The tech demonstration center on the former campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital aims to elevate opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship in Congress Heights.
On Wednesday, Aug. 13, the ribbon was cut on the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center, housed in a remodeled former chapel at the St. Elizabeths East Campus in Congress Heights. The event was called "a brand new day for Ward 8" by ANC8C Commissioner Mary Cuthbert and also included Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) Jeff Miller, Director of the Department of General Services Brian Hanlon, and Executive Director of St. Elizabeths East project Catherine Buell.
“Creating this amazing space helps answer the call of Ward 8 residents for innovative pilot projects that address the need for job growth and economic development in their community,” said D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in a press release.
The name of the new innovation hub stands for Relate, Innovate, Stimulate, and Elevate (all words playing off the number “eight” for Ward 8) and will offer services such as free computer training classes, financial and business workshops, and sustainability and gardening fairs. There will also be robotics classes for youth and programs designed to expose local residents to professional experiences, said Gray. “Outreach will be inherent to what is going on here,” he said.
The building's design keeps the existing wood-framed windows and chapel tower, but is otherwise modernized, with two large demonstration and lecture halls, a “Digital Inclusion Center” with a state-of-the-art computer lab, conference area, and a reflection area. ANC8C Commissioner Cuthbert announced that Ward 8’s ANC offices would be housed on the bottom floor.
Partners on the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center project include the University of the District of Columbia – Community College, the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, and Microsoft. The former chapel is the first building in what is planned to be a larger innovation hub with several private tech companies. The aim is to attract more employment activity and entrepreneurship to the area adjacent to the Congress Heights Metro Station, said Gray. The DMPED has also received a handful of bids for retail and restaurant development on the East Campus.
Mayor Gray said he hoped that the center would help break down “psychological and physical walls” from the history of the campus as the former St. Elizabeths Hospital for the mentally ill. The R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center at St. Elizabeths East joins Gateway DC, a park and pavilion center geared towards community, food, and cultural events. Together, the two buildings mark the first new development on the St. Elizabeths campus in a century, and the first time the campus has been open to the public. The entire redevelopment is part of what is now the largest commercial center in Southeast, says ANC8C Commissioner Cuthbert.
Thank you to @TheAdvoc8te for the photos - visit http://congressheightsontherise.com for more.