The 400-foot-long pavilion is located on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in southeast D.C. It features a 16,300 square foot open air market, as well as a 21,000 square foot green roof and raised park that will be available for concerts, festivals, farmers markets and any other large gathering.
The city's goal is for the pavilion to serve as an anchor to help draw retail and other establishments, as well as residents and workers from nearby Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) to a safe, off base venue where they can eat and shop.
Roughly 2,500 U.S. Coast Guard employees are already on site at the St. Elizabeth's West campus and a tunnel connecting the two campuses just opened – only adding to Mayor Vincent Gray's obvious excitement.
"This is a tremendous day in our city's history. The excitement is palpable as we gather to celebrate our future," Gray said. "This pavilion will help us achieve our goals of bringing jobs and better services to this end of the city. I believe it will be a model for future development."
Robert Anderson, the pavilion's architect, said it was an honor to work with city leaders on this endeavor. He gave major thanks to his fellow contractors who worked through 27 days of rain to complete the pavilion on time.
"Considering it was a three-month project, we had a very aggressive schedule," Anderson said. "It remains a concept at the end of the day. One that is different and truly unique for this city."
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton also spoke at the much anticipated ribbon cutting and referred to the pavilion as "brand new construction for a brand new era."
"This will not only benefit residents in Ward 8, but also provide an attractive area to eat, meet and shop for federal employees who will be working at the St. Elizabeth's West campus," Norton said. "I'm proud to see our district take that first important step with the construction of this pavilion."
According to Gray, the district has committed $113 million over four years to upgrade infrastructure at both campuses in advance of its redevelopment. He said this could also include the presence of Microsoft, an academic institution, 1,300 mixed-income residential units and more than one million square feet of office and retail space.
Catherine Buell, executive director for Washington's Planning and Economic Development Office, said the 183-acre East campus was purchased by the city back in 1987 and that it's perfectly suited to accommodate the cultural arts movement going on in Ward 8.
While there are challenges associated with the revitalization project overall, such as the highly regulated historic buildings sprawled out around the campus, she said that will not deter the city from moving forward with its master plan.
"The city had something to prove with this project. And I think we proved it," Buell said. "Ward 8 needs amenities like this. It needs something that will get people excited. We're going to create something here that everyone can be proud of."