Neighborhood input changes Mount Vernon Campus Plan

The University has changed parts of its Mount Vernon Campus Plan to appease local residents’ demands, but some neighbors say the changes are not enough.

Administrators have agreed to reduce the size of five proposed buildings, move the campus’ main entrance to the Whitehaven Parkway, and minimize lighting on the tennis courts and soccer field, according to the University’s presentation at a Jan. 19 Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D meeting.

The new 2010 Mount Vernon Campus Plan proposes to convert Ames Hall, currently used largely for dining services, into an academic building, and move dining services to Pelham Hall. Plans also call for the development of five three-story buildings and one four-story residential building, which will be predominantly brick with cast stone or pre-cast details, glass and metal features, according to the presentation. Under the plan, residence hall Cole Hall will be converted into a larger academic building.

The increased academic space would also increase the number of students taking classes on the campus. The plan was submitted to the D.C. Zoning Commission in November, and a hearing is scheduled for March 25.

Though neighbors interviewed said they welcome the changes, some said there are still more issues the University needs to address, including the size of other buildings and the school’s rationale for expanding the campus.

ANC 3D Commissioner Ann Heuer said that while there is a lot she likes about the current plan, she takes issue with the larger proposed residential buildings.

“It’s just a little too big,” Heuer said.

“I do think that the University has done a good job,” Heuer said. “But what the neighbors want and what the University wants is not always the same thing.”

Commissioner Thomas Smith said for the ANC to properly work with the University, the University needs to provide neighbors with the campus’ needs, something he said has not yet been done.

“The rationale that has been given to use for this development is that the zoning rules have been approved 10 years ago,” Smith said. “The growth period is supposed to be a response to need, but the University is just doing it because they want to do it and because they have the space to build. Other universities have needs assessments, and I haven’t seen any from GW.”

Alicia O’Neil, senior associate vice president for operations, said in an e-mail that the University has been working with neighbors to perfect the campus plan, hosting a series of monthly community meetings focusing on key issues like design principles, noise, lighting, landscape, and storm water management.

“The meetings yielded planning principles, design concepts and, ultimately, a framework plan for future development on the Mount Vernon Campus that is responsive to the issues raised by community members and accommodates GW’s forecasted academic and student housing needs,” O’Neil said.

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