Community members continue to oppose Square 54 plans

The Foggy Bottom Association is still opposing GW’s plans for Square 54 after the University made changes to the plans.

Members of the local neighborhood group voiced their opposition at a meeting last week held by Boston Properties, the firm GW hired to plan Square 54’s development. At the information session, the designers said they heeded residents’ concerns by increasing the sidewalk depth around the buildings and along I Street; they also agreed to modify heights of the four buildings slated to be built on the plot.

“Feedback . has really informed a world-class design for Square 54,” Boston Properties designer Trey Dempsey said.

Joy Howell, president of the FBA, said that the architectural changes will not affect the organization’s position on the issue. Many members oppose the mixed-use plan, contending that Square 54 should be used to meet the University’s housing and academic needs.

“I have yet to see an intelligent plan come out of the group over there,” she said.

Howell does not believe GW is taking the fragility of the surrounding area into account in their plans to put up two office buildings, two high-end apartments and 85,000 square feet of retail on the site that once hosted GW’s old hospital.

Community requests to have a new exit from Foggy Bottom Metro into the complex are still being considered, said Tracy Schario, director of GW Media Relations.

“Metro access . remains a community request, and there have been discussions with (Metro),” Schario wrote in an e-mail. “This is not part of the current Square 54 plan.”

At the meeting, Dempsey said that a Metro exit in the complex would take space away from a 40,000?square-foot grocery store, which he said is approximately four times the size of the nearby Watergate Safeway. The market was another community request.

“Though it may seem small, if a Metro entrance to the Foggy Bottom Metro were placed where the grocery store is, that would detract substantially from the square footage and force us to alter the plans,” Dempsey said. “Furthermore, there is an entrance to the Metro just across the street, so there really isn’t much need for one inside the complex.”

Presenters at the meeting said there is no way to guarantee the spaces will be rented but said that there have been three grocery chains that have already expressed interest in moving into the facility.

Some Foggy Bottom residents said GW’s modifications to the plan are not substantial.

“As far as I can tell, the developers have made very little change in response to what the community has asked – a bit more, landscaping, perhaps, but nothing substantive,” FBA member Ed Gable said. “Our objection to this is that Square 54 should be residential space for GW students. That’s what would help the community.”

-Kaitlyn Jahrling contributed to this report.

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