Thursday, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center master plan moved one step closer to making the proposed changes for the 350-acre campus. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approved the plan, which proposes to expand and modernize the existing 900,000 s.f. medical center with 818,000 gross s.f. of additional space, creating a massive 1.7 million gross s.f. development. The expansion, which is split into four phases, will take place over the course of 20 years and is set to finish in 2030.
According to the NCPC, "the proposed development will increase inpatient and outpatient areas, add a new long-term living facility space, add medical research space, consolidate administrative functions, and improve site utilities." The VA's proposal will make better use of the current surface parking lots by either building new facilities or converting them to green space. Employees, patients and visitors will rely on two new structured parking garages. The north garage will come online during the third phase; NCPC advised the VA to closely monitor parking use and demand for better planning of the matter. The plan will actually reduce the parking ratio to one space for every four people, reducing the number of staff spaces by almost 300. Additionally, the plan increases the amount of open green space on the campus from 19% to 33% of the total acres.
The NCPC stressed the importance of addressing the urban context, accordingly the plan places new structures nearer to the edges of the property. The design also includes extensive planting of trees and new shrubbery along North Capitol Street to provide a buffer between the massing of the new medical buildings and traffic.
The VA also has a transportation plan to increase the accessibility for bus, Metro and pedestrian commuters. The VA team has discussed transportation with the nearby Washington Hospital Center and proposes a new "transit center" along 1st Street. The new center would change the bus circulation pattern, reducing trip times. It will also include either a pedestrian bridge or "enhanced crosswalk" to make the intersection safer.
A mere 20% of the project will be built in the first three phases and some of the plans already have funding, meaning they could begin over the course of the the next five years. The other 80% will take place in the fourth phase, which is scheduled to wrap up in 2030.
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