This summer marked an important step in the redevelopment of St Elizabeths East, the historic campus that will soon become a center for innovation and excellence, as construction continued on The Gateway Pavilion.

This Gateway Pavilion will be “an innovative, flexible, and aesthetically unique structure serving a range of interim uses and letting visitors experience the site as the redevelopment goes underway.” While the entire St Elizabeths East project will not fully be completed until 2015, this Pavilion will give members of the community an opportunity to start building a relationship with the area.

“What we have with the Gateway Pavilion is a seminal opportunity to introduce the greater public, particularly Ward 8 and D.C. residents and Coast Guard employees on the West Campus, to the East Campus via a distinctive structure in a defined space that allows for not only commercial activity but community engagement,” said Chandra Washington, the Director of Communications for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. “Any time you have a space that’s been inaccessible to the public for so long, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to welcome people to space.  That’s what the Gateway Pavilion provides, an opportunity to welcome people to St. Elizabeths now.”

The St Elizabeths East Campus has not been open to the public in over half a century because it was home to St Elizabeths Hospital’s center of scientific research and medical services. The main campus of St Elizabeths was originally the Government Hospital for the Insane, whose main goal was to provide the “most humane care and enlightened curative treatment of the insane of the Army, Navy, and District of Columbia,” according to social reformer Dorothea Dix. As this campus grew, they needed more space for the agricultural activities that were needed to support the institution; therefore the East Campus was purchased.

When a new Saint Elizabeths hospital opened, Washington DC was left with a wonderful opportunity to redevelop this 183-acre National Historic Landmark. The planning began in December 2008, when Mayor Vincent C. Gray was serving as Chairman of the Council and approved the East Campus and Redevelopment Framework Plan, and the excitement for the revitalization of this area only continues to grow.

In the end, the revamped and mixed-use development of the East Campus will combine retail with residential, education with innovation.

“We want the campus to focus on education and technology in a way that may also allow government contractors to coexist in the space.  So, we’re looking at Microsoft parking an Innovation Center here; SmartBim bringing workforce training tools to the site, and Citelum locating its innovative headquarters for electrical lighting here,” Ms. Washington said. Washington DC, after all, is not only just the nation’s capital but a thriving center of business and culture.

The East Campus also hopes to have “an academic and research anchor on the site that would be a major college or university (or collective of them).” This plan shouldn’t be hard to accomplish, as almost all of the universities around DC have expressed interest in becoming part of this community. According to 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc, American University, Community College of the District of Columbia, Catholic University, Gallaudet University, George Mason University, Georgetown University, The George Washington University, University of Maryland, Trinity College, Howard University, and The University of the District of Columbia all want to be part of this new community east of the river.

We don’t blame them. The Master Plan outlines a community that brings together residency and commercial aspects of an environment that seems almost too good to be true. From office space to university space, and even a proposed Urban Farm complex, this campus will help this area grow.

While St Elizabeths East Campus won’t be fully constructed until 2015, the public isn’t being kept out of the process. Slowly, the campus will be opened to the general public, starting with summer events and festivals, like the Arts & Humanities Festival that occurred all throughout August, and with the completion of the Gateway Pavilion in September.

This use of an interim structure like the Gateway Pavilion “is not unique in pre-development for us,” Ms. Washington said, “as we often engage in temporary use options on development sites to get them activated in advance of construction commencement and completion.”

Not only does this structure get the sites activated, but also it gives the public a glimpse of what the future holds for this community. The Pavilion whose design and construction team includes Davis Brody Bond, KADCON, and Robert Silman Associates will be a “destination for casual dining, as well as a venue for hosting a farmers market and other weekend and after hours, community, cultural and arts events.” The Pavilion will also include forty vendor areas in the open-air portion. The website states that the “Gateway Pavilion sets the stage for a once-in-a-generation development that will cultivate globally significant economic opportunities in a truly unique and historic place.”

This redevelopment can only benefit this area east of the Anacostia River, as well as the 4,000 Coast Guard employees and their families who will soon move into the West Campus. Right now, Ward 8 has very few retailers, but with this new development, the District is hoping to change that, especially with the newest deal for the “pop-up space” that is part of the Pavilion, which will only cost $1 a month for six months for retailers.

Most importantly, this redevelopment will revitalize an area of Washington DC which deserves it. We look forward to the continued construction and growth of the Gateway Pavilion and St Elizabeths East, which will continue to celebrate the success of this thriving city and its successful residents.