One of Foggy Bottom’s top advocacy groups repeatedly challenged the University’s proposed plans for the Science and Engineering Complex last week, saying too many questions about the effects of the project remain unanswered.
The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission amended a unanimous resolution they drafted beforehand objecting to GW’s proposal at a meeting last Wednesday, wanting to know more about what the SEC’s increased classroom space would mean for the neighborhood and how the level of students and staff might change.
The group’s stance will be sent to the D.C. Zoning Commission, a local body that must approve the University’s SEC pitch before the building is constructed. The ANC has had a hand in the discussions over every major project the University has built, as the Zoning Commission considers its input as the most local neighborhood group.
A public zoning hearing on the project is slated for March 24, and the zoning commissioners will review the ANC’s concerns while considering the proposal. The Zoning Commission can request that GW amend portions of its building blueprints.
Commissioner Asher Corson, a GW alumnus, said the SEC plan lacks tangible features that would also serve the neighborhood, and that GW failed to negotiate with the ANC.
“The amenities GW put forward are deficient, seriously deficient,” Corson said, adding that he does not understand why GW thinks it is “so entitled that they shouldn’t have to give up anything in terms of amenities” or why the city’s Office of Planning accepted the plan.
But Michael Akin, GW’s assistant vice president of government, international and community affairs, called the ANC’s comments unfair. He said the commission removed itself from the original negotiations, and is now complaining it was not included.
“It was a process some people didn’t like,” Akin said. “It was a process some people took themselves out of.”
Commissioners also pushed for inserting a stoplight near 22nd and I streets – which the University is already considering – and questioned the school’s ability to offset lost parking spaces after the University Parking Garage at the corner of 22nd and H streets is torn down.
SEC architect Craig Spangler said the additional parking spaces will be spread across campus at the proposed Law Learning Center, The Avenue and underground at the SEC. Susi Cora, director of real estate planning and project management at GW, said only nine parking spaces would be lost in total.
The Commission also objected to the demolition of Building K – which will be torn down to make room for the SEC – arguing the building has historic significance and a unique art deco structure.
“We resolve that the ANC has an objection on the application and wishes to bring to the Zoning Commission’s attention the following concerns and requests that the zoning commission’s review of the application takes these into consideration,” ANC Chair Rebecca Coder said, reading the resolution aloud.
A neighbor in attendance added GW should allocate funds to finance a second Foggy Bottom Metro entrance instead of underground parking at the SEC because the complex would increase traffic and strain the already busy station, but Akin said State Department, International Monetary Fund and World Bank employees also use the station. He added that few Metro renovations are privately funded.
Commissioner Armando Irizarry said it is unrealistic to request a second Metro entrance, but proposed the University spearhead community efforts and work with WMATA to bring a second entrance to the Foggy Bottom Metro.