The Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s attempt to prevent the University from using the new Elliott School of International Affairs building at 1957 E St. is a reactionary and troubling last-ditch effort to stonewall the University from fulfilling its academic mission and obligation to students.
The D.C. Zoning Commission will meet Tuesday to decide whether to let GW use an already under construction Elliott School site that will give students much-needed classroom and housing space. While D.C. decisions often run counter to common sense, this one should be cut and dry.
A zoning commissioner gave the green light for the project in 2000, and GW began building. Then neighbors complained, and GW came to the table and offered $500,000 to feed the homeless, agreed to limit new rooms to upperclassmen and add retail space for the community. The West End Citizens Association accepted these terms and agreed not to protest the University’s plan, but it was not enough for the ANC. Now residents who do not even seem sure what they dislike so much about the building are putting GW in jeopardy of losing a building that could positively impact thousands of people’s lives with no cost to the neighborhood.
Retracting approval for the Elliott School site would be the wrong decision. It would mean going back on a previous decision because of neighborhood pressure. And if the commission goes down that road, it will have irreversible effects on GW, which would reverberate throughout the neighborhood in only negative ways.
Keep in mind the Zoning Commission has mandated that the University must house 70 percent of its undergraduates on campus, and Foggy Bottom residents complain about students running rampant in their neighborhood. The building would house 200 students in a corner of campus away from that neighborhood. Keep in mind an innovative new center for international center will bring prestige and great events not only to GW but the surrounding community as well. Keep in mind that one less building to use on or near campus means another that will be bought somewhere else in the future.
The right decision is clear, and, for the future of Foggy Bottom and GW, we implore the commission to make it.