Eric Zapel: Quigley’s: a space for creativity, not Chipotle

Their burritos are delicious, don’t get me wrong, and those handy instructions printed on your napkin certainly make the whole process of eating something as wide as your neck much less painful. However, I have to say I am very opposed to the idea of Chipotle opening their newest location in Quigley’s pharmacy. Now, I’m not charged with an idealistic hatred of all processed food or chain restaurants. I will not hot-wire a bulldozer to knock down Quigley’s during the remodeling phase. I am just extremely disappointed with the decision to bring yet another chain restaurant to campus.

GW is a very creative campus. No, really, it is! Even among the droves of international affairs students constantly searching for their next internship, there are a lot of very insightful and creative people. The problem is that this tends to remain hidden on campus. Spaces for artwork, theater pieces, concerts, poetry readings and open-mics are doomed to the basements and back corners of imposing and faceless buildings that serve many other purposes. Multi-purpose buildings have their benefits, but quaintness and personality are definitely not among them. Even Smith Hall (the micro-version of Phillips) is a rather drab building belying what lies within. If I hadn’t been distracted one day by that small silver protuberance with the green (or is it purple?) window next to the entrance, I don’t think I would have known we even had an arts building.

Quigley’s, however, is a building that stands out starkly against the majority of campus buildings. Let’s face it – Quigley’s has got to be the cutest building on campus. Plus, it also happens to have a great history as a venue for fostering community in Foggy Bottom. Its uniqueness would better serve the students and the Foggy Bottom community as an informal caf? and art space, not run by a chain with pre-fabricated decorations, but (and stay with me now) by interested students who I know would not have any trouble making it a much more inviting space than the Hippodrome.

There is nothing like that anywhere in Foggy Bottom. I think the nearest thing that even comes close to qualifying is Kramer Books in Dupont Circle, which is an inefficient Metro ride or a 20-minute walk away. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a relaxed, student-run caf? on campus where you could get a cup of coffee, meet with friends or professors, watch an interesting film or expose yourself to the creative activities of your peers? Maybe the space would even foster the creativity and intellectual abilities of the community as a whole.

Recently there was a letter published in The Hatchet by Professor George Stephens (“Losing sight of the mission,” Sept. 29, p. 4), who is concerned that GW is straying from the original purpose of a university as a community of scholars able to benefit from and build off of each others’ work. I can’t think of any better way to getting back on track than providing a highly visible forum for just that to take place.

Worried about logistics? Do you want to see concrete financial benefits from a venture of this nature? After all, property in D.C. is incredibly valuable. Well, try this logic on for size:

First, it would be one among … well one caf? of this nature in the area (Starbucks doesn’t count) that would also be open past 5 p.m. It seems to me that means monopolistic control of the cool caf? niche in Foggy Bottom. And for those of you not taking economics, monopoly means lots of revenue. And revenue … well that’s just a fancy word for money.

Second, by giving it to the students to run, you provide more on-campus jobs, and possibly even opportunities for business school students to gain entrepreneurial experience. Hell, the business school could even take care of the logistics and run all the operations of the place as far as I’m concerned, as long as they don’t install stock tickers. You could even trump that up in the business school brochures: “Opportunities for hands-on entrepreneurial experience while simultaneously becoming cooler in the process.”

Quigley’s may just be our ticket to secure that coveted spot of one of the top 50 universities in the nation.

More generally, something like this would encourage the abilities – both intellectual and creative – of GW students as well as other members of the University. According to Dr. Stephens, this is in fact the essential goal of a university.

The plans for Chipotle seem to be fairly established, and I wish I had written this when the building first became vacant. If there is anyone who can reverse the decision, though, I would have to say that man is D.C.’s 2005 business leader of the year. Not even a contract signed in blood could stand up to the power of that title. So, what do you say, SJT?

-The writer is a senior majoring in international development studies.

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