The Fate Of St. Elizabeths And East Of The River’s Economy

The redevelopment of St. Elizabeths into the new headquarters for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will transform the economy east of the Anacostia River — that is, if the project actually happens. The Washington Post reported this weekend on the particulars of how the massive project could get derailed.

Neighborhoods near the St. Elizabeths campus haven’t experienced the same kind of economic revitalization seen by the rest of the city. Unemployment has reached Depression-era levels in Ward 8, where St. Elizabeths is located. But the prospect of thousands of new daytime workers coming to St. Elizabeths has led some to invest in the area

Federal and District officials have promoted the project as a savior that would finally bring jobs and prosperity to surrounding Southeast neighborhoods — Anacostia, Buena Vista, Barry Farm, Congress Heights. The work-a-day crowd with cash to spend also has signalled opportunity to commercial real estate developers whose business was kicked sideways in the recession.

Yet after 10 years of planning and two years of construction, progress is dragging to a halt as lawmakers feud over matters big (how to secure the nation) and small (what offices to lease). A tug-of-war over funding has left the project with barely enough money even to finish its first building, the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters.

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