University officials put forward $200,000 worth of community amenities at a zoning board hearing Thursday, looking to appease neighbors concerned with plans to build an 11-story office complex along Pennsylvania Avenue.
The outlined proposal for the sleek 250,000-square-foot building includes $100,000 apiece for a real-time Metro information board and office space for a neighborhood elderly support program. But the West End Citizens Association and the Foggy Bottom Association said the proposal was not enough for a project that would raze seven properties on the block.
WECA secretary Barbara Kahlow pointed out that the package was less than that offered by the Renaissance Hotel on New Hampshire Avenue, which gave more than
$400,000 in community perks, Kahlow said.
Senior Associate Vice President for Operations Alicia Knight said at the meeting that the amenities would actually add up to over $4 million, and would include seven units of affordable housing on F Street across from South Hall, ground retail, sustainable LEED features and a new streetscape.
The housing would include family-size townhouse units along F Street between FoBoGro and the Sigma Chi Fraternity house.
Patrick Kennedy, a junior and director for the Foggy Bottom Association, also said the proposal was insufficient, claiming that the inclusion of tenants such as drug stores and chain restaurants would take away from the community’s uniqueness.
“Nobody regales their peers at an alumni event 20 years after graduation with memories of eating at the Foggy Bottom T.G.I. Friday’s. It’s places like Froggy Bottom, Mehran, Thai Place and Panda Cafe that are uniquely GW and unique to the neighborhood, and there have been tons of places like that in those row houses over the years,” Kennedy said following the hearing.
Knight said after the meeting that the University is committed to “furthering small, locally owned businesses at various locations on its Foggy Bottom campus.” She pointed specifically to the Science and Engineering Hall, which will feature retail on its lower levels.
The new office complex will include more than 6,600 square feet of retail, Knight said, though more specifics have not yet been settled. It will replace four restaurants that will either shutter or relocate before 2014.
Jacob Thayer, a senior and president of the Residence Hall Association, said 58 students wrote letters supporting the proposed designs. Thayer was one of four students who testified at the hearing, in addition to members of construction advocacy group Campaign GW, who also attended.
Sophomore Madeline Louden testified in favor of the project, mentioning that the sustainable measures planned for the complex will help GW at a time in which sustainability rankings are increasing in importance.
“I believe it will greatly enhance the Foggy Bottom and West End community, just as Square 54 did,” Louden said, citing The Avenue, which opened last year.
Just hours before the meeting, the University submitted changes to the commission, which included a new agreement reached with the President Condominium concerning the alleyway that extends out onto I Street past the residential building – a point of contention over the last month due to noise and health concerns.
The University and the President Condominium Board agreed that GW would widen the alleyway for the increased incoming and outgoing traffic. The alley will lead to a parking garage and loading dock attached to the building’s rear.
Vice-chair of the Zoning Commission Marcie Cohen said the increase in parking spaces from 41 spaces to 154 spaces would intensify traffic. She also said the University should encourage the use of public transportation.
Jani Milanovich, who helped conduct a traffic survey of the area, said the project is required to have 134 parking spots. She added that the building needed the spots in order to remain competitive, and said the plan was on track with other buildings of the same size.
The zoning board will hold another open meeting on Jan. 14, 2013, before the University can start work on the complex.
At the Student Association’s meeting Monday, the group raised a bill to oppose Square 75A plans, citing a need to keep GW property for student use. The bill, which was presented in front of Knight, was defeated with eight in favor, nine opposed and 10 students choosing not to vote.