The long way home: Students move far from Foggy Bottom

Although it had been about eight years since he last rode a bike, senior Dave Lipschutz spent his summer at home perfecting his peddling skills – not for a marathon or for a mountain biking trail, but in preparation for his commute. This year he moved from Foggy Bottom to a townhouse at 15th and P streets.

“It’s actually really enjoyable,” Lipschutz said of his commute. “I think I’m losing weight.”

While some students move out of dorms and into apartments that lie among GW dorms, Lipschutz is one of a number of students who chose to abandon Foggy Bottom life altogether and move off campus – way off campus.

Brian Hamluk, director of GW’s Office of Off-Campus Student Affairs, said students typically move to Northwest neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle in their quests for off-campus housing. Last semester, 1,600 students chose to live outside of residence halls, though it’s unknown how many live outside Foggy Bottom.

Dan Melman, a local real estate agent with WC&AN Miller Realtors, said college students typically opt for off-campus housing to secure some independence from life in residence halls.

“While proximity to the University is appealing to some, others see a benefit in having a retreat away from the campus,” Melman said. “Whether it is the appeal of living in a vibrant neighborhood with shops and restaurants or living in a more affordable neighborhood, there are lots of reasons to look beyond Foggy Bottom.”

With only one bad experience – biking into a stopped car – Lipschutz said he’s convinced that it’s quicker to ride his bike from his apartment to the Marvin Center than it is to walk there from Mitchell Hall.

“It’s great because I don’t have to be near crazy campus life,” Lipschutz said. “Instead I’m near crazy Dupont life.”

Students might face unanticipated difficulties when they opt out of University housing, such as hidden costs, potential landlord disputes, transportation difficulties and a general disconnection from the campus community, Hamluk said. But some students seem to enjoy having a place of their own that often costs less than a room on campus and less than a room on campus and comes without University supervision.

With a duplex on 10th and S streets, senior Jonathan Hakakian is no stranger to a bicycle and helmet. Though he lives closer to Howard University than GW, his home is a 15-minute bicycle ride to campus.

“You can make it in less than 10 if you hurry your ass,” he said.

Despite Hakakian’s concerns about his ability to bike in inclement weather, he said he doesn’t mind the daily commute to and from campus.

“It makes me more time efficient when I’m on campus,” Hakakian said. “I’ll spend time in the library instead of going home between classes.”

Eric Zapel, one of Hakakian’s three roommates, said that while he enjoys the often cheaper rents found in off-campus housing, he understands why that option isn’t appealing to some students.

“We’re like the turning point between nice D.C. and not-so-nice D.C.,” he said. “There’s an abandoned house next to us, but we have granite counter tops.”

Hakakian, Zapel and the two other roommates pay $2,600 per month for their place.

D.C. real estate agent Fan Luisa Barnes-Mosaid said she has significant experience working with college students to find appropriate off-campus housing. She said students who stay on campus may not make enough effort to explore the city.

“I think that it is a shame that they have not ventured away from the school and gotten involved in activities away from the school so they can have a true picture of what the city is,” Barnes-Mosaid said.

Senior Todd Smith, who shares an apartment at 21st and S streets with senior Alex Drossler, said Foggy Bottom is more of a “business district” and that he enjoys the young professional feel of his Dupont neighborhood.

“Campus sucks because you have all of the security here. It instills a sense of uneasiness,” he said.

“We’ve gotten a couple of complaints about parties and stuff we’ve had … but (our neighbors) are professionals and they have to go to work,” he said. “It’s just nice not to have to be encumbered by being on campus and having to deal with students all the time.”

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