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.