Locals voice concerns over loss of affordable dining options with GW dining overhaul

Media Credit: File Photo by Sophia Young | Senior Staff Photographer

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission approved a GW zoning request to designate District House as residential dining instead of public.

As the University shifts away from an open dining plan and restricts public access to District House, some Foggy Bottom residents are resisting the closure of affordable restaurants on campus.

A new dining hall in District House, which will open this fall, will replace most of the GWorld vendors in the building’s basement over the summer, a move that locals said could make meals less affordable in the neighborhood. Sol Mexican Grill, Kin’s Sushi, Wiseguy Pizza and GRK Fresh Greek will shut down after the semester, removing some of the less expensive dining options from Foggy Bottom, which includes menu items surpassing $15 in the more than 10 restaurants scattered on I Street and Western Market.

The University will also open dining halls in Thurston and Shenkman halls as part of the new dining system that will provide all-you-can-eat meal access under an unlimited plan, which students said can break down food insecurity and barriers to dietary restrictions. The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission approved a GW zoning request last month that would change District’s zoning designation from public to residential dining, barring locals from building access.

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Officials presented plans for the dining hall that will open in the basement of District House during an ANC meeting last month.

Carlton Ackerman, a School Without Walls High School social studies teacher, said during the ANC meeting last month that students at the high school – which lacks a traditional cafeteria – would lose out on meal access after the District House vendors leave campus this summer. He said Kevin Days, GW’s director of community relations, plans to deliver a report to the high school addressing the issue, which Ackerman would like to see before expressing further opposition to District House’s closure to the public.

“I do have concerns about GW’s move to a dining hall format for its students in that it leaves our students, many of whom rely on GW’s campus for their lunches, with a very different lunch experience,” Ackerman said in an email.

Chick-fil-A will relocate to the University Student Center, and Peet’s Coffee will remain near the I Street entrance to District House under the new dining system.

Customers can purchase meals at District House vendors for less than $10 – two large slices at Wiseguy Pizza cost $8, and Sol sells burritos for $9.59. Other dining options in the area are consistently more expensive – salads at Sweetgreen start at $12, and small sandwiches at Capo Deli in Western Market start at $10.50.

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Commissioner Trupti Patel relayed concerns during the meeting from her constituents about the departure of local and affordable food vendors that will leave District House to make room for the new dining hall. Days said officials are changing District’s dining setup to reduce food insecurity among the GW community and better serve the student population, which is the University’s main priority.

“The University is not interested in reducing public facilities for the community,” Days said at the meeting. “What we’re doing is transforming them and reallocating our space to serve our primary function, which is to serve the GW student population.”

Karen Zinn, GW’s associate vice president for business services, presented initial plans for the dining hall to the ANC, showing the seating arrangement and potential restaurants like “Tú Taco” and “Piccola Italia” dispersed throughout the floor.

“It will look like it’s retail, but it functions as all-you-care-to-eat,” she said in the meeting. “It means that students can come in, they can stay. They can fill their plates.”

Daniel Patrick Galgano contributed reporting.

Zach Blackburn is the senior news editor of The GW Hatchet.

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