Innovative Urban Development


St. Elizabeths East

Catherine Buell served as the executive director of St. Elizabeths East at a vital time, as the District of Columbia's efforts moved from the Master Planning phase to project implementation and development.  St. Elizabeths East, located in one of Washington D.C.'s most underserved communities, is a 183-acre historic campus that is being transformed into a vibrant 5 million square foot mixed-use community.

R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center

Starting with a 2-page concept paper, Buell led the development of the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center while serving as the Executive Director of St. Elizabeths East.  The R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center is a state-of-the art technology and innovation center developed to introduce residents in Southeast D.C. to the innovation economy.  R.I.S.E. was developed in partnership with the surrounding Ward 8 community and stands for Relate, Innovate, Stimulate and Elevate ("Rel8.Innov8.Stimul8.Elev8").


Innovative Programming and Job Training

R.I.S.E. introduced innovative programming, such as “STEAM on the RISE” – a series of programs designed to promote science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. With the assistance of key educational partners R.I.S.E. also provides access to low-income residents to the technology and innovation markets.


R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center Wins Historic Preservation Award

Washington Post, $8 Million Demonstration Center Debuts on the St. Elizabeths Campus (2014)

Tech Center Opening Brings a New Day to Ward 8 (2014)

WAMU/NPR, Is D.C. Transforming From A Government Town Into A Tech Hub? (2014)

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Gateway DC (G"8"Way)

A uniquely designed park and pavilion, Gateway DC serves as an arts and entertainment venue.


Food Market

To address the surrounding food desert issues, Gateway DC was designed with a market area.  The first partner was Whole Foods, who designed a monthly pop-up food market to provide residents with access to fresh fruits and vegetables. 


Gateway DC served as the impetus for culturally rich programming, such as Broccoli City – the largest urban earth day festival focused on raising social awareness of equity issues impacting minority communities. 


Architecture Magazine

Washington D.C. AIA Chapter Design Award (2015)

Broccoli City Comes to Congress Heights


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Community Marketing Campaigns

In 2012, as a resident of Historic Anacostia, Ms. Buell joined her neighbors in leading the efforts to recruiting Busboys and Poets to Anacostia. Attracted by the “We Are Anacostia” community marketing campaign, Busboys and Poets is scheduled to open its newest restaurant in 2019. 


Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative Headquarters and Busboys Anacostia (Congress Heights on the Rise 2018)

Curbed DC on Busboys and Poets Anacostia (2018)

City Papers’ Public Debate on Busboys Anacostia (2018)

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Historic Preservation

Dedicated to preserving cool spaces, Ms. Buell led the Washington D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board’s (HPRB) efforts to evaluate applications for historic designation and building permit applications for consistency with Washington D.C.’s preservation law.  She served as the Chair of the Board from 2010 – 2012, starting as a member in 2008. 

As Chair, Ms. Buell advised the historic preservation office staff on key preservation issues, with a particular focus on sustainability and public education and outreach, continuation of the Historic Homeowner Grant Program and the development of the citywide 5-year preservation plan. 

Featured articles

Washington City Paper, Housing Complex, Catherine Buell On Keeping Preservation Cool (2010)

Organizational Innovation 

As the President and CEO of Atlanta Housing, I had an opportunity to oversee and lead a number of innovative initiatives.  Under my leadership, Atlanta Housing rebranded it self (formerly, the Atlanta housing authority) and renewed its priority to creating affordable housing opportunities for all families in the City of Atlanta.

"Ms. Buell has been a strong champion of increasing affordable housing, and the Board of Commissioners thanks her for her leadership and for proudly serving the people of Atlanta," said Dr. Christopher Edwards, chair of the Atlanta Housing Board of Commissioners. "

Sample projects are listed below. 

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Strategic Planning

While at Atlanta Housing Ms. Buell led the agency's development and release of "Vision 2022," Atlanta Housing’s five-year strategic plan, which outlines a targeted 3-point thrust (live, work, thrive) aimed at housing, human development and fiscal responsibility, with has led to an increased households served from 16,900 in 2008 to 23,180 at the end of calendar year 2017.

The five-year planning effort led the agency to revise its  Annual Planning and Budget Format to make it more user friendly and align with the agency’s new 5 year plan.  As a result, Atlanta Housing won the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Awardin acknowledgment of the quality of the revised format which reflected best practices on budgeting.

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Atlanta Housing’s first new development in 10 years; the project, which will break ground this year, will feature 700 multifamily and for-sale units – some 40 percent of which will be affordable.  


Anti-Displacement Policy

The project will be the pilot for Atlanta Housing's anti-displacement policy. The policy will allow Atlanta Housing to provide a preference to households in which at least one member lives in one of the census tracts listed in the City of Atlanta census tract with the “highest risk of displacement.”  

Health and Technology Partnerships

Development to include an on-site health and wellness center as part of the senior housing development and an on-site STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education-focused community center being developed in partnership with Georgia Tech.


POLICY IMPROVEMENTS - small business inclusion

In 2018, Atlanta Housing completed a disparities study to review how the agency conducted business with minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MBEs/WBEs) and small business enterprises (SBEs), as well as how it facilitated Section 3 programs.  As a result of the study, Atlanta Housing developed a board-approved Section 3 and MBE/WBE/SBE policy that increased outreach efforts to potential contractors for contracting opportunities.





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In 2017, Atlanta Housing acquired the Civic Center, which will be redeveloped into a mixed-used, mixed-income livable, equitable community including 30 percent affordable housing.  The project represents a major investment in affordable housing adjacent to commercial centers, retail and public transportation.


Affordable Housing Downtown (Area of Opportunity)

 “Through its focus on affordable housing, the redevelopment of the Civic Center property will give families and working people the opportunity to live in an area with access to transit, employment and good schools. Moreover, this new development will be an asset to the neighborhood, further adding to the vibrancy and vitality of Midtown and Downtown Atlanta.” – Mayor Kasim Reed



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