Zoning board approves new SMPA building

The District’s zoning board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve construction of a new School of Media and Public Affairs building on the corner of 21st and H streets.

“This is just wonderful news,” said SMPA Director Jean Folkerts. “It’s definitely a cause for celebration.”

The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment’s 4-0 vote Wednesday means the six-story building has cleared all the hurdles that could have prevented it from being constructed. Folkerts said the next step will be intensive discussion about the building’s design.

“We are pleased that we got the approval, and we are moving ahead with the design development and construction drawing,” said Associate Vice President for Business Affairs Al Ingle, whose office spearheads the planning of new construction on campus.

Ingle said he expects the University to break ground on the new facility late next year or in early 2000. Students and faculty will move into the building in 2001.

At a BZA hearing Oct. 21, students, architects and administrators joined Folkerts to lobby for the approval of the new building. But Dorothy Miller, the chair of the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, presented the organization’s opposition to the project. The ANC opposed further campus construction until the University updates its campus plan.

With the construction of the new building, SMPA will consolidate its departments, which are housed on the fourth floor of Phillips Hall and in a renovated church on 20th Street.

Ingle called the building a “high technology” center with studio space and teaching facilities equipped with cameras and control panels. He said the building also will be home to a 400-seat teaching space. The Dimock Gallery, located in the basement of Lisner Auditorium, will move to the new building, he said.

“The new building is going to provide wonderful new space for faculty and students in SMPA for teaching, labs and meetings,” Columbian School of Arts and Sciences Dean Lester Lefton said. “It’s really going to allow them to meet their educational and research goals.”

Another advantage of the new facility is the expanded space it will offer for GW to team up with the District’s media outlets. Folkerts said the University has had discussions with CNN and C-Span about making accommodations that will allow the networks to easily broadcast from the building.

-Matt Berger contributed to this report.

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