The University will need to find housing for more than 60 law students who were planning to live in The Aston residence hall starting this fall.
GW Law School and GW Housing Programs advertised the Aston, located on 21st Street and New Hampshire Avenue, as the first University-owned residence exclusively for law students. Administrators said in late-February that the building would be available for law students in the fall, but a recent assessment of construction costs required the closing of the building for next year.
This spring, the Law School – expecting the use of The Aston – offered between 60 and 90 incoming students housing scholarships, said Ann Richard, associate dean of Law School Admissions and Finance. This is the first year that the Law School has offered housing scholarships.
Richard said that students with housing scholarships can also choose to take a housing stipend. Incoming students were informed of the change before the first deposit date April 15 so they are not bound to their decision to attend the Law School, one official said.
When the building closes this May, it will also cause increased demand in Columbia Plaza, a privately owned apartment building on 23rd and F streets. Though the University does not own the building, they have an agreement with the owners to allocate more than 200 rooms to students.
Seth Weinshel, assignments director of GW Housing Programs, said displaced students and other law students will have first priority in Columbia Plaza.
“(Demand is) higher because we won’t be using the Aston,” said Weinshel, referring to Columbia Plaza. “Had you been able to use (The Aston), you wouldn’t have had as many going into Columbia Plaza.”
Law students always had priority for GW’s rooms in the apartment complex, Weinshel said. Though Columbia Plaza often has leftover space for other graduate students and some seniors, the influx of law students means that many other graduate students and seniors will have to seek housing elsewhere.
The only other GW-owned graduate housing on campus is the Hall on Virginia Avenue, which the University offered to graduate students this academic year. The Aston, which was mostly doubles for undergraduates, housed more than 100 law students in singles with kitchens.
Alicia O’Neil, director of Real Estate Planning and Development, said the initial plan for the construction involved renovating the residence hall over three summers. Some necessary renovations include upgrading the elevators, installing a wireless Internet network and constructing a new sprinkler system.
“As we began to evaluate the renovations, it became clear that doing this as one project was more efficient and would cause less overall disruption,” O’Neil said. She added that because several of the renovations overlap, it would be wasteful to spread out the construction.
Housing and Law School officials said they will live up to their promise of housing, even if they have to find apartments somewhere else in the District.
“We are 100 percent going to honor our promise to offer these students housing,” said David Johnson, senior assistant dean of students of the Law School. “But I cannot tell you … where they are all going to go.”
Several dozen law students not promised housing were on a waitlist to live in The Aston, Johnson said. He added that most of these students were not disheartened by the recent news because they did not have high expectations of being accepted into the building.
Some students who planned on living in Columbia Plaza next year said that they were disappointed by the recent developments.
“It was definitely something that I had in the back of my mind because (my tour guide) had mentioned it and because she had made it sound very attractive,” said Rebecca Solomon, a senior at the University of Michigan who will be attending GW graduate school next year.
Solomon said that although she has not yet begun looking seriously at housing for next year, the recent change is discouraging.
Pat Phillips, a senior who will be getting his master’s at GW, said that he is not too worried about the change because he was not depending on University housing.
“I think for grad students it would be nice if we had more of an opportunity to have somewhere to live like Columbia Plaza where they are well-liked, respectable apartments,” Phillips said. “At the same time, I’m not completely dissatisfied because I really didn’t have my heart set on it, and I wasn’t dying to get into Columbia Plaza.”