While on campus sporadically over winter break, I wasn’t surprised to find that Foggy Bottom was eerily quiet, a virtual ghost town compared to its usual bustle when students are not on break. I understand that the University, its students and its staff take up much of Foggy Bottom, but the lack of students did not entirely account for the stagnant campus. Where were all of the government employees, World Bankers and passing tourists?
This group of Foggy Bottom patrons had lost their reason to frequent our campus. While GW eateries are open for business on a regular basis during the semester, these venues close their doors or limit their hours of operation during summer and winter breaks. This alienates regular customers who are unaffiliated with the University.
GW prides itself on creating strong community relations with area residents and employees through the various food venues and other offerings. Part of the advertised attraction to GW is the community responsibility the University exercises throughout Foggy Bottom. Since the neighborhood and school are geographically fused together, this connection makes college a unique experience for prospective and current students. If the University wants to demonstrate its wider appeal within Foggy Bottom, then it should promote expanded and more uniform operating hours for on-campus dining and services, year-round.
I understand that there is a delicate balance between the expense of operating a business and having enough customers to make it financially worthwhile. It would be unreasonable to hold the University responsible for operating all of its facilities every day of the year, but on the other hand, it seems like a gross loss to have places like Potbelly’s, J Street and the other eateries and shops around campus closed or limited for one month during the winter and three months over the summer – almost a third of the year. These food options are located close enough to the State Department, the World Bank and the GW Hospital that they have a clientele of regulars.
With this in mind, the University should take the initiative to attract area denizens sooner rather than later. If campus facilities were required to maintain normal operating hours, with the exception of major holidays like Christmas, then an established consumer base would be allowed to grow within campus. With the upcoming development of Square 54, otherwise known as the empty lot on the corner of 23rd and I streets, University officials hope to create an establishment filled with shops and some residential space. It is difficult for administrators to justify this sort of space that will benefit the community when its current offerings are closed so often.
Before even considering additional hours over breaks, GW dining officials should look to make some changes in the regular semester hours of places such as J Street. It is an unfortunate situation when prospective students and parents are given weekend tours of a barely open J Street.
The changes to J Street in the last four years have been dramatic, and have made the space look and feel nicer. Still, the facility, which was once considered to be the center of campus, has unpredictable and highly limited operating hours that leave students with fewer, and sometimes no dining choices. This is not something the University should be showing off to prospective families.
Students, employees and the University would all benefit from expanded and consistent dining hours on campus, especially over summer and winter break. GW is especially rooted in the Foggy Bottom community and it has a responsibility to serve it. These changes would also be beneficial to build good faith with the community for future development on campus, including Square 54.
-The writer, a senior majoring in American studies, is a Hatchet columnist.