Members of a local governing body voted to approve preparations for the new GW campus store ahead of its move to a new location next fall during their monthly meeting Wednesday.
University officials notified members of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission that they are seeking permanent community access to the Lerner Health and Wellness Center. Commissioners also approved GW’s request to make the Mount Vernon Express loading zone in front of Tompkins Hall permanent and greenlit Boston Properties’ proposal to modify the rooftop area and green space at their property on 2200 Pennsylvania Ave.
Here are a few of the meeting’s highlights:
GW seeks permanent community access to Lerner Health and Wellness Center
Kevin Days, GW’s community relations director, said the University is asking the D.C. Zoning Commission to continue allowing neighborhood residents and visitors to use the Lerner Health and Wellness Center.
Days said GW is seeking permanent authorization for 250 community members to access the center – 150 during the school year and an additional 100 during summer months – including neighborhood residents, a limited number of competitors at GW-hosted events, attendees of campus events and students living in University housing over the summer. Days said the zoning commission approved the previous application for community member access in 2014, an agreement which expires June 30.
Days said their application mandates all center members must be at least 18 years old and expands access to students in full-time degree programs at the University’s Virginia campuses “in the spirit of fairness.” He said that since restoring community access to the center in late January after the program’s hiatus during the pandemic, the number of community members using the center is “nowhere near” the cap that the University is seeking to make permanent.
“I think there’s a few, but I don’t have the exact number,” Days said. “It’s way less than 150.”
David Avitabile, a real estate attorney at Goulston & Storrs, said the University will file the application in the “upcoming weeks.” He said the ANC will vote on the authorization prior to the summer, when officials are scheduled to go before the zoning commission in an application hearing.
Commissioners vote to approve applications for new roof renovations at 2200 Penn
Goulston & Storrs attorney Lee Templin and Sean Sullivan with the real estate firm Boston Properties introduced proposed modifications to the roof of the office building at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave, which the firm completed in 2011 under a 60-year lease from GW.
Sullivan said the company hopes to replace the roof’s current metal guardrail to a glass one, install a trellis structure and an astroturf “activity lawn” for outdoor events like yoga in an effort to draw more tenants. The changes require moving part of the preexisting vegetative roof to the other side.
“We are desperately trying to keep tenants in the building and also attract new ones,” Sullivan said.
Commissioners approved the motion 6-0, with 2A05 Commissioner Kim Courtney abstaining.
Commissioners vote to approve applications for campus store preparations at 2100 Penn
Avitabile, along with Sullivan and Seth Weinshel, GW’s vice president of business services, also presented an application for to modify plans for 2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, which will hold the campus store next fall after it relocates from the basement of the University Student Center. The building is held by Boston Properties under a 75-year lease from GW.
Sullivan said the two modifications entail installing an enlarged sign on the premises and permanently sealing one of the building’s entrances on 21st Street to accommodate the design of the store. He said the University is requesting a sign band – the horizontal space above the storefront that usually accommodates signage – that runs 18 inches tall and 13 feet wide.
Courtney said she was “concerned” that the store was not community-focused and said a business in that location should “benefit the community,” not just the University. She said the neighborhood needs retail and said moving the campus store from its current location doesn’t help bolster the market.
She said she hopes to see the student store become a “real bookstore” with a cafe that invites the community to the space.
“I’m not sure how we can approve a sign that says campus store if we’re not actually deciding that that’s what’s moving there,” Courtney said. “I think there are a lot of questions about whether the campus store should be moving there.”
Avitabile said the building’s zoning requires retail and service use on the ground floor, and he said the campus store “clearly” adheres to the definition of retail use to the mandate. He said campus stores at Catholic and Howard Universities operate under similar circumstances.
“From our perspective, this is a non-controversial point,” Avitabile said.
Weinshel said the University plans on “significantly” adding to their unbranded retail offerings at the store, including a childrens’, faculty and local books section, but they decided not to include a cafe in the space because of the store’s proximity to Tatte next door. He said GW does not yet know what they will be putting in the empty space in the student center basement.
“We want to make sure that as we are activating the block and the I Street corridor, that we’re sending people to the other other spaces that are within the block,” Weinshel said. “That is intentional to not have a cafe in the space.”
2A08 Commissioner Jordan Nassar moved to delay the vote on the application to the next ANC meeting in April but the motion failed with a 2-4 vote. The following motion to approve the applications passed 4-0, with Nassar, Courtney and Yannik Omictin abstaining from the motion and Trupti Patel, Jim Malec, Joel Causey and Ed Comer voting in favor.
Commissioners approve making 23rd Street Vex stop permanent
GW Director of Government Relations Gabrielle Sosa announced the University’s intent to make the temporary loading area for the Mount Vernon Express at the 700 Block of 23rd Street NW in front of Tompkins Hall a permanent loading zone.
Sosa said the G Street bike lane becoming operational in 2020 caused the Vex stop previously located on G Street between 22nd and 23rd streets to shrink from six to three vehicle loading spaces, leading the University to implement a temporary stop on 23rd Street between F and G streets in August 2021.
Courtney said she has noticed students blocking the sidewalks while waiting and requested a “designated area” for students to stand to maintain sidewalk traffic. Following Courtney’s comments, commissioners passed the motion to approve the notice of intent 6-0.
ANC votes to creates new committees
The ANC approved the creation of three new committees and suspended bylaw language regarding 2A committee chairs. Constituents must express interest by applying to be on a committee and the ANC will decide who will serve, with no limit to how many constituents may serve on a committee.
Causey said the ANC will send a committee member application requesting confirmation that applicants live within the commission’s jurisdiction and a questionnaire, as well as a notice of application for committee chair positions.
The commission passed the creation of a transportation, public space, and environment committee, a housing and community development committee and an operations and community engagement committee that will address the day-to-day administration and operation of the ANC.
This article appeared in the March 23, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.