The D.C. Zoning Commission rejected a re-worked Elliott School amenity package from GW on Friday, asking for an offer that could be more easily enforced. The board had asked GW for a better offer in March and will meet again Tuesday to decide if GW has complied.
Until the city accepts an offer from GW, the University cannot use the new Elliot School of International Affairs building that is scheduled to open in August.
“If they deny the package . the University could not use that building for its intended purpose,” GW’s Senior Counsel Charles Barber said.
When GW bought the land on E Street, the Zoning Commission and Advisory Neighborhood Commission required GW to amend its original building plans to include amenities that would benefit the neighborhood.
“It’s been much longer than anybody anticipated, with a lot of bumps along the way in terms of the process,” Barber said.
GW’s renewed package included $750,000 over five years to create a cafeteria to provide meals to low-income area residents, seminars and teacher-training for the School Without Walls, a traffic light at the intersection of 21st and F streets and expanded UPD patrols throughout Virginia Avenue and on E Street. Also included are previous offers to restrict trucks from unloading at the building during rush hour and retail space in neighboring Mitchell Hall.
The language of the amenities list was denied by the Zoning Commission Friday because of “phrasing” and “unenforceable language,” Barber said. The list was incomplete, with no definite plans, according to commissioners.
“There is no accountability or certainty that these amenities will be carried out,” Zoning Commissioner James Hannaham said.
The Zoning Commission gave GW until 3 p.m. Tuesday to create a list of amenities GW can enforce.
“They want some language that can be achieved and have an enforceable condition,” Barber said.
ANC members are not satisfied with the new package.
“Frankly, we’re not happy with the amenities,” Chair of ANC 2A Elizabeth Elliott said. “They’re so cheap; they won’t give us anything.”
She said the amenities are not worth much and could not compare to the originally proposed plans for the site.
The property was originally set to become an upscale condominium complex for Foggy Bottom residents, until GW bought it, Elliott said. The original building would also house retail space and provide jobs for local residents. She said the community could not grow because every building was becoming a “de facto dormitory.”
Elliott cited the Statesman Apartment building on F Street as an example of a student takeover. The building is now 90 percent filled by GW students, according to the D.C. Office of Planning.
“I’m really disappointed,” Elliott said. “We’re disappointed because we’ve tried to get GW to take a different route, and we don’t like them pushing residents out of here.”
The location for the new building is not within GW’s official campus boundaries, which Elliott said is the primary reason the fight continues.
“We want (GW) building within their campus boundaries, but this is how GW does everything,” Elliott said.
Other amenities GW proposed included cleaning up local parks and creating new programs to help the community.
“My problem with GW’s administrators is that none of them live around here,” Elliott said. “They are determining our fate and do not have to bear the brunt of what they create here.”
The Zoning Commission will decide on May 13 if the amenities are sufficiently valuable to the community.
“I think we’ve hit upon a certain set of amenities and look forward to enhancing the community,” Barber said.