University breaks ground on construction of new dorm

Ground broke on a new residence hall at 2135 F St. on Friday, but some community leaders are worried about the residence hall’s impact.

L. Asher Corson, chair of the Foggy Bottom/West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said he has reservations about the 400-student residence hall that is slated to open in fall 2009.

“It’s already been quite a bit of pressure in terms of density,” Corson said. “GW already has a high density of students.”

He said higher numbers of students on campus will affect the neighborhood.

There are nearly 10,000 full-time undergraduate students living on campus, according to the GW Office of Institutional Research. These students live within approximately 40 acres in Foggy Bottom.

“Student noise will increase which is why the community opposes (the construction of the dorm),” Corson said. “It’s not that these things are avoidable but the question is . are they putting too many people in too small of a place?”

Michael Akin, the director of Foggy Bottom/West End affairs, said GW students can be noisy, but the University will be adding a second main entrance to the residence hall to keep student traffic near the center of campus and away from the greater Foggy Bottom community

“I think that’s going to go a long way to alleviating the problem,” Akin said.

University President Steven Knapp said GW made an agreement with the city and the Foggy Bottom Association to minimize the presence of off-campus students living in the Foggy Bottom/West End neighborhoods and bring more students on campus.

During the 2006-2007 school year, about 600 full-time undergraduate students lived off campus.

“Part of our agreement with the city and the community is to house as many of our students as possible on campus,” Knapp said. “That’s intended to minimize the presence of students off campus.”

Although members of the community expressed some animosity towards the construction of the residence hall, School Without Walls Principal Richard Tragish said he was excited about the partnership between his high school and GW that made the new residence hall possible.

In order to obtain the land necessary to build the residence hall, the University paid School Without Walls $12 million in February 2006 for land behind the high school that was previously occupied by a SWW parking lot.

The money is going toward renovations and repairs in the 126-year-old building. GW will also be installing high-technology classrooms in the school as part of the partnership that made the residence hall possible.

Tragish said the partnership with GW goes beyond renovations and repairs. He said GW students tutor and interact with the high school students taking classes within the magnet high school and GW permits the high school students to enter facilities such as Gelman Library and the Lerner Health and Wellness Center.

Lou Katz, executive vice president and treasurer, was upbeat about the GW and SWW cooperative.

Katz said GW students benefit from working with the members of the SWW population.

“If anytime we can work well with the community it’s a benefit to the University,” Katz said. “When you get out in the world, you’ve got to be able to work with everybody and the sooner you forge solid relationships, it’s very positive.”

Tragish said the co-op will make it easier for SWW students to seek different outlets of opportunity.

He said, “(It) opens other doors for cooperative efforts and provides tremendous opportunities for students of disadvantaged backgrounds.”

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