Campus Plan passes through another hurdle

The GW community came one step closer to a final vote on the new 20-year Campus Plan Thursday afternoon as the National Capital Planning Commission unanimously passed the proposal, with some restrictions.

After hearing from GW officials, students and Foggy Bottom residents, the NCPC sent the Campus Plan back to the D.C. Zoning Commission for a final vote. The commissioners said the Campus Plan, which would guide new University development, is acceptable in its current form with the exception that it must adhere to a 1910 statute regarding building height restrictions.

The NCPC is a federal commission that reviews new development in the context of the historical and cultural intentions of the original city design. The Campus Plan had to be submitted before the NCPC because it affected such areas as 23rd Street and Washington Circle, which D.C. Grand Planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant considered integral portions of the city in his 18th century designs.

The 20-year Campus Plan calls for vertical growth of GW buildings as well as expansion of Gelman Library, several residence halls and the Marvin Center. The proposal also includes construction of a new science facility in place of the parking garage on 22nd and I streets and a cancer center near the hospital.

GW proposed the Campus Plan before the NCPC after receiving approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission in early February. The approval came after eight hearings starting in September, and the final decision should be made within the next month.

Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz made the case for GW Thursday night along with several students who voiced their support for the plan. Some Foggy Bottom residents also backed the proposal, while others testified in opposition to the plan.

Katz was very enthusiastic about the ruling, which put GW closer to a final decision.

“We believe the plan has received its broad support because of its lasting benefits to all stakeholders, instead of looking at our campus on a project-by-project basis it does so comprehensively for 20 years,” Katz wrote in an e-mail.

He added that the Campus Plan had always taken into consideration the height restrictions emphasized by the commission and that the University is ready to begin implementing the components of the plan after receiving approval from the Zoning Commission.

A statement Foggy Bottom Association President Joy Howell read at the commission hearing expressed residents’ concerns that GW is using the Zoning Commission to further the financial needs of the school and with disregard for the community.

“Subsidizing commercial expansion of a private, non-profit through the back door of zoning approval is not legitimate public policy . Does the city even want a historic residential neighborhood in Foggy Bottom 20 years down the road?” the statement said. “The added density, and the increase in commercial and retail uses of this project, will have one major effect – further transforming the character of the residential Foggy Bottom neighborhood in ways that will make that neighborhood unrecognizable as a distinct residential community.”

The Foggy Bottom Association, a neighborhood group dedicated to preserving the residential nature of the community, has been joined by the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission in its dissent over the Campus Plan. Michael Thomas, a West End resident and chairman of ANC 2A, did not dispute the NCPC ruling, but believed that the entire process of GW’s application has been unfair toward the neighborhood.

The NCPC commissioners remarked at their hearing the impressive amount of student involvement GW has put into developing the Campus Plan. Nine students provided testimony toward its merits for the student population Thursday night, said Tracy Schario, director of Media Relations.

Casey Pond, a junior and a recent candidate for Student Association president, said current students will feel the initial effects of the 20-year implementation while they attend the school, but that its most significant effects will be down the road. He said developments will increase the standing of the University and bring a better reflection upon its graduates.

“It’s really exciting to see all the students involved,” he said noting that there have been at least 25 students at each commission hearing. “Stay informed and take pride in the University, and we’ll see it become a top-tier school.”

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