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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Vote on campus development delayed by Zoning Commision

The fate of GW’s 20-year campus development proposal is still unknown after the D.C. Zoning Commission voted to delay making any decision at a special public meeting Wednesday night.

Commissioners discussed concessions the University agreed to make in order to increase building density in the core of campus. The group held five hearings in fall 2006 to sift through the 2006-2025 Campus Plan, and originally set to start the approval process at the meeting, which brought about 50 students downtown.

But with apprehension arising over particulars of the development plan, commissioners said they would announce a decision Feb. 5, after receiving more specific and enforceable commitments from the University.

“Sometimes we hold off on proposed action until we get additional information … I just want the University to know how serious we are about getting these (commitments) nailed down,” Zoning Commission Chairwoman Carol Mitten said.

GW has had a 10-year Campus Plan in place since 2001, which is focused on moving undergraduate students closer to the center of campus and in school-owned housing. In order to further develop the University and its infrastructure while staying within its campus boundaries, GW set out in 2005 to create a new Campus Plan.

The 20-year Campus Plan calls for expansion of Gelman Library, several residence halls and the Marvin Center. The proposal also includes construction of a new science facility in place of the parking garage on 22nd and I streets and a cancer center near the hospital.

The Zoning Commission will allow additional construction, if the University offers benefits to the community to offset breaking development restrictions stipulated in the existing 10-year plan.

Mitten said she agreed with the school’s plan to “grow up (in height), not out (in area)” to improve the stature and academic quality of GW.

However, some of the school’s proposed benefits – or “proffers” – to the neighborhood lacked specificity, several commissioners said.

To offset future growth within the campus, GW agreed to offer the community a retail corridor on I Street from 23rd to 20th streets. Commissioners felt the University was not specific enough in its proposal to attract small businesses and not national corporations.

GW also offered the use of sustainable growth – environmentally friendly construction – as an attractive component to the plan. Commissioners agreed with Mitten that the concession was “totally vague.”

Another proffer that the commission took issue with was GW’s promise not to acquire more properties for University uses. The commissioners felt that on-campus use of University property needed to be more restricted.

“I do have concerns, however, about going forward tonight with the proposed action … and I think it would probably be important for the applicant to respond (to our suggestions),” Zoning Commissioner George Jeffries said.

Commissioners were largely pleased with GW’s proposed improvements to sidewalks and plantings around campus as well as replacing the parking garage near the hospital with one below-ground. Another well-received proffer was designating certain buildings as historically significant, which restricts development on those sites.

GW Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said he was not disappointed in the further delay of the Zoning Commission’s decision because he felt members agreed in essence with growth in the core of campus.

“The commission overall thought the density part of it was reasonable,” Katz said after the meeting.

GW Media Relations Director Tracy Schario said she understood the commission’s wariness to move forward without a response from the University.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable that they’ve come back and asked for … (more specifics),” Schario said.

“(Mitten) is asking us to find another level of detail, which they’ve periodically asked throughout the process.”

She added, “We knew the devil was going to be in the details, and we appreciate the opportunity to do this right the first time.”

Foggy Bottom Association President Joy Howell welcomed increased scrutiny of the University’s development, but still felt the commission has been wrong in how it has handled the Campus Plan.

“We’re pleased that the commission is actually trying to put some teeth into this plan,” she said. “Our overall concern still remains that the use of (this) process … will have far-reaching effects.”

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