GW Hillel opens new building after years of construction

GW Hillel’s new building on 23rd and H streets opened with limited hours for students last weekend after nearly three years of construction at the site.

Officials said the new four-story facility would be equipped with a Kosher dining venue, two floors dedicated to Hillel activities and two floors that will be leased by GW, according to a University release. Adena Kirstein, the executive director of GW Hillel said the building received its certificate of occupancy last weekend and will be open to students full-time in the fall as officials place “finishing” touches on the building.

Kirstein said students can reach out to her if they want to visit the building before the fall semester begins.

Hillel tore down its 30-year-old building in 2018 to build a permanent facility for GW Hillel’s organizations and other University offices, like the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service – which officials said would relocate this year in light of plans to tear down its row house. The Hillel building’s opening was delayed beyond its target date set for last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lawsuits from neighbors, which slowed construction.

“COVID presented a ton of challenges,” Kirstein said in an email. “We also knew that with students not returning to the building in the spring, we could be more deliberate with timing about getting to the finish line.”

After the D.C. Zoning Commission approved the creation of Hillel’s new building in 2015, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and the West End Citizens Association filed a lawsuit a year later, contending that the renovations would damage the church and obstruct its access to H Street. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 that Hillel could continue with its planned renovations.

Hillel leaders modified the building plans in 2018 with the support of the church and WECA, proposing to reduce the building’s original footprint by 20 percent, according to Hillel’s zoning application.

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