University receives major facelift during busy summer months

More than 1,200 new people came to GW this summer. Though not students or faculty members, these men and women have played an integral role in the progress of the University and have created significant change on GW’s campus.

These new faces are the hundreds of architects, contractors and construction workers who dramatically revamped the school during the past three months. Many campus landmarks were built, renovated, changed or torn down as many students worked and relaxed during their summer breaks.

“This summer, we had a lot more large projects ongoing,” said Michelle Honey, director of architecture, engineering and construction. “There were a lot of sweaty brows and Excedrin headaches.”

And while many locations were getting finishing touches this weekend, much more is expected to be completed in the short and long term, which may make GW a different institution in a few years.

“What students need to realize is that we are in a time of history,” said Deputy Treasurer John Schauss, who toured the campus Thursday. “And making history is dynamic.”

A dusty summertime

Honey said although the summer months hold the largest workload for her office, some projects cannot be completed in that time span.

“Our window is always the summer and our target is always the start of the academic year,” she said. “But we work year round. It’s hard to build a new building just during the summer.”

As students and faculty head back to campus, they may need their own tour to help them weave their way through the changes and continuing construction zones.

One of the most noticeable changes is the complete renovation of the Mid-Campus Quad, which lies between Lisner Auditorium and Gelman Library. That spot, which has seen numerous enhancements during the past few years, has been completely overhauled. A fountain and benches have been added and the Mid-Campus Quad will soon also house a gazebo, or tempietto. A temporary food stand featuring Au Bon Pain products also was added until a permanent take-out stand is completed.

The Mid-Campus Quad, which is centered between the three gates the University installed two years ago, also received a new name. The area was named Kogan Plaza, after a donation from Bart Kogan, a Los Angeles real estate developer and a GW graduate in the late 1960s. An engraved granite sign behind the famous GW clock denotes the new namesake.

The entire plaza will be lighted at night, and Schauss said he hopes it will become a new central location for students and their families.

As parents arrived to move students in Saturday, the plaza still looked like a construction site. Fences and orange cones marked off some areas, while construction equipment lingered. Schauss said the finishing touches would be placed on Kogan Plaza in the next couple of weeks.

The ground floor of the Marvin Center reopened this summer after almost a year of construction. The redesigned space was enhanced to provide more opportunities for students. Several eateries were brought to the ground floor, providing frozen yogurt, fruit smoothies and pretzels. In addition, Colonial Computers and STA Travel expanded their spaces, and WRGW installed a state-of-the-art radio facility.

Honey said 10 new food venues have opened on campus. Several of them arrived at J Street, which was beefed up to resemble a food court at any major shopping mall. Gone are some of the generic food stations, replaced by well-known eateries such as Chick-Fil-A and Taco Bell. Schauss said additional seating will be provided at J Street, and many of the stations will have expanded hours. In addition, Mitchell Hall’s Cortile Cafe was replaced by two fast-food eateries: Subway and Little Caesar’s Pizza. Both places will be open late and deliver, Schauss said.

The fourth floor of the Marvin Center also received a facelift. Bright carpeting and larger hallways livened up the student organization workspace. Student groups will return to their offices this week, said Michael Petron, Marvin Center Governing Board chair. A Muslim prayer room is also planned for the floor.

The Marvin Center’s fifth floor will also see improvements. A sports bar and expanded game room will be finished by the end of September, Petron said. And since the University Club moved to F Street, the third floor will have more space for students, he said.

The new University Club is complete and open for business. The building, next to Thurston Hall, will host receptions for faculty and administrators and will be open for membership.

The famous F Street Club, a longtime Washington landmark, has closed and will be turned into the new Alumni House in October, Schauss said. Also on that block, the Association of Life Underwriter’s office, which the University purchased over the summer, will house its current occupants for about a year, and then University administrators will move in.

GW is also expanding its boundaries south of F Street. The University purchased space behind Mitchell Hall, where GW plans to build a new building for the Elliott School of International Affairs. The space will also be used for housing.

The big changes

The most notable purchase of the summer has both functional and historical significance. The Premier Hotel, a Washington landmark for its role in the Watergate break-in, was bought by GW in June and has been converted into a residence hall for 386 freshmen.

Plastic still lines the floors in the former Howard Johnson hotel, and electrical wire protrudes from all sides. Parents looked like bellhops, rolling large dollies across the dorm. And at the old America’s Best Diner, GW staffers looked around the property, still determining the best use for the space. Schauss said the former diner will become a location for student dining, and will feature guest chefs and a rotating menu.

Although most of the changes are expected to be completed within the next few weeks, two large holes remain on campus. The new School of Media and Public Affairs building, adjacent to 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., broke ground last May. Construction workers removed the parking lot in that space and will continue to work throughout the year, as they will with the new Health and Wellness Center property.

Honey said her office will work to inform students about big projects and try to minimize the disruption to their lives.

“We’re doing all we can to make it right,” Schauss said. “We will move it, change it, delay it, if we have to.”

But Schauss notes each delay costs money, so students may have to deal with some construction during classes.

Although the situation may not be optimal, Schauss said he believes the faculty and campus will be enthused by the construction.

“When you have a crane on campus, people get excited,” he said. “The energy and the excitement will get transmitted to our students.”

He said he is not concerned by a vocal minority that is against construction at GW, many of whom are longtime community residents.

“We need to work with our neighbors and try to prove we are trying to enrich our students,” Schauss said.

More projects, including a new residence hall and the new hospital, are in the development phase.

At the end of a summer of enormous growth, Honey said she is excited about the changes her department has made and continue to make to campus.

“We never relax,” she said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.