Local residents voice disdain about new campus plan proposal

The University unveiled its plan for expansion within campus boundaries during the next decade and received harsh criticism from the community at a hostile Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting Wednesday night.

The campus plan, submitted to the ANC for review, is highlighted by several new proposed buildings for academic and administrative use, including the north side of the 2100 block of G Street and the land now occupied by several privately owned fraternity houses.

According to the plan, the University hopes to convert several apartment buildings into residence halls in the next decade and develop academic or administrative buildings in several current parking lots, including ones adjacent to the new School of Media and Public Affairs building and Funger Hall.

The University refused to elaborate on plans for the GW Hospital site once a new hospital is built across the street.

University officials announced they will not change the physical boundary of the school. They said they will continue to purchase properties outside the boundary when the opportunity arises and said it is a matter-of-right, meaning within the use laid out by zoning laws.

But what angered residents at the meeting was a lack of information about GW expansion outside the campus plan, which is not required to be explained in the document.

This campus plan, which goes into great detail, has very little concern for the community, ANC Chair Barbara Spillinger said. The community wants to know what you’re doing outside the campus plan.

Residents were concerned about purchases of residential property outside of the boundary given the University’s announced long-term goal of housing 80 percent of students. GW received criticism for purchasing the Hall on Virginia Avenue last summer and its plans to create more residence halls outside of campus borders.

What we object to is the fact they haven’t changed the campus boundaries, even though they bought land outside, Spillinger said. They do have a legal right to do that, but we’re not sure they have a moral right.

Spillinger called the campus plan process flawed.

ANC Commissioner Steven Mandelbaum said he was concerned the University is using its properties within the boundaries for academic use and then placing the residence halls outside.

We have no desire to buy up Foggy Bottom, GW Senior Counsel Charles Barber said. We have made selective purchases, which we think provide the opportunity to provide housing without burden to the community.

Local residents called the proposal a farce and said the University was not listening to the community’s concerns.

You’re going to do what you want anyway, and we have no way to enforce what you say you are going to do, said Ellie Becker, Foggy Bottom Association president.

Bernard Demczuk, GW assistant vice president for Government Relations, said the meeting is the first step in the process of garnering ANC support.

There is always the value in discussing concerns with people who are opposed to it, Demczuk said. Audience members frequently yelled comments to Demczuk during his presentation.

The campus plan needs to be passed by the District Board of Zoning Adjustment, and GW is seeking the ANC’s endorsement. The document covers expansion from years 2000 to 2010. The 1985 campus plan expires at the end of 2000.

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