Our View –
The Foggy Bottom Association should use newly acquired funds to improve the neighborhood, rather than to initiate litigation against GW.
Resulting from a deal with Trammel Crow – the developer seeking to convert the old Columbia Hospital for Women to a condominium complex – the Foggy Bottom Association received $2.48 million in exchange for the removal of its objection to the construction project. While area residents laud the deal for giving the FBA needed capital to invest in neighborhood renewal projects, GW administrators are wary these new monies will be used in the ongoing neighborhood crusade against University expansion into residential Foggy Bottom. The FBA would be wise to not waste these funds waging expensive legal battles with the University and use them to improve other aspects of their neighborhood instead.
Marking these funds for litigation purposes would be a futile exercise. In fiscal year 2002 alone, GW spent $2.4 million in legal fees while paying the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts and Trowbridge $763,000 to handle zoning adjustment requests. Piddling away these newly acquired funds on frivolous lawsuits would prevent residents from providing services to Foggy Bottom residents comparable to those available in other residential neighborhoods.
Further, GW does not need an FBA-initiated lawsuit or zoning challenge to urge it to add more on-campus beds. While receiving an extension on the Board of Zoning Authority ruling requiring it to house 70 percent of undergraduates in on-campus boundaries, the University has shown a renewed commitment to building on-campus residence halls. GW is set to break ground on a new 379-bed residence adjacent to Francis Scott Key Hall and has a tentative agreement to purchase the School Without Walls parking lot to build a new residence hall there. Forcing GW into further litigation would only impede University progress on projects beneficial to the quality of life of area residents.
This infusion of cash offers Foggy Bottom a historic opportunity to invest in its own future. While the new condominium complex will include a Trader Joe’s supermarket – with plans initiated for the installation of a hardware store, coffee shop, bank and video store in the facility – there is no doubt a dearth of other services in Foggy Bottom. Either investing the money for growth purposes or using it toward public works projects will help Foggy Bottom residents gain goodwill and leverage to influence University plans for developing the old hospital site. Doing so could provide Foggy Bottom residents with more amenities available within walking distance.
Last Monday’s deal with Trammel Crow gives residents both the inspiration to build a bustling non-GW community in Foggy Bottom and the money to help make it happen. As usual, certain vociferous area residents could ruin this opportunity for the rest of the neighborhood. By initiating frivolous legal action against the University, the FBA would both undermine their overall goals and waste their money.