WEB EXTRA: Katz discusses Square 54 plans with students

GW Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said at a Monday night meeting that revenue generated from the use of Square 54 would be exclusively used to construct a new science center in place of the parking garage at 22nd and H streets

Concerned students packed Ivory Tower’s common room Monday to learn about and question the University’s proposed 20-year campus development plan. About 50 students attended GW’s second student informational session co-sponsored by the Student Association. Katz mostly addressed student concerns focusing on Square 54, a piece of land that GW wants to use for retail space, market-rate apartments and offices.

Some local residents want the spot to be used for classroom and dormitory space. The land became vacant when GW knocked down the former hospital in 2004.

Over the past year, the University has been holding meetings with community members to get their input on the future development of the campus, particularly Square 54. Katz’s first student meeting was held in Thurston Hall earlier this month and had a similar turnout.

Senior Eric Parks asked Katz Monday night if three years of unused land on campus was costing the University a lot of money. Katz said GW did lose money because it had to pay property taxes for the unused land.

“In the long run, we believe it’s the right strategy,” Katz said, explaining that the University wanted to make sure the space was used correctly before going ahead with development.

Katz also reiterated what the University has been saying all year regarding Square 54: that its location by the Metro and Washington Circle makes it a valuable piece of land, and the revenue GW gains from it can be applied toward other development projects on campus such as a new science center.

“The goal is to maximize the revenues of this site,” Katz said.

Others questioned whether the University would even be able to get its 20-year Campus Plan approved by the city since local resident groups are vehemently opposed to it. Katz said there is a quiet majority of residents who support GW, and that a louder but smaller group opposes its plans.

“There’s a very vocal group in Foggy Bottom that is definitely against this. They’re against the Kennedy Center, the Red Cross, everything,” Katz said.

SA President Audai Shakour attended the event and unveiled a joint effort between GW’s administration and the SA executive office dubbed Campaign GW. Shakour, a senior, described the movement as an outreach program to answer students’ questions about the 20-year plan. He said SA President-elect Lamar Thorpe, a junior, is behind the proposal as well.

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