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DCRA To Move HQ East Of The River As Part Of Bowser’s 2021 Development Push

D.C. officials and development partners celebrating the groundbreaking of 88 townhouses at St. Elizabeths East, Tuesday March 23.

D.C. plans to move another government agency East of the River, and it is seeking developers to build the new headquarters.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, at its annual March Madness event Wednesday, released a request for proposals for three parcels on the St. Elizabeths East campus, anchored by a 200K SF D.C. government tenant. 

Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio told Bisnow that the tenant is the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The agency plans to move from 1100 Fourth St. SW, a building next to the Waterfront Metro station where it has a lease expiring in the coming years, he said.

DCRA's new headquarters would anchor a new office development planned on Parcel 7 of the St. Elizabeths East development. The District is seeking developers to build the project on Parcel 7, and it is combining it in an RFP with parcels 8 and 9.

The latter two parcels, consisting of historic buildings that must be preserved and adaptively reused, were previously offered in a January 2020 RFP that paired them with Parcel 13. But the 2.9-acre Parcel 13 was later separated and awarded to Neighborhood Development Co. in November to build a 421-unit project. 

A site plan of the St. Elizabeths East development highlighting Parcels 7, 8 and 9, which were released in a new RFP Wednesday.

The DCRA move is the second relocation planned as part of Mayor Muriel Bowser's strategy to use agencies to spur development east of the Anacostia River. In May, she announced the Department of General Services would relocate its 700 employees from U Street NW to a new development on Minnesota Avenue NE, a move that has already spurred new activity in the Ward 7 neighborhood. 

"What we're doing is taking the value of the lease and the economic vitality it will create, and we're actually pushing it toward the benefit of the community," Falcicchio told Bisnow. "With this approach on St. Elizabeths, we'd use the value of Parcel 7 in order to make sure Parcel 8 and Parcel 9 advance."

The RFP release came one day after D.C. officials and development partners Redbrick LMD and Gragg Cardona Partners broke ground on 88 townhouses at St. Elizabeths East.

Redbrick was also selected in 2019 to build a 567K SF mixed-use project on Parcel 15 of St. Elizabeths East. That project is still moving through the planning stages, but the team is temporarily activating the parcel with a 4,560 SF retail and event structure made of timber, UrbanTurf first reported Tuesday.

Falcicchio said that temporary structure can be moved to a different part of the campus once the new development begins on the Parcel 15 site. 

"They'll have an interim use, which is this cool hospitality and entertainment pavilion that will be built just for that space, but will be built in a way that the whole venue can actually be taken apart and moved," Falcicchio said.

The District also reached a deal last year with George Washington University to build a 136-bed hospital on the St. Elizabeths East campus, and in November 2019 it signed a lease with Whitman-Walker Health to build a 116K SF health center on the site. 

These new projects at St. Elizabeths come after the 2018 opening of the Sports and Entertainment Arena, where the WNBA's Mystics play their home games and the NBA's Wizards hold practices. In September, the first residential project at St. Elizabeths East delivered, a 252-unit apartment building including 202 affordable units. 

"What we're utilizing the St. Elizabeths East campus for is to deliver amenities, retail and economic opportunity to Congress Heights in Ward 8," Falcicchio said. "We think it's going to help make the neighborhoods around it even more vibrant."