Old Soldiers Home Development Coming Summer 2015?

Photo of last weekend’s DCCX Cyclocross race on the Soldiers Home Grounds by PoPville flickr user hi_my_name_is_tats

Interesting update on the Old Soldiers Home (AFRH) from the Washington Business Journal:

“The Armed Forces Retirement Home could be ready to select a team this summer to remake a substantial portion of its 272-acre campus in Northwest D.C., nearly a decade since it raised the prospect of letting private developers build on an unused part of its campus near The Catholic University of America.”

46 Comment

  • I hope there is considerable opposition to this. It should be left untouched. There is plenty of undeveloped land throughout the city that deserves more attention than this area.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Wish it was left alone.

      • absolutely…how about a little green space for Central Washington? …. I love how the developers leave their leafy Cleveland park hoods to come turn central washington into a cement jungle and parking lot.

        Oh, and if we must have development could we please at least get an open competition this time (unlike McMillan).

      • Agreed, we’re much better off in the stone age of driving to Maryland and Virginia to spend our money on clothing and supplies…

    • Id agree if the public had access to the grounds at all times as if it were a park. But its not really utilized as greenspace so may as well develop it. I feel the same about the McMillan Filtration and Reservoir. Sure it could have been made into a grand central park. but as it stands now nobody is enjoying it at all. At least with the development we have unlocked and preserved an interesting parcel of land to the public. And the city adds tax revenue. So win win.

    • Give me a break. Have you ever even been near this site? The portion in question is not being used, there will be PLENTY of green space left after the parcel is developed, and I imagine that this project will help pad the retirees’ trust fund for some time. It will also link the surrounding communities (Brookland, Park View, Stronghold, Bloomingdale) – which are relatively close together but so broken up by fenced-off areas like the AFRH and McMillan that it’s hard to get back and forth. We have a large central park that’s far larger than Central Park. We have the Arboretum, Fort Dupont, Glover Park, the Mall and the Georgetown, SW and Anacostia waterfronts. If that’s not enough green space for you, then you probably have no business living in a city.

      • As someone a 1/2 block away from the Soldier’s Home I agree 100%. All of the development plans that had been under discussion left significant portions for green space.

        At present, in southern Petworth the fenced off Soldier’s Home, plus the hospital campus and then McMillan reservoir make east-west travel to our geographically close neighboring areas of Brookland and Edgewood and NOMA difficult by car and downright perilous by bicycle or on foot. Opening some of this space would go a long ways towards creating neighborhood continuity where people pop over to Brookland to dinner the same way they currently do to 11th street.

      • Though I bet you’d change your tune real quick if it were going to be developed as public housing.

        • I’m sorry, do you know me? If this includes affordable housing, even better.
          If it were proposed as thousands of units of nothing but public housing, anyone with half a brain would oppose it given how badly concentrating poverty has worked out in the past.

    • Do we know that the development in question would *not* be green space?

  • VarnumGuy

    This is interesting. I hope before people jump on the Negative Nancy train, they wait to see what it looks like, if it’s even true. Who knows, part of the development could be restoring the outdoor trails and spaces for public use, or renovating the several now vacant buildings in disrepair.

    • They already had a master plan approved in 2008. The deal fell apart due to the financial crisis, but I wouldn’t expect them to deviate much, if any. Here’s what they were developing.
      “The plans entail 4.1 million square feet of development, including 2,500 multifamily units, new retail with a 40,000- to 50,000-square-foot grocery store, and 20 acres of public park space. The developer hopes to attract business from the Washington Hospital Center, immediately south, and nearby Catholic and Howard universities,
      Charlotte, N.C.-based Crescent is also planning 1.4 million square feet of office space, 125 hotel rooms and meeting space. Children’s National Medical Center and MedStar Health are badly in need of offices and visitor facilities for families of patients.”

      • That kind of development would be sad for the green space. I agree with others that it’s under-utilized. Would be great to have public access to it as a green space.

      • But a lot has changed since 2008. Much that desperately needed office space for Children’s is set to occupy the northern section of the McMillan development. Plus plans for the grocery store there. They will probably have to go back to the drawing board for a large portion of this assuming that McMillan gets built first.

        • Well, not much has actually changed yet, and I’m not sure it’s a safe assumption that McMillan gets built first. I think if AFRH’s master plan approval is still good (I don’t know how long they last), then they can move fairly quickly, and they have great incentive to do so. Last time the process took several years.

      • I recall 2008 old master plan as being pretty crappy. Towers in parking lots, 1970s HUD-like structures. Resistance to the earlier proposed development probably came from:

        (a) this bad design;
        (b) unsound finances — to me, it didn’t look like a sufficiently good deal for the AFRH and its residents!
        (c) really poor outreach/PR; and
        (d) FUD/NIMBYism (even if it’s not your backyard)/loss of (admittedly underutilized) greenspace. (Hi first poster!)

        In the mean time, the AFRH has become much more open and friendly, and I’m proud to have them as a neighbor in a way I was not in 2008 (c). I hope they have the resources to pay for revisions to the previously proposed master plan, or chuck it and get a better one (a), with the hope that they can get a better deal (b).

        Unfortunately, nothing can be done about (d).

  • maaan, we’re not even done with all the mcmillan shoutin’ yet.

  • Does anyone else remember the first time they tried this back in 2005? I was amazed at how bad the Home and the developer were at the public outreach. I went to some of the public meetings about it and it go ugly.

  • I hope they keep it as is but allow more access to the public as green space.

  • I hope support for this is more considerable than the ill-thought-out opposition. It should be developed for the residents of Washington. There’s few if any swaths of so much undeveloped/badly-utilized land as this, and very few that deserve more attention..

  • If they are willing to take down all the chain link fences and open up the land around the home I think we should try and keep it as much as we can as-is. However, right now, with the gates and high fences, it is just a golf course and green grass on the other side of a barrier.

    Couple things they could do to improve the street grid and improve use:

    + The area around the interstate-like interchange at north capital and Irvine could definitely be redone and developed along with McMillan
    + Illinois Ave could be extended as a boulevard down to 1st st NW
    + Along with redoing Irvine interchange/McMillan park they could also take the opportunity to redo McMillan drive – it would be great if they could actually make it a N/S route that hooks up with Park Place NW

    • Ooh, yes! Liking these ideas. Reconnecting (initially connecting?) these streets (using Complete Streets Guidelines, of course) would do so much for tying the neighborhoods togethers, regardless of development or no development.

  • Has anyone asked the residents of the AFRH how they feel about losing half of their campus?

    I doubt it.

    This property was set aside for our military veterans 100+ years ago, and now it’s being chopped up into condos.

    • Exactly. It’s appalling. If the land is going to be developed, perhaps it should become housing for wounded and disabled veterans.

    • Did anyone say it’s turning into condos? Can we hold off on criticizing the development until we know exactly what it would be?

      The property is still adequate for what I understand is a declining population of veterans living there. I live nearby and I rarely see them out enjoying the grounds. I know this is anecdotal, but I don’t think we should get into knee-jerk “never look like you’re taking something away from a veteran” reactions. It made sense to have an expansive green campus for veterans here 100 years ago, but the city is far more developed in this area now.

    • I’ve talked to a few of the residents. In general they seem concerned that the site is significantly under-subscribed in terms of residents–and they are looking for (but struggle to find) connections to the wider community.

      One thing that you have to remember about the residents (that can come as a surprise to some in the neighborhood it seems) is that many of them never lived in DC and had virtually no familiarity with the city before they moved in. It’s a very foreign place to them. One of them recently made a comment to me that he was afraid of getting shot if he stepped outside of the gates of the home. Now, this was said partly in jest. But it’s sad that the gulf between the residents and the wider community is so large that some residents think Petworth is the same as what it was when they moved in 20+ years ago.

    • Bart: I just think our veterans deserve a little recognition.
      Lisa: That’s what Veterans Day is for, Bart.
      Bart: But is that really enough to honor our brave soldiers?
      Lisa: They also have Memorial Day!
      Bart: Oh, Lisa, maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong, the important thing is that veterans deserve a day to honor them!
      Lisa: They have two!
      Bart: Well, maybe they should have three. I’m Bart Simpson.

  • I thought CUA purchased this land (if it’s the area off of Harewood Rd)?

    • I think they own another parcel of land just to the east of this, N Cap and Harewood. I believe that this is the SE parcel of the AFRH just west of N Cap.
      There was recent talk of putting a hotel on the CUA property. Which seems like a terrible idea.

      • Edit – the CUA parcel is ~50 acres *between* N Cap and Harewood.
        Interestingly, if you add the AFRH parcel and the CUA parcel, it’s a significantly larger piece of land than Walter Reed.

  • I love the ide and support keeping this space in a nutual state, but I question how safe it would be to use the space.

  • This is horrible because Rick Santorum put the fix in on this. Its a catholic boon doggle. Not every freakin peice of property has to be developed in DC people.

  • Educate yourselves folks. This deal is so shady and Santorum should be in jail.

    • No, this is a different piece of land. Santorum’s land is east of North Cap, was already sold and is now owned by CUA, and is going to be developed separately. This proposal is about the land west of North Cap, which AFRH plans to keep, develop, and use the rent proceeds to help run the home.

  • I live a block away and it sucks that all this area is blocked off from any access except for a very few times a year. I’ve seen a cross country race and a bike race, but that’s it. Any thing that gives more access to the area is a benefit, even if it involves some development.

  • For those complaining about access to the green space, can’t people just visit the campus and take tours? I have seen a number of people walking on the campus. If not, individuals can apply to join the AFRH golf course which provides access to the course, the fishing ponds, driving range, etc. It is not prohibitively expensive as far as I know and there are a number of volunteer opportunities to support the home and its residents.

  • The people that are saying use it for a public park or green space are missing the point. This development would be a way to provide a sustainable revenue source for an organization that desperately needs it. The plan is to lease the land (not sell it like the shady Santorum deal) which means that the home would continue to receive money for this for a very long time and eliminate maintenance costs for an unused piece of land. A park doesn’t generate money, it costs money. Who is going to pay for development, creation and maintenance of a public park? AFRH? DC? And even if you found a private donor willing to do it, how does that help the retirement home? I live in Park View and I love parks and green space as much as anyone but this development is a positive thing for the sustainability and services of the retirement home. I think the focus should be on making sure that traffic, safety and other community impact concerns are addressed by the developer and not trying to fight the mere concept of development.

  • Green space is not just about public (human) usage and recreation. It’s about storm water drainage and drinking water, clean air, space for wildlife. That said I’m all for soundly designed development. Was very disappointed when I first moved to Petworth and when I called to ask if it were possible as a neighbor to push a stroller through the grounds, the answer was “That’s a negative, ma’am.”

  • I wonder what grocery store would come to the Old Soldiers Home? HT is slated for McMillian, Safeway AND YES! already in Petworth, WF is coming to Brookland maybe Walter Reed. I don’t thing TJs would open a store there

  • It’s sad that there is so much entitlement for this land and much of it from people who live across from the property with very little knowledge of its operations. It has existed long before the neighborhood. It doesn’t receive tax dollars. Chill out.

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