Workers set to raze old hospital

With demolition of the former GW Hospital beginning this week, a new facility built on the cleared site could include academic, residential and commercial space, University officials said

The building, located across the street from the new hospital, is being razed with a wrecking ball and claw. Demolition will last until December.

While GW officials will not meet to discuss the site’s future until demolition is complete, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said a new building would most likely be a multipurpose facility. Trachtenberg said restaurants and retail space are a possibility for the lower level of the building, with offices, high-end housing and academic facilities occupying the upper levels.

“What you’ve got here is a Rubik’s Cube,” Trachtenberg said. “Things are going horizontally and vertically at the same time.” Trachtenberg said the academic portion of the building could house faculty offices, classrooms and lab space for the School of Public Health and Health Services, which is currently located in Ross Hall.

“The proximity of the space to the Medical Center tends to give some greater plausibility (to) using the space for health-related purposes,” he said. Residential space in the building would probably be high-end housing for professors and physicians, Trachtenberg said.

Officials decided to demolish the 55-year-old building after the new hospital opened a year ago. Since the move, the building has been boarded up and dismantled, with care being given to the handling of asbestos, copper and other hazardous materials in the building, said Bob Ludwig, assistant director of media relations.

University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said GW would proceed slowly while formulating plans for a new building.

“(This) is a big decision because it’s a big parcel of land, and we want to take our time in coming to a decision,” he said.

Trachtenberg said the building’s location, on Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the District’s main thoroughfares, will play a role in the design and use of the building.

“You want to get the most building you can for the least amount of money,” he said.

Demolition will begin in the northeast corner of the building and move back toward the loading dock area where the rubble will be removed. Materials will be taken away through a pre-arranged recycling route in dump trucks for approximately 90 days. After the building is taken down, remaining debris will be leveled and a wooden perimeter fence will be installed.

A chain-link fence will block off 22nd and I streets. Sidewalks in front of residence halls and on 23rd Street will remain open. There should be no traffic lane closures as a result of the demolition, Ludwig said. He added that the University did not approach local businesses or neighbors before deciding to demolish the building because “the area is pretty self-contained.”

“We’ve let the neighbors know over the past couple of years that we plan to tear the old hospital down, so there shouldn’t be any problems,” Barber said.

Thalia Johnson, a director of the Foggy Bottom Association, said the demolition would adversely affect residents. The cost of the demolition is estimated to be about $2.8 million. Barber said the University must obtain zoning and building permits from the city before beginning construction of a new building. “A lot of it will depend on the hospitality of the city and whether we ask for permission for anything other than as a matter of right,” Trachtenberg said.

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