University gives SBPM green light

University officials gave the initial go-ahead to start construction of a new business school building, administrators said Friday. The move comes two weeks after a District court delayed the enforcement of a city order preventing GW from building non-residential facilities.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said GW’s Board of Trustees would need to affirm the decision to break ground on Ric and Dawn Duques Hall, which will be built between Funger and Madison halls on 22nd Street. He said the 37-member board could approve construction by a majority vote via e-mail and telephone or at its Oct. 17 meeting.

“We’ve sent out all the materials to the board and we asked to hear from them,” Trachtenberg said.

He said construction would take about two years, adding that GW would “move it right along” if the board approves the decision.

Earlier this month, the D.C. Court of Appeals found that GW did not have enough time to comply with a city order requiring it to house 70 percent of undergraduates within city-defined campus boundaries or outside Foggy Bottom by August 2002. The court ruled that the University now has until August 2006 to house 70 percent of its students in Foggy Bottom.

It also temporarily lifted an order requiring GW to house all freshmen and

and said the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment would have to make a decision on whether to reinstate or reject the order at a future hearing.

The University’s decision to begin construction should end a series of false starts for the $56 million facility, which administrators inaugurated at a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony in October 2002.

“It’s great news,” said Ric Duques, who along with his wife are the building’s namesakes, from his home in Osprey, Fla. “It was October of 2002 when we did the groundbreaking, and not much ground has been broken yet.”

Duques, a trustee who completed his undergraduate and graduate work at GW, said the building would highlight the University’s commitment to its business school.

“I don’t think GW has been ever known as a business school…but having a new building…says hey, they’re serious about this part of the curriculum,” he said.

The building will feature several student lounges and a Capital Markets Trading Laboratory that allows students to access software used by Wall Street stockbrokers, said Robert Moll, director of communications for the School of Business and Public Management.

Moll said the building would facilitate communication between the school’s different departments because they will be located under one roof. Currently, SBPM classes and faculty offices are located in the Hall of Government and Monroe Hall.

GW decided to start construction even though the BZA, a five-member panel that rules on zoning disputes, has not yet scheduled a hearing to decide the future of the condition that requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus.

If the BZA decides to reinstate the requirement, it would put GW in the precarious position of having to halt construction until it stops housing freshman in the Hall on Virginia Avenue, which the BZA considers to be off campus.

University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said GW asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to repeal the requirement, but has yet to receive a ruling from the court.

He said GW is hoping the BZA will exempt HOVA from the requirement, adding that the court has indicated its willingness not to impede construction of the business school.

“The court is sending a strong message in saying the BZA went too far…in holding up the business school,” he said.

He said GW has a number of options if the BZA reinstates the requirement, including housing upperclassmen in HOVA and appealing the reinstatement to the D.C. Court of Appeals.

“We would have some options down the road depending on what happens,” he said. “Are there risks? Yes. But we don’t think the risks are large.”

Peter Lavallee, spokesman for the D.C. Corporation Counsel, the District’s team of lawyers, said while there are no longer any legal impediments to construction, the future of the business school could hinge of the BZA’s decision to restore the order.

“That could go into effect, which means the business school could run into trouble…before 2006,” he said.

If the University fails to meet the 70 percent mark by August 2006, it puts the building in legal limbo if it is not completed by that time. Last semester, the University housed 54 percent of its students on campus; the completion of the Ivory Towers residence hall and a proposed F Street residence hall would bring it close to meeting the housing requirement.

“They could run into trouble if they don’t meet the 2006 requirement,” Lavallee said.

Trachtenberg said he expects GW to complete the business school and satisfy the requirement when the order comes into force.

“We should be fine enough along by 2006 both in getting into compliance and in the construction of the building,” Trachtenberg said.

“How long does it take to put up a building?” he said. “2006 is three years away so it will take two years to put up the building once we break ground.”

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