Mayor Gray has long been touting his plans to transform the St. Elizabeths East Campus into a hub of innovation for the District. While the envisioned development may be far off, Monday the District’s department of General Services began soliciting contractors to reconstruct the St. Elizabeths Chapel into an “interim innovation hub.”
In a “Proposal for Solicitation” document first reported by the Washington Business Journal, the city has set aside $4.5 million to transform the 1950s chapel by May 31. Specifically, when the hub opens in the chapel it will serve these functions outlined in the document:
More than anything, the renovated chapel will give Ward 8 residents a glimpse into what the campus will be transformed into.
Chandra Washington, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, wrote in an email to WBJ that they will not be leasing private spaces in the structure, but rather using it as a temporary public demonstration place.
“The plan is that the interim area will feature flex conference areas that can be used for demonstration and interim use market spaces, as well as a Digital Inclusion Center developed in partnership with the District’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer,” she wrote. The referenced inclusion center is said to be a computer lab open to the public with programming for D.C.’s tech partners.
Overall, the planned St. Elizabeths East Campus should be a boon to the district’s economy if executed correctly. Part of the Mayor Gray’s five-year economic plan, the final product has $113 millions set aside for it and is projected to host a Microsoft Innovation Center, an academic entity of some sort, nearly 2 million feet of office space, 1,3oo residential units and plenty of room for retail and hotels.
In October, the first of the campus-wide renovations, the St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion, was completed, linking the west campus to the east.