Storylines to watch at GW and in the District this year

Life’s never boring at GW and in its D.C. home. Stay on top of these storylines throughout the year as the future of the city and the campus transform right before your eyes.

A facelift on Pennsylvania Avenue
GW’s next redevelopment project will start to take shape this fall. After the Square 75A construction project booted restaurants Froggy Bottom Pub, Thai Place, Panda Café and Mehran from their stalwart Pennsylvania Avenue locations, GW will hire a developer this fall to transform the row into an 11-story office building that would host retailers on the first floor.

GW has been particularly savvy in helping to make over the Foggy Bottom neighborhood with real estate investments and redevelopment projects that also help the University’s bottom line.
The D.C. Zoning Commission approved GW’s proposal in February, after the University offered $4.1 million in neighborhood perks to appease community leaders who had been opposed to the plan.

Waiting for Gray
The Democratic primary for D.C.’s 2014 mayoral election is just eight months away, but Mayor Vincent Gray has voters – and his would-be competitors – holding their breath. The GW alumnus and scandal-embroiled incumbent has not yet announced his plans to run for a second term.

Looming over the decision is an unresolved federal probe into Gray’s 2010 campaign spending.

But the clock is ticking: four top Democratic candidates, including three D.C. Council members, have already jumped into the race for the city’s top spot. These top four contenders raised a combined $1.1 million in campaign funds as of July 31. Council member Muriel Bowser sits atop the largest campaign chest, having raised $465,272 so far.

Gray has said that he has no timeline for announcing whether he will seek a second term. Council member Jack Evans, who represents Ward 2 (which includes the Foggy Bottom area), announced his bid for mayor in June.

March on Washington, 50 years later
President Barack Obama will mark the anniversary of the historic protest Aug. 28, speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago.

The speech comes after jurors handed down a not guilty verdict to the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin, sparking racially charged conversations and protests in D.C. and across the country. Obama gave emotional remarks after the verdict, acknowledging his personal experiences with racism, when he said at a July 19 press conference: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

Leaping toward online education
The University is gingerly stepping into the world of free online education, planning a handful of massive open online courses that highlight GW’s academic strengths as early as this year. Paul Schiff Berman, vice provost of online academia education and academic innovation, left his controversial law school deanship to pioneer the much-hyped MOOCs at GW.

After expressing his skepticism, Provost Steven Lerman offered a cautious blessing of the MOOC phenomenon during a panel last April.

“Like all technology, MOOCs will find their place over time and evolve, and we will adapt to it,” he said.

A $1 billion fundraising campaign?
All signs point to the announcement of a $1 billion fundraising campaign after the University has poured money and time into fundraising efforts over the last six years of University President Steven Knapp’s tenure.

The fundraising campaign, which will likely be revealed within the next year, has been in the works since 2011, a year after a consulting firm told the University it could raise up to $1 billion over the next six years.

GW will have to turn around a history of subpar fundraising if it is going to reach its lofty academic and research ambitions.

Promising signals are coming out of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, which has reached its goals in recent years by expanding its digital presence and doubling down on annual giving efforts.

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