GW ups Elliott ante

The University responded to Zoning Commission requests last week by putting dollar figures and timeframes on offers for final approval of the new Elliott School project. Community members said the proposal is still unsubstantial, and have until May 7 to officially respond.

The Zoning Commission will rule on the package May 13.

University General Counsel Charles Barber said the revised package includes more detailed language which “makes the conditions of the agreement more enforceable.”

The current amenities include:

o Offering space in the Hall on Virginia Avenue for Sholl’s Cafeteria and $750,000 in financial assistance.
o 5,000 square feet of retail space in the new building and Mitchell Hall.
o $10,000 for a traffic light at 21st and F streets

The proposal previously failed to state how much and where retail space would be provided and how much the traffic light would cost. Many of the amenities provide a second option if they are not met within a year.

Other measures include additional University Police patrols, a graduate student to serve as a librarian, who will get free tuition and boarding, in the West End Public Library and 20 free “Crossfire” tickets for each show.

“Most of the task we had was to present (the amenities) in detail where they could be enforced as conditions of the zoning order,” Barber said.

Barber cited the condition that binds the University to allowing students and faculty from The School Without Walls to take free GW classes.

“We added that the School Without Walls faculty and students use 120 courses per year, it was something that was specifically requested,” he said.

Barber said many of the additions came from a discussion with the West End Citizens Association, a local advocacy group.

“We feel there were a substantial set of benefits added from that discussion, like the West End Public Library,” Barber said.

WECA Chairwoman Barbara Kahlow declined to comment but said she is submitting a statement to the Zoning Commission May 7.

Barber said another, larger residential association in Foggy Bottom, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, has a “broader set of concerns” with the new building.

“It’s unfortunate that they have always been on the sidelines and have never come forward to negotiate,” Barber said.

He said the ANC is “out of step” with the Zoning Commission, citing that the ANC is opposed to several things the Zoning Commission has approved.

Barber said the Zoning Commission orally indicated it does not have a problem with students living in the new Elliott School.

Chairwoman of ANC-2A Elizabeth Elliott said the organization, which had a special meeting Saturday night, did “not see anything new” with the revised package.

She said the agreement that WECA made with the University does not reflect the view of the ANC.

Elliott said the new package is a “little bit more detailed” but includes only “a lot of fuzzy, feel-good things that are ultimately meaningless.”

“We want something substantial to go back to the community, and the amenities package is just part of that,” she said. “We want the Zoning Commission to reject the whole project, the whole thing is out of line.”

Elliott said she doubts it will pass the Zoning Commission, and if it does, she hopes it will be overturned through appeal.

Barber said he is hopeful.

“We have maintained a construction schedule and hope the building will be ready for occupancy in August,” Barber said.

He said the amenities will have little direct effect on the building, with the exception of the retail space, which required the University to remove seven beds when it designed the building.

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