Officials broke ground today on the largest federal building project in the Washington metro area since the Pentagon. The $435 million Coast Guard Headquarters is the first of three phases for the unified Department of Homeland Security (DHS) complex on the St. Elizabeths campus in Anacostia, and the first project to move the federal government into the historic neighborhood. In August, the General Services Administration (GSA) awarded the contract to Clark
Design/Build, LLC, WDG Architecture and HOK. The site obtained initial National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approval in January of this year, with full blown construction expected to begin early next year.
The new DHS site is funded partially through $650 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In total, the Recovery Act allocated $200 million to DHS and $450 million to GSA for construction of a new DHS headquarters at St. Elizabeths, $162 million of which will go to the Coast Guard facility alone. The facility will strive for LEED Silver certification by including green roofs, landscaped courtyards to control surface water runoff, and "innovative" heating and air conditioning systems. Occupancy of the new Coast Guard headquarters is expected by 2013.
The Center Building, pictured at left, will likely house the offices of the Secretary of DHS. Construction and renovation on this and other surrounding buildings will not occur until Phase 2. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and GSA Acting Administrator Paul Proty shoveled some serious dirt along with Representative Holmes Norton, Mayor Fenty, Councilmember Barry- as well as Senator Lieberman, for one of the most eclectic and highly paid ditch digging crews Washington DC has ever seen.
The DHS currently has 222,000 employees working at 35 offices throughout the Capitol region, DHS expects the consolidation will save taxpayers $163 million over the next 30 years. Construction of the new complex will produce an estimated 32,000 jobs, with many going to DC residents, especially if Norton has anything to do with it. The Congresswoman gave her own special welcome, saying "the federal government is crossing the Anacostia today, my friends. Come on over!" The residents of Ward 8, where the site is located, have the highest level of poverty in the city, with 35% unemployment, according to Councilmember Barry.
Despite the expected economic benefits for the area, the GSA has been involved in a series of Section 106 conversations, part of the National Historic Preservation Act by which community concerns are formally addressed. The local community and historic preservation groups raised concerns about public access to the land. Under the current Master plan, the public will have access to the cemetery, which includes soldiers from the Civil War, Hitchcock Hall, a large theater that once served the residents and staff at St. Elizabeths, and an area known as "The Point,"which boasts an expansive view of DC. Other concerns included the fate of Bald Eagles that call part of the campus home. The Master plan sets off a large section as "Eagle Zone" to prevent any encroachment.
The historic nature of the campus added a high level of complexity to the design and construction plans. On campus, 62 buildings are classified as "contributing" to the historical significance of St. Elizabeths. Of the 62, 52 will be retained and of the 10 that are scheduled to be demolished, 8 are dilapidated greenhouses. During a campus tour for media, GSA paused to showcase the demolition of one of the non-contributing buildings, the Mechanical and Electrical shop. St. Elizabeths was the first national mental health care facility in the country.