Updated_8th & I Marine Barracks planned expansion could claim notorious SE Potomac Gardens housing projects
Ambitious plans are underway for the United States Marine Barracks at 8th & I Street SE to expand their historic boundaries in what could have implications for the notorious Potomac Gardens public housing project at 12th & G Street SE. In what will contribute and markedly impact continued growth and development of Barracks Row Main Street, the Marines are planning to develop 173,000 square feet.
In to the spring the Marine Corps will facilitate public meetings to share their Community Integrated Master Plan. Community briefs have been released and will assist in evaluating the potential for community-military development partnering options in the surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Potomac Gardens, the housing project under review by the Marines, has a well known and rich criminal history. In 1992 an 8 foot black wrought iron fence was erected surrounding and imprisoning Potomac Gardens making it feel like a “Baby Lorton” for neighborhood children.
In 1995 the city hired Nation of Islam guards to patrol the projects in an, “effort to reclaim the complex from neighborhood drug dealers” for what had become one of the “District’s busiest outdoor illegal drug markets” according to The Washington Post.
Following in the history of previous neighborhood marchers, less than two years ago, after an uproar on the Hill East listerv following muggings of yupsters by juveniles from Potomac Gardens, old guard and newer residents virally discussed the idea of marching “on” the public housing complex in protest.
According to The Voice of the Hill, “The crux of the plan is the need for new barracks, which are now located in a 1970s building known as “Building 20” at 7th and I streets across from the original historic barracks. The barracks, which house about 250 Marines in the building that abuts Interstate 395, do not meet new space or security requirements.
The new barracks will be “ideally as close as possible to where the Marine Barracks are” right now, but have to move from the current location because they must be 82 feet from the street, said U.S. Navy planner Matt Schwartz at a community meeting to introduce the plan last week.
At the same time, the Marines want to build facilities for both single enlisted men and those with families — a fire station, child development center, gym, pool, parking, meeting space, post office, basketball and tennis courts, and an indoor parade field. There are also plans for a Marine Barracks Washington museum.”
Less than 3% of all United States Marines Corps’ Infantry enlisted men earn the distinction of being an “8th & I Marine” at the Marine Corps’ oldest post. The current location was originally selected in 1801 by Thomas Jefferson and second Commandant of the Marine Corps Lt. Col William Ward Burrows, as being of strategic importance to the Navy Yard, and will undergo significant development changing its appearance and operation in the coming decade.
The Marine Corps Commandant’s House a National Historic Landmark constructed from 1801 – 1805, designed by local architect George Hadfield, has been the home of the Commandant of the Marine Corps since 1806, is one of the oldest buildings in the city. During the Burning of Washington, on August 24, 1814, the British occupied the 8th & I Barracks, but did not set them ablaze as they did the White House.
The Washington Business Journal reported last week that the Navy “intends to hire an estimated 1,100 workers at the Washington Navy Yard by 2011 and as many 2,400 more four years later” in anticipation of an expansive “growth of as many as 3,500 personnel, which will require approximately 700,000 square feet.”
Posted February 12, 2010 on the website of Ward 6 City Councilmember TommyWells. Written by Naomi Mitchell.
Rumors About Marine Barracks at Potomac Gardens
Over the last week, our office has been asked about various rumors of Marine Corps plans to purchase Potomac Gardens for development into Marine barracks.
She had begun to hear the rumors as well, and explained that the Housing Authority has no intention of selling Potomac Gardens. The property is owned by the DC Housing Authority, and any sale would require approval by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as they are the original financier of the acquisition of the property. In addition, there are various HUD regulations governing the displacement of public housing residents from their existing homes which would make a sale of this property unlikely, unless the existing residents were all guaranteed a replacement home within the new development.
Ms. Todman also noted that Mayor Fenty has been working with resident leaders and DC Housing Authority officials to explore whether Potomac Gardens and the adjacent Hopkins Apartment sites are good candidates for programs such as Hope VI, New Communities, or other successful models to improve the housing and built environment on the site.
From what we can tell, rumors of any sale of Potomac Gardens are exactly that – rumors. We hope this information quells the concerns of Potomac Gardens residents and neighbors.