GW, School without Walls argue for zoning support

GW and the School Without Walls made their case before the D.C. Zoning Commission for a joint development proposal Monday night.

The development plan, introduced in March, includes a new 474-bed residence hall for GW and an addition to the School Without Walls, a high school at 2130 G St. The public-private partnership hinges on the University’s agreement to purchase the land directly behind the school for $12 million. The residence hall project will include the land acquired from the school and the University’s tennis courts on F Street.

The Foggy Bottom/West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which passed a resolution in opposition to the development earlier this month, testified at the hearing against the plan.

The ANC opposes the application because of the proposed size of the residence hall, said Vincent Micone, chair of the ANC. He added that the commission doesn’t oppose an addition to the school but cannot support the joint proposal.

At the Oct. 18 ANC meeting Micone said he would have supported the plan, which he voted against, under different circumstances.

“I think this is a huge building,” he said. “I think I might support a smaller building.”

ANC Commissioner David Lehrman criticized the other commissioners for voting in opposition to the school’s renovations. He said the Zoning Commission lost their “human dimension” in trying to halt the old building’s modernization.

“Are we missing a sensitivity chip in some place?” Lehrman asked. “This is an exceptionally unusual and noble project.”

The high school’s principal, Richard Trogish, said the school is in strong need of building improvements. He added that if the plan is approved, classes would hopefully relocate to another D.C. school building for a year while the current building undergoes construction.

“We are waiting on your decision to move forward and expedite the process for our students,” Trogish said.

The high school’s students, parents and faculty gave a presentation describing the decrepit conditions of the building and the benefits GW offers the high-schoolers. They discussed leaks, unstable ceilings and lack of space as hindrances to learning.

School Without Walls student Zachary May said the development is imperative.

“This school uses the city as a classroom because the building can’t provide services and basic functions,” he said.

Despite poor building conditions, the School Without Walls is considered one of the best public high schools in the District. School officials said students’ averaged an SAT score of 1070.

Zoning Commissioner Anthony Hood said while he and the eight other commissioners are listening to both sides of the debate, they noticed a greater amount of signatures and testimonies are in support of the development.

“All eight of our eyes are working, and we definitely see people in support,” Zoning Commissioner Anthony Hood said.

The commissioners praised the plan presented by the University, but Zoning Commissioners Gregory Jeffries, Michael Turnbull and John Parsons expressed concern over the vagueness of the presentation concerning the streetscape plan and sustainable design.

-The Zoning Commission will announce its decision Monday, Nov. 13.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.