Hospital site awaits plans

Plans are in the works to construct a multi-use facility on the former GW Hospital site, but officials said they are still unsure what the final construction proposal will entail.

The site, located on 22nd Street between I Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, contains one million square feet of vacant land and has been eyed by officials for a commercial and academic facility since the old hospital was demolished earlier this year.

The site’s future is a popular subject of discussion among University officials and local residents. Various academic factions, including the engineering school and science department, have pressed administrators to build new facilities for their programs on the site. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has said he wants any prospective building to house retail stores, similar to 2000 Penn. Others, namely Foggy Bottom residents opposed to GW’s expansion, have called for a residence hall to be built on the site.

Charles Barber, the University’s senior counsel, said preliminary steps must be taken before any serious construction plans for the site are made. The University still needs to pick a developer for the site and has narrowed down its choices to four firms: Boston Properties, Carr America, Hines and JBG.

“We are in the middle of selecting a developer and we will probably be presenting one candidate to the (Board of Trustees) at the October meeting,” he said. “Once we choose a developer then we will decide what we will put there.”

Currently, the District has zoned the old hospital site for residential or academic purposes. Since GW wants any building on the site to contain a sizable commercial component, it needs to approach the D.C. Zoning Commission and have the area reassessed, a process that could take about nine to 12 months.

“We would hope to begin the re-zoning process sometime next year,” Barber said. “That means that we wouldn’t see actual construction until three or four years down the road.”

Michael Akin, a GW government relations assistant, said final construction plans will be partly based on suggestions from students, faculty and community members.

“We are at step one of a multi-step process,” Akin said. “What has been decided is that it will be a mixed use project since there is a lot of room for many different things on this one site.”

Although construction may not be on the immediate horizon, Akin said the University is adamant about weighing community input from Foggy Bottom residents.

The University has sought input from various neighborhood groups, but only the West End Association has agreed to sit down with GW officials.

Foggy Bottom Association President Ronald Cocome defended his group’s decision to decline the University’s offer to hold discussion, saying he felt that it was a forced and insincere move.

“The University came to us only after the city pressured them to and only after they already made 90 percent of the decisions,” he said. “It was a phony attempt and it’s too late now.”

He added, “If they were sincere about this they would have done it way earlier.”

Cocome said he is against any commercial use of the land because GW needs to build more academic and residential facilities to accommodate more students.

“There is a shortage of classrooms and residence halls and they could have this huge space of land to use but instead they turn over and use it to make money,” he said.

Akin said the site has significance to the city as well as to the University, and that it may be better used for a facility with academic and commercial space.

“This piece of property is the last piece of underdeveloped land on Pennsylvania Avenue and when you look at it that way, it has importance not only to GW, but also to the District of Columbia, Foggy Bottom and the West End as well as to students,” he said. “We have to sit down and balance all of these factors so that what we do build meets the needs of all interested parties.”

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