Staff Editorial: Construction woes

At 1957 E St., workers are busy building GW’s new Elliot School of International Affairs, which will house 200 students and provide much needed classroom space. But the fall 2002 estimated completion date could be jeopardized by recent actions of the Foggy Bottom/West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which has forced GW to revise the plans of a building already under construction.

Complaints from residents that the housing should not be limited to students makes little sense when they repeatedly ask GW to build more student housing. If the main worry is that the building lies off campus, those arguments should have been settled before GW obtained a building permit. Plus, the minor changes that would be made to the site, including one extra garage door and balconies on rooms, would have little impact on neighborhood residents. Residents should stop obstructing construction that will alleviate the problems facing GW and the surrounding community.

The original owner of the property obtained a “planned unit development” variance to develop the entire property, as long as the development would benefit the city in some way. In this case the benefit was additional housing in an area with a tight real estate market.
The University kept the PUD variance when it bought the property and began construction after the Zoning Commissioner approved revisions to the plans. Ground was broken, construction began and then the ANC butted in, insisting that GW changed the plans too much and that altering the type of the building’s residents – from the ordinary public to GW students – went too far.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment partly disagreed with the ANC and said GW could house only students in the new Elliot School building. On the other hand, the BZA did say some minor design modifications may be necessary for GW to retain the original PUD.

The BZA made a good decision denying the ANC’s attempts to derail a building that will provide student housing and will help GW meet the board’s earlier student housing demands. But why saddle GW with the expense of changing the plans? Foggy Bottom residents should allow GW to take reasonable steps to comply with previous neighborhood demands.

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