University hosts final Square 54 panel

Foggy Bottom residents spoke out about GW’s plans for developing the old hospital site across from the Foggy Bottom Metro at the last of a series of public meetings regarding campus development Tuesday night.

Specifics for the site were unveiled at the meeting, where University officials and the site’s architects fielded questions and concerns from the community in an attempt to get input and keep the development process transparent.

None of the space on the site would be used for academic space or student housing. The proposed design for the old hospital site, known as Square 54, includes four structures with one on each corner of the block. A 30,000 to 45,000 square-foot grocery store would sit at the corner of 22nd and I streets, and across from the Foggy Bottom Metro station there would be a host of restaurants and shops. The other two corners would hold non-student residential and office space.

Although GW has yet to submit the plan to the city for zoning approval, it plans on building the complex at a height of 130 feet on the Washington Circle side. In order to do this, the city will have to approve changes in building density allowances for the campus and permit GW to construct buildings on Square 54 that are taller than the rest of its buildings on campus.

Barbara Kahlow, a member of the Foggy Bottom Association, a local community group, stood up and voiced her concerns at the meeting. She said GW is “foolish” to ask for 130-foot buildings because the only building that tall in the area, which is residentially zoned, is the International Monetary Fund building on H Street. She also expressed concern over planned office space on Washington Circle.

“We consider Washington Circle and all of Pennsylvania Avenue to be residential,” Kahlow said. She would prefer that the office space face I Street.

Sherry Rutherford, GW’s managing director for real estate, planning and development, said the University would most likely not start construction for five years, and stressed the importance of mixed-use development on the site.

GW believes that Square 54 could function as an investment because it will help generating revenue and allow the University to move away from being a tuition-based institution. In turn, the University could then use that revenue to develop student needs, such as classroom space and housing, on other available places on campus.

John Barnett, a resident of the Potomac Plaza apartments and a member of the FBA, said he approves of how the University was going to use the space.

“We could use a restaurant, something that doesn’t cost a thousand dollars,” he said. He also thought a parking lot and a grocery store were good ideas.

Meseret Bekele, the owner of Foggy Bottom Grocery located on 22nd and F streets, also had only positive things to say about the design concept.

She said, “definitely (students) are going to like it.”

-Katie Rooney contributed to this report.

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