New hospital plan passes major hurdle

GW won approval for a replacement hospital from the District Board of Zoning Adjustment May 19 against the wishes of local residents.

The BZA’s approval eventually will be accompanied this summer by a written order, which will specify conditions for the new hospital. Once the order is received, a date for groundbreaking and a timeline for construction will be set, said Amy Pianalto, media relations coordinator for the GW Hospital.

When GW and its partner in the hospital, Universal Health Services, Inc., announced plans for the replacement hospital, it was scheduled to open in January 2001.

The new six-story hospital will be located on 23rd Street, directly across from the current hospital and adjacent to the Foggy Bottom Metro station. The $96 million, 371-bed facility will be the District’s first new hospital in more than 20 years.

“We feel like we’re keeping with (Mayor) Anthony Williams’ goal of revitalizing the city,” said Barbara Porter, GW’s director of public affairs. “It’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility, and we’re going to continue the tradition of providing quality patient care for District residents.”

Approval of the hospital came despite the protests of residents in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Ellie Becker, president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said the location of the new hospital is “an unfortunate site.”

“None of us are against having a modern hospital,” Becker said. “This was just a really bad place for it.”

The new hospital pushes the edge of GW’s campus further into the neighborhood, and Becker said residents are particularly concerned about the hospital’s loading dock. The dock will be located very close to several homes which will disrupt life for residents nearby. Becker also said that the hospital will make already heavy pedestrian traffic around the Metro station even worse.

“It’s going to be dreadful,” Becker said.

But Porter said in the end that the hospital will be a positive development for GW and Foggy Bottom.

`We went through the process and some changes were made to make it easier on the neighborhood,” she said. “In the long run it’s going to be a benefit to them.”

In addition to approving the hospital, the BZA approved expansion of the parking garage on 22nd and I streets. Two hundred new parking spaces will be added to the garage, which is currently used by hospital visitors and staff.

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