Posted Tuesday, March 27, 6:12 a.m.
Construction on the old hospital site just south of Washington Circle should begin next academic year after the Square 54 commercial project received unanimous approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission Monday night.
The go-ahead from the commissioners came after GW agreed to reduce the height of a residential building along 22nd Street – a request the commission made after postponing a decision on the plan in late February. Ruling on the application, which GW and the developer Boston Properties filed in March 2006, has been delayed three times.
Before the meeting, GW submitted revised plans for the complex, which included a 4-percent decrease in the building’s density but without any reduction in public benefits offered. Such amenities include a 25,000-square-foot grocery store and a 26,000-square-foot courtyard.
Commissioners said at Monday’s meeting they were very pleased with the revised application.
“I’m happy with the response from the applicant, and I’m glad that the amenities have remained intact,” Zoning Commission Chair Carol Mitten said.
University officials said the approval is an exciting development for the future of GW. Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said revenue from the 60-year lease of the Square 54 site to Boston Properties will fund a new science center.
Katz said construction on the project depends on appeals from opposing parties and final approval from the Zoning Commission later this semester. This would place the opening of the complex in 2010, he said.
Director of Media Relations Tracy Schario said that after so many resources were used in the application, it was a relief to have some forward momentum.
“This is a wonderful conclusion to a very aggressive development plan,” Schario said. “This gives us a lot of ability to meet our objectives.”
While administrators were enthusiastic about the approval, community leaders opposing the residential and commercial complex since it was first proposed in 2005 said they may appeal the proposal. Foggy Bottom Association President Joy Howell said once the official order is released, which will probably be in a few months, her lawyer will determine whether there are aspects worth appealing.
“We’ll wait and see if they dotted all their i’s,” said Howell, who heads a group of community members dedicated to preserving the residential character of their neighborhood.
Howell added that Square 54 should have been used for academic purposes: “Universities can do great good in a community, but not when they overwhelm it.”