GW will begin building new hospital in fall

GW received final approval to build a new hospital this month, ending a tumultuous battle that started February 1998.

But some residents say the war is far from over.

The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment gave its approval Aug. 6, but outlined a list of conditions the hospital must follow. Restrictions on the hospital include widening sidewalks, working with vendors to restrict deliveries during certain hours and enclosing the loading dock area. But residents called these conditions unenforceable.

The new hospital is set to be constructed between New Hampshire Avenue and 23rd Street on the current site of a 265-space parking lot. A new parking garage will replace the parking spaces, wrote Betty King, the one dissenting vote in the three-to-one BZA decision July 30.

The residents’ lingering concerns prompted the Foggy Bottom Association to file a request with the D.C. Court of Appeals, asking them to review the BZA decision, charging the BZA order as “arbitrary, capricious and in violation of the law.”

“Maintenance of adequate safety standards and of residential values of the adjoining neighborhood is required by law,” Foggy Bottom Association President Ellie Becker said in a prepared statement. “And we do not believe the BZA order satisfied these goals.”

Amy Pianalto, media relations coordinator for the hospital, said hospital officials plan to break ground in early October after they clear their last hurdle: obtaining a building permit from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. She declined further comment. According to an article in the Washington Business Journal, Hospital CEO Phil Schaengold said he does not expect to encounter problems obtaining the permit.

The new facility will be the first acute-care hospital to be constructed in the District in 20 years, according to the Business Journal. The new hospital will include a new emergency room twice the size of the current emergency room, larger operating rooms and consolidation of women’s services onto one floor.

But despite potential benefits, some residents still maintain the hospital needs to pay attention to other resident concerns.

“We’re all in favor of a world-class, up-to-date teaching hospital,” said Michael Thomas, Foggy Bottom Association member. “No one would say we’re against all the things they’re trying to improve, but the question is whether we can get those things without sacrificing the protection that we feel is protected by the law.”

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