Community Liaison Council Meeting Minutes — Thursday, June 20, 2019

Opening Remarks

Amy Blackburn, Office of Communications & Public Liaison (OCPL), Office of the Director (OD), NIH

Ms. Blackburn opened the meeting at 4:07 p.m. and presented the minutes from the previous meeting for approval. CLC members had no objections or changes to the minutes.

Ms. Blackburn also announced that there will be two open houses for bus rapid transit service along Route 355. The first is on June 26 in Gaithersburg, and the second is on June 27 in Bethesda. Ms. Blackburn said that she would send more information via email.

Introduction to the Office of Research Services Director

Colleen A. McGowan, MHA, FACHE, Director, Office of Research Services (ORS), OD, NIH

Ms. Blackburn introduced Ms. McGowan, the new director of ORS.

Ms. McGowan said that she has been the ORS director for about four months. Previously, she was a hospital administrator in the Air Force and then joined the Clinical Center (CC), first as an administrator and later as an executive officer. She is looking forward to hearing from CLC members about any issues they have and how she can help.

Mr. Moss said that previous ORS Director Alfred C. Johnson, PhD, had been promoted to NIH deputy director for management. Dr. Johnson now oversees ORS, the Office of Research Facilities (ORF), and other centrally managed areas of the OD.

The other meeting attendees introduced themselves:

  • Ms. Michaels lives across the street from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and has been a CLC member since about 2002.
  • Ms. Wade represents the Whitehall Condominium on the south side of the NIH campus. She has been a CLC member for about three years.
  • Ms. Witt represents Huntington Parkway and is a longtime CLC member.
  • Ms. Abeles represents the Bethesda Crest townhomes north of the NIH campus. She joined the CLC around 2010, and her niece is a summer intern at NIH.
  • Mr. Fetchko works in the Natcher Building and is a friend and neighbor of Ms. Wade’s.
  • Ms. Roberts is a branch chief in the Division of Facilities Planning and is heavily involved in the master planning of new facilities.
  • Mr. Clifford is the NIH chief engineer and will retire on June 21 after 50 years at NIH.
  • Mr. Canady is the new NIH chief engineer. Previously he was deputy director of the Division of Facilities Stewardship (DFS) and worked closely with Ms. Roberts.
  • Mr. Hartz is the NIH landscape architect and works in DFS. He has been with NIH for more than three years.
  • Mr. Francis is the director of the Office of Hospital Physical Environment within the OD. He works closely with the chief executive officer for the CC.
  • Mr. Moss is the communications director for ORS and ORF.
  • Ms. Blackburn is the branch chief for the NIH Visitor Center and the CLC. She works closely with John Burklow, who was unable to attend the meeting.

Utility Vault and Patient Parking Garage (C104771)

Tony Francis, Facilities Planning and Programing Branch, ORF, OD, NIH

Mr. Francis explained that the CC houses NIH’s most important utilities and infrastructure. However, the infrastructure is aging and cannot support all of NIH’s requirements for surgery, radiology, and lab medicine. The oldest part of the building was constructed in the 1950s, and it often floods. These issues affect both research and patient treatment.

To mitigate these problems, NIH proposes to build a surgery, radiology, and lab medicine addition to the CC. Because the project would require relocating some utilities, NIH also proposes building a utility vault and patient parking garage. The utility vault and garage would house new electrical equipment and emergency generators, as well as parking for patients, visitors, and employees. The existing electrical equipment, housed in Buildings 59 and 59A, is aging, and the generators do not always meet the Joint Commission requirement to supply emergency power within 10 seconds of losing normal power. Initially, the two-level utility vault would be a shell, and a subsequent project would add the electrical equipment.

Mr. Francis stressed that NIH would not be adding parking; rather, it would replace parking spaces that are displaced from Lot 10A, the ambulance bay driveway, the Ambulatory Care Research Facility (ACRF) parking garage, and Lot 41.

NIH conducted extensive studies to determine the best sites for the new buildings. The utility vault and garage would be located near the recently built Northwest Child Care Center. Mr. Francis displayed conceptual renderings of the building, showing the elevator lobby on Convent Drive and the parking garage entrance off Center Drive. NIH is considering adding a tunnel to allow staff easier access to the CC in inclement weather.

Mr. Francis also displayed a conceptual rendering of the Surgery, Radiology, and Lab Medicine Building. He noted that the Convent, which is designated a historic building, is behind the proposed new building, and its view would need to be protected. Mr. Hartz added that the new vault and garage would displace many trees, and many of the replacement trees would be planted on the Convent grounds to help with screening. Planting began two years ago, so when the construction is complete, the trees will be several years old.

Mr. Francis said that the section of the CC that was built in the 1980s also has problems. For example, it needed renovations after an antifreeze flood from the air conditioning units at the top of the building. Parts of the building are already being revitalized, and the underlying structure is strong.

Mr. Francis displayed the schedule for the vault and garage:

  • Design-build kickoff meeting: September 2019
  • 100% design submission: February 2020
  • Construction mobilization: March 2020
  • Inspections and commissioning: January 2021
  • Occupancy: May 2021

Ms. Roberts said that NIH’s historic preservation officer has consulted with the Maryland Historical Trust, which is generally in agreement with the plan. NIH is also consulting with the National Capital Planning Commission. The National Environmental Policy Act Environmental Impact Statement process is underway, and a draft document will be released in the fall.

Mr. Francis displayed photographs of spalling concrete in the existing ACRF garage. Repairs and preventive measures to keep concrete from falling take significant time and money, and part of the garage will be taken down.


  • Ms. Abeles asked what the Convent is, and the NIH staff explained that the building is a former convent that now contains student residences and research facilities.
  • Ms. Witt asked what would happen to the existing wing of the CC that supports surgery, radiology, and lab medicine. Mr. Francis said that it is slated for demolition.
  • Ms. Abeles asked whether it is true that the CC is the biggest brick building in the world. Ms. Roberts responded that she had also heard that but did not know if it was true.
  • Ms. Michaels asked whether the demolished area of the CC would be rebuilt as clinical space or laboratories. Ms. Roberts said that NIH believes the site would be a good place for clinical offices but has not yet made a plan.
  • Ms. Michaels asked where people would park while construction is underway. Mr. Francis said that temporary parking would be created in what is now a grassy area. When the construction is complete, the area would be converted back to grass.

Farewell Presentation

Tony Clifford, Chief Engineer, ORF, OD, NIH

Mr. Clifford said that the CLC is unusual, because not many federal agencies and communities work closely together. He felt that working with the CLC to solve problems had been a privilege.

Mr. Clifford displayed photographs from his retirement celebration. He said that it meant a lot that NIH, a science organization, celebrated an engineer. Mr. Canady had served as master of ceremonies, and Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD, had been the keynote speaker. Mr. Clifford was appointed NIH Chief Engineer Emeritus and was sworn into the NIH Division of Police. NIH is also renaming the NIH Apprenticeship Program, which aims to bring young people into the government as carpenters, electricians, and other craftspeople, after Mr. Clifford. The program is a partnership with the state of Maryland and Montgomery College and sends students to college to learn trades.

Mr. Clifford also displayed a print of the Congressional Record. Senator Chris Van Hollen had read a tribute to him on the Senate floor. Mr. Clifford credited Joan Kleinman, the senator’s state director, for the honor and said it had been a pleasure working with her and Senator Van Hollen. He also showed photos from past events with former Senator Barbara Mikulski and former members of the House of Representatives Louis Stokes and Connie Morella.

Mr. Clifford said that he had been involved with the CLC for 30 years. He listed some of the issues NIH and the CLC had dealt with in that time:

  • Concerns that an incinerator on campus was causing cancer in the neighborhood
  • Construction noise and other impacts from new buildings
  • Lighting from buildings and cars
  • Erecting the security fence after September 11, 2001, resulting in the South Lawn
  • County water pipes that ended at the South Lawn, contributing to marshy conditions

Making the South Lawn into an area for the community to enjoy was an important accomplishment for Mr. Clifford. He calculated that more than half of the buildings on the NIH campus had been built on his watch. After he retires, he will return to NIH as a special volunteer and will be able to provide background and advice to ORS and ORF.

Mr. Clifford concluded by saying that only when citizens, government, and organizations communicate and work together do things get done, and the CLC is a shining star in that area.


Ms. Witt asked when the sidewalk along Wisconsin Avenue would be redone. Ms. Roberts said that most of it was supposed to be done in the fall, but she believed that the detour around the Metro station would remain until the whole plaza is finished later in the year.

Ms. Wade said that she had not been able to attend the January meeting, which covered a proposed new gas station on the NIH campus. She asked how close the gas station would be to Whitehall. Mr. Moss said that it would be on Lot 41, closer to the north side than the south side.

Mr. Fetchko said that contractors’ trucks in Lot 41 had caused noise problems for years. He asked whether the gas station would be open all hours. Ms. Roberts said that it would, but only NIH vehicles would be able to use it. The master plan has been vetted and presented to the public and has undergone some review with the county and the state. The National Capital Planning Commission is currently reviewing the plan. Ms. Roberts added that residents should keep NIH informed if there are noise issues or other disturbances. She expected that there would be upticks during snow emergencies because of the plows.

Mr. Clifford said that Lot 41 had been a long-standing issue, and William Floyd from ORF was creating a policy to track who uses the lot and to find contractors who inappropriately leave equipment there or use the lot as a dumping site. The lot is especially an issue for the Whitehall Condominium, because those buildings look down on it. Mr. Canady added that he is part of the team working on the new policy, which will help create something that is enforceable.

Mr. Hartz said that earlier in the spring, NIH had completed a stormwater improvement project on the south side of Lot 41. Water was flooding the Bethesda Trolley Trail, so a new swale had been cut to create a shallow berm that would keep water off the trail. The areas disturbed by the project were becoming reestablished with grass, and in the future, snowmelt will be swept into the swale and have less impact on trees.

Mr. Hartz said that another large project for improvements inside the NIH fence had also been funded. A large drainage and planting project within the Convent grounds was completed in the spring. Planting renovations are in progress around Building 1, the south side of Building 31, and the Family Lodge healing garden. In addition, a project to remediate an erosion problem on a hill leading down to the Children’s Inn had been funded last year, and now a project to plant the hill has been funded. The work will be done in the next few weeks.


Ms. Blackburn adjourned the meeting at 5:15 p.m.

Next Meeting: September 19, 2019


CLC Members

Nancy Abeles, Bethesda Crest
Deborah Michaels, Glenbrook Village Homeowners Association
Jeannette Wade, Whitehall Condominium Association
Andrea Witt, Huntington Parkway Citizens Association


Amy Blackburn, OCPL
Lemuel Canady, ORF/OD
Anthony Clifford, ORF/OD
Tony Francis, ORF, OD
Brandon Hartz, ORF/OD
Colleen A. McGowan, ORS/OD
Brad Moss, ORF/ORS/OD
Susan Roberts, ORF/OD


Michael Fetchko, NLM

This page last reviewed on August 16, 2019