Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, A Home of Dignity, Respect, and Love Since 1993

As part of Whitman-Walker’s 40th anniversary, officially January 13, 2018, we’re sharing 40 stories to help tell the narrative of the Whitman-Walker community.

This week we highlight the story and redevelopment of the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center (ETMC) as we look forward to its continued future on the corner of 14th and R Street NW. Opened in 1993, the iconic ETMC building carries great significance to LGBTQ communities nationally, but holds a special place in the hearts of past and present residents of the greater DC, Maryland and Virginia area. Within these ETMC walls, Whitman-Walker staff provided stigma-free healthcare and legal services throughout the AIDS epidemic and beyond. ETMC was a sanctuary for people who felt ostracized by society at large; a place where people, especially those affected by HIV and those who identified as LGBTQ, were treated with dignity, respect and love.

Former Whitman-Walker board president Riley Temple and executive director Jim Graham stand in front of Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center before Whitman-Walker moves in in 1993. 

In early 2017, Whitman-Walker Health and Fivesquares Development looked for a way to honor the ETMC building before it was set to begin construction that fall with architect Annabelle Selldorf. The team wanted to pay homage to the beacon of hope the building symbolized for so many. ETMC had served as a safe space for care and community gathering
when the first treatment options for HIV/AIDS became available in the ‘90s.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor at Whitman-Walker in the 90s.

Fivesquares Development approached the Whitman-Walker team with the idea of putting a mural on the Riggs Street side of ETMC – and working with local artists at No Kings Collective to make it happen. No Kings Collective, a DC-based creative agency, presented mural concepts for not just the one Riggs Street wall, but the entire ETMC building. The final product was a 30,000 square foot mural with transgender-flag inspired colors and black camouflage reflective of the HIV/AIDS war that Whitman-Walker had survived, but lost so many to. The project grew to become “The Lot at the Liz” – a summer community engagement series with events geared at providing safe space for LGBTQ communities and people from all walks of life.

From the October 2017 groundbreaking ceremony of the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center.

The beige ETMC building that had been a lifeline for so many during the AIDS epidemic often went unnoticed by passersby on 14th Street in the 2010s. People didn’t know the history and importance of the work that had been done at ETMC in the 90s and 2000s. With the mural added, passersby could no longer ignore the building.

The Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center under construction in July 2018. Photo by Lili Leonard. 

The end redevelopment project, currently under construction and set to be completed in 2019, will create an approximately 160,000-square-foot, mixed-use building that will include an LGBTQ inclusive cultural center and office space for Whitman-Walker, as well as retail and residential space for new tenants. The joint-venture redevelopment serves as a physical re-commitment to Whitman-Walker’s community and its mission of providing affirming health and wellness services to the greater DC community. Whitman-Walker plans to be around for years to come empowering all persons to live healthy, love openly, and achieve equality and inclusion.

A rendering of the finished Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center redevelopment.

With Whitman-Walker as the majority owner in the joint-venture with Fivesquares, the finished redevelopment will serve as a partial funding source to Whitman-Walker and support the health center as it continues to care for 26 percent of the people living with HIV in the district. With Whitman-Walker being reimbursed only .70 cents for every $1 it invests towards providing care to its patients, creative funding streams like this redevelopment are crucial to the health and wellbeing of Whitman-Walker’s patients.

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