GW adds Columbia Plaza option

GW upperclassmen will choose from rooms in Columbia Plaza in GW’s March housing lottery, the first time the building has been available to on-campus residents.

When GW acquired a 28.55 percent share of Columbia Plaza in February last year, the University provided students with first pick of any rooms that open and extended the Student Code of Conduct to student residents there.

The Community Living and Learning Center created a Columbia Plaza Housing Program last year to give GW students, faculty and staff members a chance to select rooms that become vacant in the complex before the general public.

Linda Schutjer, associate general counsel for GW, said by enforcing the Code of Conduct the University will protect its property interests in the building.

“We each found we had investment concerns,” she said.

When a tenant leaves a room in Columbia Plaza, building management first contacts GW Housing Services, which holds a waiting list of students, staff or faculty interested in renting a room in the building. The University accepts the open units only when they have someone to fill the space, Schutjer said.

There is no limit to the number of rooms GW may reserve, said Andrew Sonn, director of housing services.

“We’re happy to offer how ever many (rooms) are open to us,” Sonn said. “We have to be able to address and use resources (as they become available to us).”

Students who enter Columbia Plaza through Housing Services are not subject to salary requirements and do not pay a security deposit like other tenants, Sonn said.

The addition of Columbia Plaza to the housing lottery comes at a time when GW is under fire from Foggy Bottom residents for expanding outside the boundaries of its campus plan.

Foggy Bottom residents said designating the complex as a residence hall would violate its status as an investment property, and further GW’s expansion into the surrounding neighborhood.

Schutjer said GW has no legal options for converting the apartment complex into a residence hall. Under D.C. law, 95 percent of the building must be occupied by students for it to be considered a residence hall.

About one-fourth of units in Columbia Plaza are currently occupied by students, Schutjer said.

D.C. tenant purchase rights allow residents to remain in an apartment for as long as they follow their lease.

“The District is very protective of its tenants,” Schutjer said.

GW’s limited share in the building does not give the University any control over building operations.

The campus plan has been an outlet for University criticism, Schutjer said.

“It’s been a real lightning rod,” she said. “A lot of people in the neighborhood believe the (boundary) line in the campus plan is a fence or moat.”

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