Last week, the University submitted an updated Campus Plan to the city intended to guide its development until 2025.
GW’s proposal for a new Campus Plan recognizes the growing needs of the University while including concessions meant to please community members who traditionally oppose new development. Overall, the plan effectively anticipates future development needs in a viable roadmap for expansion. It utilizes – as the administration has framed it – a “grow up, not out” mentality. Even so, there are some troubling aspects to the plan that could adversely affect the appearance and atmosphere of a future GW.
In general, the basic tenets of the Campus Plan aim to create better services, advanced academic facilities and improved residential life. These goals, however, could come at a significant price by making the campus less welcoming to its own population.
For instance, the plan calls for the purchase of the GW Deli on G Street and presumably its eventual destruction in favor of a new building. Similarly, one of the campus’ most unique structures, the Academic Center, is slated to see major changes as the plan moves forward.
When visitors and potential students come to campus, they walk by and through townhouses, unique architecture and a variety of open – sometimes green – spaces amid the towering sprawl of downtown D.C. that surrounds GW. Often, students who at first aren’t comfortable with the notion of living in downtown D.C. feel comfortable at GW because it is so distinct from its surrounding blocks. As new developments are planned, it is essential that the character of the campus maintain a neighborhood feel.
There should be a careful balance between a burgeoning institution requiring commensurate facilities and the laid-back, welcoming feel of the campus. A stroll along G Street includes townhouses, the GW Deli, DJ’s Fastbreak, open space and unimposing academic buildings. The campus will obviously change significantly in the 20 years covered by the Campus Plan. That does not mean, however, that future GW students should have to walk to class in the shadows of towering structures. Rather, current students and future alumni, should return to campus and recognize at least some of what they experienced during their years in Foggy Bottom.