GW appeals to local political board to amend campus plan to include Corcoran students

Members of the ANC like Peter Sacco discussed the Corcoran School of Art and Design at Wednesday night's meeting. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Members of the ANC like Peter Sacco discussed the Corcoran School of Art and Design at Wednesday night’s meeting. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporters Robin Eberhardt and Ben Marchiony

A top GW official appealed to a local governing board Wednesday night, laying out plans to adapt the University’s campus plan to include arts students from the recently acquired Corcoran College of Arts and Design.

Senior Associate Vice President for Operations Alicia Knight announced a plan at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting on Wednesday that would formally recognize Corcoran students living and taking classes on the Foggy Bottom campus. Officials are looking to get the update approved due to the D.C.-imposed limit on how many students the University can legally have on campus.

The head count, known as GW’s “enrollment cap,” will still not change from the 20,000 that was approved in 2007, which was the last time the University’s campus plan went through zoning regulations.

“The University is not proposing an increase in any enrollment caps,” Knight said. “There’s no proposed change related to that.”

A notice from the Zoning Commission emphasized that “No modification of the student caps is sought, nor does the University seek to change any other conditions of the Campus Plan.”

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said that GW is “voluntarily offering the modification to provide clarity and transparency.” GW announced the acquisition of the 135,000 square-foot building and arts school last February, and the details of the merger were officially finalized last semester.

The maximum cap for full-time students is 16,553 students, according to the 2007 Campus Plan.

GW created the 2007 Campus Plan so that it “concentrates height and density within the central campus core, away from historically sensitive areas of campus and nearby residential neighborhoods,” according to zoning application documents. Major construction projects laid out in the 2007 campus plan include building South Hall and District House.

Peter Sacco, an ANC commissioner and GW senior, said in an interview that including the adjustment of campus zones is a “necessary step” to to fully including Corcoran students on campus.

“It’s a conversation we have to have, and it’s not an easy one to have,” Sacco said. “As you can see, we’re still going forward with that.”

GW’s tangled history with local political bodies has come to a head during zoning issues in the past. As campus grew to attract more students and as more construction projects began, neighbors have typically been wary over how to contain GW’s reach in Foggy Bottom.

The Foggy Bottom Association, a neighborhood coalition, opposed GW’s application to change campus zoning agreements in 2006, saying that GW had “‘more students, fewer beds and more faculty than allowed,” according to zoning document. They appealed the zoning regulations approved in 2007, and were overruled by the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Community members voiced their opinions on the proposed Campus Plan update at the meeting. Barbara Kahlow, who lives in the neighborhood, pointed out that the 2007 campus plan wanted to “build up, not out,” and said.

She said that adding the Corcoran students does not follow the original guidelines, and also said that she found issues with GW adding a section into the library just for Corcoran students.

“The whole student cap issue has been an issue in the community,” Kahlow said. “Because they are using Foggy Bottom.”

Corcoran students have already begun the integration process on campus by living in GW residence halls this academic year, with around 35 Corcoran students in Mitchell Hall. Freshmen Corcoran students will be able to live in a “Creative and Performing Arts Community” floor in Thurston Hall. The Corcoran school is also featured on GW’s virtual tour.

Starting with the class of 2019, Corcoran students will be required to live on campus until their junior year, under the same housing regulations as undergraduate students in other schools within the University, according to Hiatt.

The University will officially propose an edited campus plan to the zoning commission on May 4.

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