St. Elizabeths Redevelopment: Washington DC

St. Elizabeths East
© Rachel Cooper, licensed to, Inc.

St. Elizabeths, a national historic landmark that was a former government hospital for the insane, is one of the few remaining large redevelopment opportunities in Washington DC. The development of the 350-acre property offers an extraordinary opportunity for the capital region in terms of economic growth and job creation. St. Elizabeths is divided into two campuses. The West Campus, owned by the federal government, will be used to consolidate the headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This project is the largest federal construction project in the Washington, DC area since the Pentagon was built during World War II. The East Campus will house the headquarters for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with the remainder of the land developed as a mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable community.

Location of St. Elizabeths

St. Elizabeths is located off of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue in Ward 8 in SE Washington, DC.  The site offers panoramic views and unique vantage points of Alexandria, Baileys Crossroads, Ronald Reagan National Airport, Rosslyn, the National Cathedral, the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The closest Metro stations are Congress Heights and Anacostia. When the facility opens, shuttle buses will run between the Metro stations and the East and West Campuses. Modifications will be made to the I-295/Malcom X interchange and improvements will be made to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue.

St. Elizabeths West - Department of Homeland Security Headquarters

The Department of Homeland Security currently occupies more than 40 buildings spread throughout the Washington, DC area. The new 176-acre facility at St. Elizabeths will bring those departments together and provide 4.5 million gross square feet of office space plus parking for more than 14,000 employees. The final Master Plan was approved in January 2009 and was designed to maintain the historic character of the campus and promote sustainable development. The plan will preserve and reuse 51 of the 62 buildings on the West Campus with potential uses including administrative offices, child care, fitness center, cafeteria, credit union, barber shop, conference facilities, library, and storage. The total cost for the project is estimated at $3.4 billion.

Construction Phases:

  • Phase 1 – U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters -  Opened in Summer 2013
  • Phase 2A - Department of Homeland Security Headquarters (DHS) and National Operations Center (NOC) - On September 30, 2014, Grunley Construction Company, Inc. and Shalom Baranes Associates were awarded a $139 million design-build contract to renovate the Center Building.  Projected Completion Date: August 2017
  • Phase 2B - Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters (FEMA) - Projected Completion Date: To Be Determined
  • Phase 3 - Transportation Security Administration Headquarters (TSA); Customs and Border Protection Headquarters (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Headquarters (ICE) - Projected Completion Date: To Be Determined

For more information, visit

Public tours of the property are available one Saturday per month through the DC Historic Preservation League and GSA. To sign up, visit

Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters

To reduce the density on the West Campus, the headquarters for FEMA will be located on the East Campus with an underground connection to the West. The building will be about 700 thousand gross square feet plus parking and will provide office space for approximately 3,000 employees.

St. Elizabeths East - Mixed-Use Development

The 183-acre East Campus provides an opportunity for innovation and commercialization and its development is being overseen by the District of Columbia’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. Its unique setting can support approximately 5 million square feet of mixed-use development. While several historic buildings are suitable for educational and office use, the redevelopment will include the construction of new buildings as well, transforming the historic landmark into a vibrant neighborhood for residential, commercial, and institutional uses. The Redevelopment Framework Plan was approved by the DC Council in 2008 and 2012 The Master Plan outlines revitalization objectives and provisions for St. Elizabeths East to evolve over the next 5 to 20 years. Development partners will be chosen to transform the site. Phase I proposes 90,000 square feet of retail, 387,600 square feet of rental residential and 36 townhomes. The DC Department of Transportation is planning infrastructure improvements that include reconstructing the roadways and providing an array of transportation options. Future phase plans to be determined.

St. Elizabeths East Gateway Pavilion - The venue is currently open and used for casual dining, a farmers’ market and other weekend and after-hours community, cultural and arts events. Public events give local residents the opportunity to see the property and learn about the future development.  Ward 8 Farmers Market - 2700 Market Luther King, Jr. Ave. (Chapel Gate) is open every Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., June through October.

Sports Arena for the Wizards and Mystics - Plans are underway to build a new state-of-the-art entertainment and sports arena to serve as a practice facility for the city's professional basketball teams: the Washington Wizards and the Washington Mystics. Read more about the Arena. 

For more information, visit

History of St. Elizabeths

St. Elizabeths Hospital was established in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane. The hospital was a prominent example of the mid-19th-century reform movement which believed in moral treatment for the care of the mentally ill. At its peak in the 1940s and 1950s, the St. Elizabeths campus housed 8,000 patients and employed 4,000 people. For more than a century, St. Elizabeths was internationally recognized as a leading clinical and training institution. The passage of the 1963 Community Mental Health Act led to deinstitutionalization, providing for local outpatient facilities and encouraging patients to live independently. The patient population of St. Elizabeths steadily declined and the property deteriorated over the next few decades. By 2002, the property was named one of the nation's Most Endangered Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.​

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its predecessors controlled and operated the hospital until 1987 when the East Campus and hospital operations were transferred to the District of Columbia. Portions of the West Campus were used for outpatient services until 2003 when it closed operations. The General Services Administration (GSA) took control of the West Campus in December 2004 and has since stabilized the vacant buildings. In April 2010, St. Elizabeths Hospital consolidated its operations and moved into a new 450,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility on the southern portion of the East Campus. Approximately 300 patients live onsite. John W. Hinckley, Jr., the man who attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1981, is their most infamous resident.

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