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Can $105,000 solve D.C. hospital and university space woes?

Tuesday - 4/23/2013, 11:04am  ET

The District has no shortage of large hospitals and universities, and they're getting even bigger. What those economic sectors need, figures Mayor Vincent Gray, is a plan to maintain, organize and encourage that growth in a coherent way.

With that in mind, the Gray administration has tapped Janice Posey, an economic development consultant, to spend a year talking to health care and educational leaders about their long-term growth needs. She will earn $105,000, according to a contract with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Unlike other sectors commonly targeted for economic development assistance, hospitals and universities are growing without direct intervention. At last count, they make up 12 of the city's top 15 employers, including the top six.

"There are a lot of hospitals and universities with expansion plans," said Chanda Washington, a spokeswoman for the deputy mayor's office. "And this is also our way to work with them to help them find ways to stay in the District and grow in the District."

Washington did not identify specific dilemmas, but she could have been referring to the evolving situation at Georgetown University, where both the university and hospital operator MedStar Health are feeling the strain of a cramped campus. Or to landlocked MedStar Washington Hospital Center or even to United Medical Center in Ward 8, a campus that could be headed toward redevelopment.

The District hopes to prevent more institutions from solving their space needs the way Georgetown officials have started to. Both MedStar and the university have moved some of their operations out of Georgetown and into Arlington's Rosslyn and Court House neighborhoods.

Posey's work will not be limited to real estate planning. Washington said she will be asked to focus on branding District hospitals and allowing them to compete more effectively with hospitals outside the city. Gray identified health care and education as priorities in his recent five-year economic development plan.

According to the contract notice, Posey's specific tasks include:

  • Identifying opportunities to expand the existing health care sector and finding health care prospects that could be persuaded to move into the District.
  • Recommending policy changes that could catalyze growth in the health care sector.
  • Providing support for the city's five-year economic development strategy, including construction of so-called "academic village," promoting local buying at hospitals and universities and assisting their efforts to hire within the city.
  • Helping universities identify similar programming and real estate needs that might be addressed through collective action.

Posey, who previously worked with the state of Maryland and Howard County economic development agencies, will be under contract from May 1 through April 30, 2014.

© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.