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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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ANC opposes Square 54 plan

A local elected body voted three to two Thursday to oppose GW’s commercial investment plans on the old hospital site south of Washington Circle.

The Foggy Bottom/West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which advises the D.C. Zoning Commission on local development, opposed the University’s plans for a large commercial complex. The proposal for Square 54 includes two towers – one with office space and the other with apartments – with a ground level of retail space.

Boston Properties, the company leasing the space from GW for the next 60 years, presented the complex as similar to Bethesda Row, an entertainment destination right off of the Bethesda Metro stop.

ANC Chairman Vince Micone read aloud the letter sent to the Zoning Commission and said there were four aspects of GW’s plan he and the two other ANC members opposed. One was the lack of a guarantee that the planned 42,000-square-foot grocery store would actually be built. In comparison, the Watergate Safeway is 11,000 square feet.

Micone said the ANC also opposed the proposal because he said GW’s traffic study was inaccurate. He also disputed the University’s assertion that large commercial development is consistent with surrounding buildings.

“The IFC building should not have been put there as high as it is,” Micone said. Since the International Finance Corporation Building was being used as a comparison by GW, the 130-foot structures proposed on Square 54 are too tall, Micone said.

Michael Thomas, an ANC commissioner who was chair when the current Campus Plan was passed in 2000, said he does not believe Square 54 is consistent with the plan. The Campus Plan is an agreement between GW and neighborhood residents about University development; GW has been working to get a new plan passed by the Zoning Commission to supplant the current one.

Thomas said a proposed 50 percent increase to Square 54 – above the original plan – is not a welcome change.

“A 50 percent increase (in building space) was never contemplated,” Thomas said. “No one would have ever thought that was a remote possibility in 2000.”

Thomas and other residents at the meeting criticized the idea of a grocery store. They said it would fail to have enough customers.

“I don’t believe there is ever going to be a grocery store,” Thomas said. “I would want the Zoning Commission to strictly condition their (approval) on unconditioned letters of consent (of a grocery chain moving in).”

The University’s presentation at the hearing highlighted the grocery store, shopping and increased tax revenue for D.C. Sherry Rutherford, managing director of Real Estate Planning and Development, assured the ANC and community that if the 20-Year Campus Plan is not approved and Square 54 is, the University will have to reclaim the commercial development.

“There is a recapture agreement built into the contract if GW cannot meet its on-campus housing requirement,” Rutherford said.

GW Media Relations Tracy Schario said Square 54 would benefit all of Foggy Bottom.

“In short, Square 54 is a win-win-win for the University, the city and the neighbor,” Schario wrote in an e-mail.

Commissioners Anne Savage and David Lehrman voted against the ANC’s protest of the Square 54 proposal. Savage won’t be on the commission next year because she was defeated by GW senior L. Asher Corson in the midterm election Tuesday.

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