WASHINGTON – A Pentagon decision to sell the Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus to federal agencies instead of the District of Columbia government has not deterred city officials from seeking rights to at least part of the property.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams had hoped to transform the 113-acre secure campus in Northwest Washington into a mix of homes, stores and offices. But instead the Army has decided to sell the property at market value to the State Department and General Services Administration, according to federal officials and an Army report published Tuesday with bases deemed surplus property. Walter Reed was not among them.
Williams, who is traveling in Africa, issued a statement Wednesday saying he was unhappy with the decision but hoped to persuade the GSA or the State Department to sell off some of the property for city development.
"We certainly hope that the State Department and the GSA agree that it would be beneficial to all parties to have a more active, mixed-use for the property — one that would provide retail and other amenities for the residents as well as the office workers," Williams said, adding that a redevelopment authority he created to plan Walter Reed's future would remain active.
Walter Reed was slated to close by 2011 under the Pentagon's base closing decision last year. Most of its operations and jobs will move to an expanded National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
A mix of housing and retail businesses would return the site to the city's tax rolls, but federal agencies are exempt from D.C. taxes.
The State Department requested the majority of the land and said in its request that it would use a portion of its 79 acres to build an international chancery center for foreign governments. The remaining space would be used for offices, training facilities and residential space for workers attending the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Va.
The GSA requested 34 acres of the campus for government office space, but it was not clear what federal agencies would move to the site.
District officials said the federal government was holding onto valuable land without a clear purpose.
"GSA and the State Department appear to be landbanking a site for which they have no specific plans to use and absolutely no dollars to acquire and redevelop," D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp said in a statement.
Cropp said the city was in a better position to ensure the Walter Reed campus would not be vacant and boarded up once the hospital leaves.
Council member Adrian Fenty, who represents the neighborhoods around Walter Reed, said the city should seek the areas along the perimeter of the campus to help spur development along the Georgia Avenue corridor.