University, SA asking for student input on 20-year development plan

It may not be a crystal ball, but it could be a glimpse into the future of GW.

The University has released a 20-year campus development plan outlining possible sites that will add 2 million square feet of academic buildings and student housing. The development plan, which can be found at http://neighborhood.gwu.edu, shows 18 separate sites in the areas from Pennsylvania Avenue south to F Street and between 19th and 23rd streets.

The University will be working with the Student Association in launching a new comprehensive student survey to gauge opinion of how they would like to see GW be developed over the next two decades.

“This plan would provide the space necessary to accommodate GW’s forecasted academic and student housing needs and still retain the diverse scale and composition of the campus environment, including the open spaces that are part of GW’s unique urban campus character,” said Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz in a letter to The Hatchet last week.

The University has been working with the SA to develop an information blast e-mail to be sent early next week with a link to a survey students can take in order to recommend suggestions for development. University officials said this is the first time GW has taken such inclusive measures for student input on developing areas.

“What we are seeking is long-term suggestions from the students,” said Sherry Rutherford, managing director for real estate planning and development. “This is a collaborative, open and transparent process – everything is out there.”

The University is examining four major development areas as immediate priorities, Katz said. They include a comprehensive science center, a new cancer research center, an additional academic building in University Yard and a residence hall behind the School Without Walls on F Street similar in size to New Hall and Ivory Tower.

“The future campus will be an attractive and exciting place to live, work and study,” Katz said. “In addition to the academic and housing priorities, the plan calls for the creation of a unique and dynamic retail corridor along I Street from the Metro extending to 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

The University has plans to develop Square 54, the old hospital site located at 23rd and I streets, into a mixed-use site where there will be retail, commercial and residential buildings available for community members, students, and GW faculty and staff. The University has taken criticism from students and community members for failing to include academic and residence hall space in the plans for Square 54.

“In order to fund our overall campus development plan, Square 54 will be developed as a mixed-use venue,” Rutherford said. “This will create a revenue stream and a positive place for the GW and Foggy Bottom communities.”

By developing Square 54 as a mixed-use site, the city will collect millions of dollars in tax revenue, said Rutherford, and the University will collect revenue from community apartments. Part of the survey will be asking students what types of retail shops they would like to see in the Square 54 center.

“Students should be happy they’re getting a chance to contribute their ideas to these projects,” said senior Meredith Wolff, the SA vice president for community affairs, who has worked with Rutherford to develop the survey. “I’m really happy with what the University is doing with the campus and the fact they are encouraging student input on the issue.”

“I’m just sad I will not be here when all this is complete. The school will be almost unrecognizable if you come back in 20 years,” Wolff added.

While the University has been trying to work with the Foggy Bottom community by holding meetings and by trying to “grow up, not out,” Rutherford said some community members don’t think the University will use community or student input in determining development plans.

“Let me warn the students, that with our experience, your input will be totally meaningless,” said Ron Cocome, a Foggy Bottom Association member whose group boycotted the University’s meetings on Square 54 over the summer. “Students should have input. They have the right to do so. But they will be ignored.”

Wolff said the University is at a “crossroads” because it can decide what to look like 20 years from now, and incorporating student opinion will reap benefits for the University for a longer time period.

“The University has recognized that they are at a unique transition and realize that the revenue from Square 54 could be the endowment that we’re lacking,” Wolff said, “but incorporating student opinion into the plans will create happy students and happy alumni.”

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