Neighbor pushback could delay ‘superdorm’ construction

Foggy Bottom representatives are pushing the D.C. Council to resolve a $2.8 million land battle over a public alleyway on campus, even if it means delaying construction on GW’s costliest residence hall.

The local leaders argue that the city gave away the public alley – which the University will absorb when it develops the 12-story megahall between H and I streets – and ignored its steep price tag.

During a special session of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission tonight, members drafted a letter to the council that urges members to vote down GW’s application to close the alley this week.

The commission’s chair, Florence Harmon, said she’s seeking a “very brief delay” that would not derail the project’s construction – which is slated to start this summer. The $130 million, 800-bed hall would house mostly sophomore and juniors, starting with the Class of 2016.

But the commission’s more vocal members argued for stronger language that may push back the start but also single out the council members who approved the “sweetheart deal”: Foggy Bottom’s Jack Evans and chairman Phil Mendelson.

Asher Corson, the group’s longest-serving member, said he’d rather see the city take a stand against “supremely inappropriate” hand-outs that robbed the city of nearly $3 million. He said he expected the council to reject their appeal, and that the commission should prepare for a campaign to spur action from the council by riling the community.

“No matter what we do here today, we’re gonna get rolled by the council, and then we have three months to take this to the court of public opinion,” Corson said.

“This community has stood in face of mayors and councils trying to do some horrible things and I think we’ll be successful in this fight, too,” he said.

The D.C. Council held hearings about the alley closure last month, with more than a dozen testimonies from local residents and students.

GW Director of Planning and Project Management Susi Cora said GW did not need to pay the $2.8 million because the city already approved the project – and the community perks – as part of its 10-year campus plan.

“We negotiated and agreed to amenities from the 2007 campus plan, so from our perspective, this has already been done and agreed to,” Cora said. “Additional amenities means paying twice, which is something we’re not willing to do.”

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