Friday, May 16, 2008

Square 54 Breaks Ground

With blue shovels in hand, George Washington University officials broke ground this morning on the greatly anticipated and hotly debated Square 54 project on Washington Circle. At its delivery in 2011, the $250 million mixed-use project in Foggy Bottom will include 333 residential units, 13% of which will be work-force housing, 440,000 s.f. of office space overlooking Washington Circle, an open central courtyard and retail plaza on I Street, over 80,000 s.f. of retail space (including the supermarket that has students salivating), and over 1,000 underground parking spaces.

“Is it possible that this is the best mixed-use project in the city? I say yes,” Chairman of GW’s Board of Trustees, Russell Ramsey said. “This is about the vision for GW in ten years, in twenty years,” he said.

A partnership between GWU and Boston Properties, the 2.6-acre former GW Hospital site is, as Mayor Adrian Fenty noted in yet another groundbreaking appearance this morning, the last major development site on Pennsylvania Avenue. The developers have entered into a 60-year ground lease for the redevelopment effort; Square 54 is part of a three-part development initiative that includes the campus 20-year “grow up, not out” plan and the redevelopment of The School Without Walls.

Jack Evans, Council- member of Ward 2, said the project, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, LLP and Sasaki and Associates, would bring in $12 million a year in tax revenues for the city and benefit not only the university, but also the Foggy Bottom community. While there is a history of tension between residence-hungry GW and its development-resisting neighbors, at this morning’s rainy groundbreaking, GW officials spun it optimistically, saying that the development was a positive for everyone in Foggy Bottom and welcomed neighbors in attendance.

Robert Chernak, a GW official, told DCMud this morning “Beyond the project itself, the impact it has really had is on the relationship with people in the community. There was some negativity. This is finally bringing the parties together to have rational dialogue and bring together all involved. It’s about people effected in the long term.” GW. Neighbors. Rational dialogue. He-he.

“Square 54 is a shining example of what GW and the city can accomplish when we work together. It represents the importance of sustainable practices and has been recognized by the Smart Growth Alliance. It will enliven the streetscape. It was thoughtfully conceived to contribute to the open space of the city,” said GWU President, Steven Knapp.

As DCmud reported last year, GW was asked to revise the height and density of the proposed building, and the National Capital Planning Commission recommended that the Commission approve the revised proposal in April 2007. And no, a grocer has not yet been selected for the retail space.


Anonymous said...

Honestly, it looks great. I like the open courtyard and the extra retail. That area really needs more ground floor retail, and definitely needs a grocery store.

Of course, the NIMBYs opposed it, but they would oppose anything.

Guy Incognito said...

Having never seen renderings of this project until now, I'm astounded at the bland, derivative architecture being proposed here. A prominent site such as this on Washington Circle deserves so much more. Daring, dignified... if nothing else, at least interesting. The front looks like every other spec office facade re-skin going up all over town, and the back looks like a middle-of-the road apartment high-rise in Pentagon City-- right down to the thru-wall heat-pump units (which never look good).

Is this design solely the result of aesthetic timidness? Or is it the watery broth left behind after community groups, abundant in good intentions but lacking in design sensibility, stripped away the meat? Or both? Either way... what a missed opportunity. A chance to build on such a unique site as on one of L'Enfant's circles is a rare event, and we can do better.

Shaw Resident said...

It's nice to see Jack Evans work so hard in favor of this project while the O Street Market languishes. C'mon Jack the O Street Market has been on the boards a lot longer than Square 54!

Anonymous said...

Why does every new office building in DC look the same? Yawn....

Anonymous said...

"...and the back looks like a middle-of-the road apartment high-rise in Pentagon City--"


It's a joke and this whole community dialogue baloney being bandied about is just that: GW officals talking to each other and issuing press releases.

Jack Evans, Tony Williams and their cronies at GWU--primarily Steve Trachtenberg--have destroyed the neighborhood to the point where there is very little "community" remaining in Foggy Bottom other than thousands of students.

The neighborhood has the highest poverty rate in the city (31%) and is an economic sinkhole and student ghetto.

The biggest laugh is the 1,000 car underground garage planned for the project... right across the street from the FB Metro.... TOD (Transit Oriented Disaster).

Anonymous said...

student ghetto, eh?

especially the ones paying $50,000 a year. oh wait...

thugs, all of them.

GWU Colonial said...

yeah, "student ghetto"??????? I don't think $50,000 a year qualify as ghetto.

Anonymous said...

"GWU Colonial said...
yeah, "student ghetto"??????? I don't think $50,000 a year qualify as ghetto."

Main Entry: ghet·to
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian, from Venetian dialect ghèto island where Jews were forced to live, literally, foundry (located on the island), from ghetàr to cast, from Latin jactare to throw.
1: a quarter of a city in which Jews were formerly required to live
2: a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure
3 a: an isolated group (a geriatric ghetto) b: a situation that resembles a ghetto especially in conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity (stuck in daytime TV's ghetto)

Just because a lot of naive kids and their parents have ponied up huge wads of cash (or gone into deep debt) to attend GW, doesn't change the meaning of the word "ghetto" nor the fact that this is what the Foggy Bottom neighborhood has become.

If you don't believe the census statistics, then just visit the area when GW is in session.

pqresident on May 20, 2008, 9:55:00 PM said...

architecture = boring!

Anonymous said...

I hear that this NIMBY Joy Howell is an opposition force for hire. She apperently travlels around and fights developers (alegedly until they pay her off and/or they alegedly agree to cut her in on the deal). She is also a former operative for former Sen. Toracelli from New Jersey - you may know him from one of the most publicised bribery scandals in this nation. Is this the same project in which she extorted $4.8 mil from the previous developer Trammel Crow in exchange for her support of the development???

GWU Colonial said...

Just because the surrounding neighborhood as you say "has the highest poverty rate in the city," your bashing of the student body was unnecessary. If you will comment on the project just do that, don't imply things that you are ignorant of.

Anonymous said...

Just because the surrounding neighborhood as you say "has the highest poverty rate in the city," your bashing of the student body was unnecessary. If you will comment on the project just do that, don't imply things that you are ignorant of. --GWU Colonial

God forbid if your reading comprehension and communication skills are representative of the average GW student. The only "ignorant" element in this commentary is you.

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