GW opted out of an agreement last week to buy The Gallery, a luxury apartment building in Rosslyn, Va., forcing the University to find alternative housing for 97 students who had signed up to live there this fall. University officials said they did not receive enough interest in the building to go through with the deal.
Administrators attributed the lack of interest to the building’s location in northern Virginia and the short amount of time GW had to market the housing option.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the building, which included a putting green and Jacuzzi along with plush rooms, would have been the “most luxurious student housing…on the planet.”
Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said if 200 students had reserved spots in The Gallery, the University would have purchased the building. GW originally slated 125 units for students, with the remaining units going to faculty, staff and outside renters, Chernak said.
“With that amount of vacancy, it was too much deficit for the University to carry,” Chernak said. Trachtenberg said it wasn’t worth losing “a couple of million dollars.”
Chernak said GW signed an initial agreement to buy The Gallery April 16, but had a 30-day period where it could back out of the deal without incurring any financial penalties. He said GW decided not to buy The Gallery Wednesday – one day before the deadline – during a meeting with Trachtenberg and other senior University officials.
Dean of Students Linda Donnels said the number of units leased to students as of Wednesday would not have adequately covered the cost of the building, but she would not disclose the cost.
Chernak has said the building would have cost “tens of millions” of dollars.
“Interest wasn’t in the level we would have liked to have seen,” Donnels said. “We couldn’t get enough people for our needs.”
GW announced the purchase of The Gallery 10 days before the housing lottery, leaving little time to publicize the building. Housing selection was originally scheduled for the end of February, but was postponed until April while the University scrambled to find additional housing, which included The Gallery.
The University first expressed interest in buying the Rosslyn building in November, when it was determined that GW didn’t have enough beds for about 500 students on campus, Chernak said.
After on-campus housing was
secured for all rising sophomores, however, University officials determined that it would only need to house 300 additional students, which it could accomplish by housing students on campus, Chernak said.
“(Buying The Gallery) wasn’t a wise investment because we had alternative beds on campus for people who wanted them anyway,” he said.
Chernak called his January estimate that GW still wouldn’t have enough beds “a bit conservative.”
“A lot of things changed,” said Chernak, who noted that the delay in the housing selection process caused several juniors and seniors seeking on-campus housing to pursue off-campus living arrangements.
In an effort to generate interest in The Gallery, GW provided shuttle transportation for students wanting to take tours of the building and placed several full-page advertisements in The Hatchet.
University officials said students who signed pre-reservation forms for The Gallery have been notified via e-mail that they have until Monday to express interest in on-campus housing. Donnels said all students that want on-campus housing will receive an offer within the next few days.
Donnels said students that signed Intent-to-Return forms would have first choice from upperclassman residence halls and Columbia Plaza. Students that did not sign ITR forms can still receive on-campus housing if they express interest in it, but will pick after students that signed ITR forms, Donnels said.
Donnels said an additional 26 rising juniors and seniors – students that did not sign Gallery lease agreements but still have not received housing offers – will be receiving on-campus offers within the next few days.
“All students will get on-campus housing,” she said.
Donnels said all students requesting on-campus housing would be accommodated because many vacancies are created by students that receive housing offers but decline to accept them.
Some students that signed lease agreements for The Gallery said the University treated them unfairly.
“They’ll accommodate us, but where, in a single in Mitchell Hall?” sophomore Jesse Krinsky said. “I shouldn’t have to live there because GW housing screwed up.”
Chernak said the University also declined to purchase The Gallery because it wouldn’t help GW comply with a city order that requires it to house 70 percent of its undergraduate population within campus boundaries by 2006. Currently, the order requires GW to house 70 percent of its students – including all freshman and sophomores – on campus or outside Foggy Bottom.
“(The Gallery) does not advance our goal but we weren’t going to be in compliance anyhow,” said University Senior Counsel Charles Barber, noting that GW will defy the city order by housing freshman in the Hall on Virginia Avenue – a residence hall outside city-defined campus boundaries.
Chernak said the funds initially marked for The Gallery will be used to finance residence hall construction on campus. He said the University is looking to build residence halls in the parking lots adjacent to Francis Scott Key Hall and the School Without Walls.
The Board of Trustees gave consent to the construction of a hall next to FSK Hall Friday. While plans have not been finalized for either residence hall, officials said the building next to FSK, set to house more than 300 students, is scheduled for completion by 2006.
-Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.
This article appeared in the May 19, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.