Photo by Ehpien.
Speculation and rumor is heating up over the possible relocation of Georgetown University’s medical campus (i.e. the Medstar-operated hospital and the medical school). Back in March, the Washington Business Journal reported that GU was in early talks with the developer of Capitol Crossing, a five acre planned project to be built over I-395 downtown. The speculation heated up more last week when the Post put a little meat on the bone and tied the expansion to the medical campus.
It’s no secret that Medstar wants a new hospital. In early drafts of the school’s ten year plan, the university included placeholders for a brand new hospital to be built on campus. These sections were ultimately cut because the plans were too undecided to specify.
The model that has been batted around for some time involves a new hospital being built either on the current parking lot or north Kehoe Field, with the school taking over the old building in exchange. This would significantly ease the school’s space problem (minus the loss of the field, that is).
GM has heard from multiple sources that this is no longer the working plan and that GU is indeed seriously considering moving the hospital and the medical school off the main campus to, well, somewhere. These recent reports would suggest Capitol Crossing, but in the past other possible candidates have been suggested such as Reservation 13 (where the old DC General Hospital was) and St. Elizabeth’s.
GM can’t really add anything to the speculation, but it is worth discussing what impact this change would have on the Georgetown community.
The most immediate impact a move like this would have is on the never ending campus plan. Creating satellite campuses is exactly what the comprehensive plan encourages for universities and that was also the message from the Office of Planning. Even the most pro-GU partisan would admit that space is tight on the main campus, and that satellite campus would relieve that pressure. And it’s not for nothing that this speculation over the move of the medical campus arose right as the school and the neighbors are entering mediation with hopes of reaching a settlement.
Besides the possibility that the move would enable more on campus dorms to be built, there is at least one other reason why some neighbors would be happy with the move. Without a hospital, there would probably be far fewer ambulance sirens blaring on by. Also on a broader note, opening a hospital in the eastern parts of the city would be great for the public health of poorer neighborhoods. And locating such a large employer in those neighborhoods would be an additional benefit. Finally, regardless of where they move it is likely that it would be metro accessible.
But there are plenty of reasons why Georgetowners would be disappointed by the move. Most significant of those reasons is that Georgetowners would lose the benefit of having an emergency hospital so close by (with free ambulance services provided by students). Additionally, GM knows a lot of parents use the pediatric center at the hospital. The next closest emergency hospital that has a pediatric specialty is Children’s Hospital way over on North Capitol St. Finally, some residents work there and likely appreciate the short commute.
GM bets that if a poll were taken of Georgetown residents asking if they want the hospital to move or not, the results would be mixed. Those living near the hospital and those living among higher concentrations of off-campus students would likely support the move. Those further away from the ambulance routes and group homes would probably dislike the move.
One final note: it very well might be the case that GU would be considering this move even if the campus plan were behind us. And maybe it’s myopic to think the school would make the move just to satisfy the neighbors. But mark GM’s words: if the school moves the medical campus, it will go down into city lore that the move was done to satisfy petulant neighbors. Like the myth over rich Georgetowners keeping poor people out by stopping the creation of a Georgetown metro stop (not true!), this interpretation would perpetuate because it would reinforce how many think about the neighborhood and who lives here.