GW looks for boathouse property

The University is looking to build a boathouse on the Georgetown waterfront for its rowing teams, officials said Friday. GW has entered into preliminary negotiations with the National Park Service, which owns the land along the Potomac River, to trade two University-owned townhouses for waterfront property.

In July, GW paid $2.4 million for two townhouses at 3524 and 3526 K St., according to D.C. tax records.

The trade would give GW property between 34th Street and Key Bridge for its boathouse, said Sally Blumenthal, deputy associate director for the National Park Service’s capital region.

“We’re at the early stage of what we’re both firmly committed to,” Blumenthal said.

The Park Service could only acquire GW’s townhouses through a land swap because its national charter precludes it from leasing and selling property, Blumenthal said.

The University has been working with the Park Service for more than a decade to acquire property for a boathouse.

“We’ve tried really hard to work with everybody to come to a solution for the waterfront,” said a GW official who requested anonymity.

Thompson Boat Center, located next to the Washington harbor, currently houses rowing teams from GW and Georgetown, American and Catholic universities.

While GW has not developed “refined plans” or set a price tag for the boathouse, it hopes to complete the proposed facility in the next few years, the official said. The University would also need to secure zoning permits from the city and get the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts to approve its plans before construction could begin.

“This is not a process that lends itself to speed,” the official said.

Georgetown University, which has been trying for ten years to get permission to build a boathouse on the Potomac River, could begin construction on its $10 million-facility if the city grants it a final building permit in November, said Laura Cavender, Georgetown’s director of media relations.

GW’s boathouse – which would include storage space for boats, a repair shop and locker rooms – would allow the University to enhance its rowing program and strengthen its ties to the community, officials said.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said GW would use the facility to provide recreational programming for D.C. high schools and expand the rowing program, which is GW’s biggest in terms of student participation.

While declining to discuss costs, Chernak said GW would not have to finance most of the boathouse’s construction because there has been a donor “waiting in the wings.”

“These things are not major,” he said. “It’s not like building a 700-bed residence hall.”

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