grounds are fabulous, and you are welcome to walk your dog before or after the visit. Visits are rewarding and fun – bring your dog, or hamster, or rabbit, etc. (Ok, PAL only has one rabbit and 272 dogs…) Children are warmly welcomed. If you are interested, please go to the Volunteer section on the website ( or call 202- 966- 2171 with any questions. PAL holds two volunteer orientations a month, and at least one is at the Retirement Home. We hope to meet you and your pup soon!



    Rene Wallis

    Executive Director

    4900 Massachusetts Avenue NW

    Washington, DC 20016

    work: 202- 966- 2171

    cell: 202- 360- 8650

  • Here again ‘listening’ to history is most important. This facility provides for our veterans. Few remain from WW11, and soon there will be more empty rooms. Pay attention to ‘history.’ Soon there will be needs for veterans from conflicts in the past 50 yrs. or so and this will continue for a long time to come. Upgraded and additional facilities will be needed. Short sight is to give in to enterprising developers and self-serving politicians/bureaus. Instead, clean up and maintain existing property. Plan and prepare for future veterans needs. Find a practical way to use a portion, not substantial, of property for income with AFRH maintaining control.

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