Posts about Saint Elizabeths
7 owners of DC technology companies sent a letter to the DC Council and Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins today proposing aggressive new initiatives to build the DC tech sector. The executives ask DC to prioritize helping startups find space and to create vision like New York's Innovation Island.
The letter comes as the DC Council prepares to give final approval to property and income tax breaks for LivingSocial and capital gains tax breaks for investors in tech companies. Greater Greater Washington and tech blog InTheCapital sat down with the executives to brainstorm ways to best help the tech sector, and this letter is the result.
Owners of tech startups expressed that District office rents make it hard for them to locate in the city and network with other founders, engineers and funders. Small startups have to pay the same rents as law firms and lobbyists, and won't benefit from property tax breaks like LivingSocial's.
One way DC could help is to promote below market rate rents for tech startups. This could include using office spaces that are more temporarily empty, as startups often need space for short timeframes as they are getting off the ground or growing rapidly before they rent larger spaces of their own.
This could also bring startup founders together in a large space that creates opportunities for networking, collaboration, and getting to know potential investors. DC could help a large number of small startups, and if a small percentage survive to become larger DC-based companies, it will have been worth the investment.
But should this happen downtown? Much of Washington has lower rents than downtown. The second idea is to create an innovation center in one of the large unused parcels in DC, such as St. Elizabeths or Poplar Point.
Mayor Bloomberg offered a large portion of New York's Roosevelt Island, between Manattan and Queens, for a university to build a graduate technology campus. Cornell University submitted the winning proposal, and New York hopes the new campus will anchor technology growth in New York as Stanford or MIT have in Silicon Valley and Boston.
The St. Elizabeths East Campus master plan already notes that one section of the 183-acre campus would make an ideal academic quad. The growth there would also create job opportunities for Ward 8 residents, from software engineering for the most highly skilled to administrative or maintenance jobs at the school and tech companies for the least skilled.
Will start-up founders and employees be willing to commute to a location like St. Elizabeths? It's actually right near Congress Heights Metro. Plus, a critical component of Innovation Island is $100 million to increase transit and pedestrian links to and within Roosevelt Island. DC's planned streetcar line from St. Elizabeths to Anacostia Metro, downtown Anacostia, and over the bridge to Capitol Hill and beyond, could become a Tech Line serving just this function.
The letter is below.
Dear Council members and Deputy Mayor Hoskins,Update: Michael Goldstein, principal at the Endeavor DC accelerator, has added his signature to the letter.
The purpose of this letter is to thank you for your recent support of the growing technology sector in Washington DC, and to offer some encouragement and feedback as owners of DC technology companies.
As the contraction of federal agencies and contractors begins to affect the DC economy, we believe the DC tech sector is well situated to replace lost jobs and demand for office space. Your efforts to support and invest in the growth of the DC tech sector are therefore very much appreciated. The legislation currently before the DC Council, which provide property and income tax breaks to LivingSocial and capital gains tax breaks to investors in DC tech companies, demonstrate your leadership in this regard.
As the DC government's investment strategy in the technology sector matures, we would endorse an even more aggressive strategy that supports a broader array of companies at multiple stages of growth. An aggressive, transparent, policy-based strategy that targets companies at all stages has the best chance of growing a real ecosystem of technology firms that would provide long-term economic stability for the District.
DC attracts young, talented innovators who are driving this growth. This is a strength to build on, but unfortunately the current Net-2000 incentives provide minimal support to startup technology firms.
Below are some proposals for your consideration that may provide more targeted support to a broader range of DC's tech sector.
Minimize entrepreneurial overhead Finding affordable places to work and network is a central obstacle faced by startups in DC. While large companies can take advantage of property tax breaks, startups pay the same rents as law firms, lobbyists and federal contractors.
The Mayor is able, through his ability to sign master leases, to sublease commercial office space to selected companies at below-market rates. By leveraging this ability to slash office space costs for startup tech firms in the District, conceivably hundreds of startups could receive the type of real estate subsidies that are currently only available to large property owners. If a small percentage of these startups grow, the city would generate a substantial return on this targeted investment.
Replicate NYC's Innovation Island in DC Universities around the world bid for the opportunity to build a world-class technology campus on NYC's Roosevelt Island, what Mayor Bloomberg called Innovation Island. The winner, Cornell, will develop this campus on city-owned land, which will be upgraded with $100 million of public transportation improvements.
DC is currently evaluating options for the development of St Elizabeths, Poplar Point, and other parcels of city-owned land. A major strategic investment like Innovation Island would bolster the city's supply of talented engineers and entrepreneurs. DC's own innovation campus could be used for technology education, startups, incubators and co-working spaces.
Incentivize IT innovation in sectors with local customers and acquirers The IT executives of many sectors, particularly hospitality and law firms, are in Washington DC or its inner suburbs. Just as DC's new workforce intermediary will target workforce development investments in the hospitality sector, we should target technology business development investments in sectors with clusters in the DC area.
We should consider expanding our economic development relationships with major DC sectors like hospitality and law to support IT innovation in those sectors. These are the natural replacements of technology providers to the federal government whose contraction will challenge our economy.
We are excited about your leadership in initiating a private-public partnership to build our tech sector, and provide these proposals for an aggressive, broad-based investment in this sector in the spirit of that partnership.
Michael Goldstein, Principal
Dave Sandrowitz, Principal
Jonathan Lunardi,CEO & Co-founder
Stephanie Hay, Co-founder
Andrew Mason, Co-founder
Daniel Kleinman, Founder
Navroop Mitter, Co-founder & CEO
Lindsey Mask, Founder
The agreement on the Georgetown University campus plan says that so long as relations go well, the parties will start discussing in 2018 some long-term goals, including one to "identify and develop next 100 acres."
The agreement doesn't give context for this goal. Given the timing, I'd guess the purpose of this new 100 acres is to relocate the hospital and medical school. But regardless of what purpose this 100 acres would serve, the bigger question that jumps to mind is: where is GU going to find 100 acres?
Georgetown University's main campus is 100 acres. There aren't many available parcels close by that are that large. But there are a few:
St. Elizabeths is a historic psychiatric hospital located across MLK Ave. in Ward 8. It has 350 acres spread over its west and east campuses. At one point the hospital served 8,000 patients. Nowadays it serves only a very small group of patients, primarily those determined mentally incompetent to face trial (including Albrecht Muth).
In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to consolidate its many offices around the DC area onto the west campus of St. Elizabeths. The District kept the east campus, and is planning to redevelop it. The east campus is 170 acres itself. So there's definitely room if GU wanted to be an "anchor tenant" of the development. The city would probably be happy to make a deal with GU if it meant the construction of a top notch hospital square in the middle of the city's poorest ward.
Alternatively, DHS has dragged its feet actually moving to the west campus. A senior DHS official said that they doubted the move would ever happen. It's remotely possible that DHS might be looking to back out of the deal, and GU could step in.
Old Soldiers Home
The Old Soldiers Home is a massive 250-acre plot of land in Ward 5 that contains the historic Lincoln cottage, where Abraham Lincoln escaped the summer heat. Right now the campus still houses a small population of retired veterans, but about half of the property is a golf course.
In 2005, the administrators of the home proposed to develop the southern section of the property. After some pushback from the surrounding neighborhood (and, as I hear it, from retired generals who like to golf) the plans seem to have been shelved.
It's a lot less likely an option for GU than St. Elizabeths, but you never know.
Reservation 13 is the location of the old DC General hospital. The city has been working on plans to redevelop the parcel for years. Despite having issued an RFP several years ago, the city recently went back to square one on the project.
If building a hospital is part of plans, rebuilding a hospital on the site of the old DC General could make GU's pitch appealing to the city. But I doubt this would happen.
For one, the whole Reservation 13 is only 67 acres. And the city doesn't want to go from one single use to another for the property. Second, even if the city thinks it's a good idea, the neighbors really don't want one large institutional use for the property.
Those are the only properties I can think of in the District proper. GU, of course, could explore site in Virginia or Maryland, but I suspects they want to remain more central.
So if I had to bet, I'd say St. Elizabeths.
A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Department of Homeland Security at St. Elizabeths is available for comment. It includes several improvements that should appeal to cyclists, but at least one alternative threatens the important, planned South Capitol Street trail.
To accommodate the increase in jobs, the EIS primarily adds vehicular capacity by widening South Capitol Street, adding interchanges to I-295, and more. One area of such widening is at the interchange between 295 and Malcolm X Avenue. Alternative 1 rebuilds the I-295 S/South Capitol Street interchange to allow southbound traffic to use South Capitol and Malcolm X to reach the West Campus Access Road.
But to handle the added traffic, it would push South Capitol to the west using the same right-of-way that DDOT plans to use to build the South Capitol Street Trail (circled in black below). The EIS does make it clear that planners are aware of the trail, but it seems they are either unaware or unconcerned that these plans threaten it.
Alternative 1 of I-295/Malcolm X Avenue interchange expansion. Image from the EIS.
GSA should either pursue Alternative 2 or work to modify Alternative 1 to allow for the South Capitol Street Trail. If you contact GSA or go to the public hearing on Thursday night make sure they know how important this critical link is and that any alternative must not preclude construction of the South Capitol Street Trail.
But all is not gloom and doom. There are other more positive developments. As mentioned before, both alternatives for the West Campus Access Road include a 10-foot wide multi-use trail along the road from South Capitol Street (south end), across Malcolm X Avenue, and continuing to Firth Sterling Avenue/Defense Boulevard. This adds another north/south connection to the District's trail system. Even the No Build Alternative includes bike lanes and a sidewalk on the Access Road (but not all the way to Malcolm X Avenue).
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Alternative 2 widens the street by 8 feet more than Alternative 1, from 78 to 86 feet wide, to make room for bicycle lanes. This will, unfortunately, involve removing 27 trees - as opposed to 21 for alternative 1. Still, this is the better alternative of the two, as new trees will be planted to mitigate the impact.
There are also plans to extend 13th Street on the east campus, and that extended street may include bike lanes.
Finally, the Great Streets initiative for MLK Avenue includes plans to add bike racks.
According to GSA, only about 1% of employees are expected to bike to work at the new facility. But the multi-use trail is expected to become a main route for the 8% of employees expected to walk from the Metro station. GSA notes that other steps can be taken to get more people to bike. For example, the EIS notes that by building a smaller parking lot to serve the FEMA building, employees would be encouraged to use public transit, bike or walk to work.
The EIS also recognizes that planned bicycle lanes on Howard Road and along the new MLK Avenue Bridge over Suitland Parkway, as well as unplanned improvements from the Wilson Bridge would do more to improve bike/ped access. This, along with the South Capitol Street Trail GSA will be holding a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters Consolidation Master Plan at St. Elizabeths on January 13, 2011, from 6-8:30 pm at the Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, John H. Kearney, Sr. Fellowship Hall, located at 2616 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE, Washington, DC. You can also submit comments online.
Cross-posted on The WashCycle.
GSA will be holding a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) for the amendment to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters Consolidation Master Plan at St. Elizabeths on January 13, 2011, from 6-8:30 pm at the Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, John H. Kearney, Sr. Fellowship Hall, located at 2616 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, SE, Washington, DC. You can also submit comments online.
Cross-posted on The WashCycle.
come closer to fruition, the DC Preservation League is again offering a walking tour of the west campus of the National Historic Landmark on Saturday, April 4 at 10 am. Here are pictures from the last tour. You can RSVP by calling the DC Preservation League office at 202.783.5144 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The tour should fill up quickly so sign up soon. (by Jaime Fearer)
Celebrate with WABA: WABA's tireless efforts to make our city safer for bicyclists depend on our support. You can support them and have a great time at their annual gala, on Saturday, March 21. The event will honor Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Congress's leading bicycle advocate. It's $80 for WABA members and $115 for non-members. Get your tickets here.
Support a trash-free Anacostia: The DC Council will hold a hearing on the bill to incentivize reusable bags on Wednesday, April 1. The hearing will start at 2 pm and continue into the evening to enable people to testify either in the afternoon or after work. To sign up, email or call Aukima Benjamin, email@example.com or 202.724.8062. Tell her when you'd like to testify. Never testified before? Just write out up to 3 minutes of comments and bring a few copies with you.
District Four-um: The Action Committee for Transit and the Sierra Club are organizing a forum for County Council candidates in Montgomery's District 4 on Wednesday evening, March 31st. Mark your calendars and look for more updates soon.
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