Mayor Muriel Bowser collided with outraged protestors when she led the demolition of two buildings at St. Elizabeths campus in Southeast – an action that paved the way for a new state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena at the historic site.

Bowser, joined by Ward 8 Council member LaRuby May, Events DC CEO Greg O’Dell, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner, Department of General Services Director Christopher Weaver and residents witnessed the beginning of the $50 million project in Congress Heights on Thursday, Feb. 18.

“Today is a great day for the District of Columbia and the residents of Wards 7 and 8,” Bowser said.

“With this new development, we are delivering on a promise to revitalize Congress Heights, create quality affordable housing, generate hundreds of jobs and put more District residents on a pathway to the middle class.”

Scheduled to open in September of 2018, the 5,000-seat venue is projected to produce $90 million in new tax revenue over 20 years, attract more than 380,000 visitors per year and produce more than 600 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs.

The complex will be operated by Events DC with hiring priority given to Ward 7 and 8 residents.

“Today’s milestone marks the beginning of a new era in the Congress Heights neighborhood and we look forward to working with Mayor Bowser, Monumental and our development partners on building an exciting venue,” said O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC.

“The new entertainment and sports arena project will service as a catalyst of economic revitalization in Ward 8 and stimulate job growth by creating hundreds of construction and permanent jobs,” he said.

The Department of General Services will oversee the Phase I infrastructure for the site.

The first phase is slated for completion in July 2018 and will provide the foundation for further development.

Plans for Phase I development includes 60 town homes, 250 mixed-income apartments, a 171,000-square-foot office building with 47,000 square feet of integrated retail, a retail courtyard and 100 underground parking spaces.

It’s predicted that the total St. Elizabeths project will bring 1.8 million square feet of offices, 206k square feet of retail, 1,300 residential units and at least two hotels to Congress Heights.

Although the mood among city executives appeared upbeat, they were met with angst from non-profit Empower DC activists with signs that read “Stop Displacement . . . Don’t Move.”

Several protesters voiced their concerns, saying they believed the millions of dollars being used for the new venue should go to residents struggling to remain in their homes who are systematically being pushed out of the city.

According to DCist, Bowser responded to them with “some may scream and some may shout, but I’ll be back. I’m going to invest, I’m going to keep our promises and it won’t be just today, it’ll be every day.”

“This demolition isn’t just about a new arena. This is about a promise to bring services and resources to Ward 8” May said. “I am excited to start this process and will stay focused on making sure Ward 8 gets the economic growth and development our community deserves.”

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