Tuesday, October 19, 2010

GW Looks to Bury Law School Buildings

In 2006, Sherry Rutherford, former managing director of real estate planning and development at GWU, was quoted as saying the University's "mantra [for development] is up not out." She was referring to the strategy for increasing density on the Foggy Bottom campus in anticipation of their growing student population, without expanding beyond their current borders and encroaching on their residential neighbors, but to kick off their campus redevelopment action, GW has proposed a construction project that opts to build down and out. In 2006 the Zoning Commission approved the University's Campus Plan and First Stage zoning (PUD) for its Foggy Bottom campus. The plan laid out provisions and guidelines - how future development on the campus would play out, and also highlighted 16 specific locations fit for new construction, renovations, and improvements. The first stage plan also specified that all campus development projects henceforth would come back for a second stage PUD. Yesterday, the University applied for their first second stage PUD under the Campus Plan, and Zoning agreed to set down the hearing as a "contested case."

George Washington University intends to develop a plot of land (the northern half of Square 103) that has only recently become entirely controlled by the University (Lot 18 being the previously missing piece) through a land swap with Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. One Zoning Commission member found this selection of property, a plot of land not originally highlighted by the Campus Plan, to be "ironic." Further, the proposed development will go down, not up, by burrowing "23,281 s.f. of academic and administrative program space for the Law School" beneath the ground, along with a 392-space below-grade, four-level garage. Also going down will be several existing buildings on site, either during this initial or subsequent phases of development. While a portion of the Law School staff and administration will be relegated to a window-less, below-ground work space, the proposed development will provide the rest of the school body with "an attractive and sustainable improvement to the campus and surrounding streetscape...[that] incorporates sustainable design features intended to minimize stormwater runoff and encourage its reuse." The "attractive" surface improvements more specifically include 58 surface parking spaces, 64 covered bicycle parking spaces, and a covered entrance pavilion. The project was co-designed by architects at Perkins & Will and Shalom Baranes Associates. Wiles Mensch Corporation has undertaken civil engineering duties, and Oculus shouldered landscape-design responsibilities.

University developers intend to begin excavation of the property later this Fall, or as soon as the Zoning process allows, and expect that the construction period will last roughly 18-20 months. Phase II of this project calls for development in the skyward direction, but offering only that the project will consist of an in-fill, above ground building "which will be the subject of a future second-stage PUD application and Campus Plan application." As one can imagine, the Zoning Board expressed concern over the proposed above grade parking lot, and also voiced their wish to be better-informed about the specifics of the future above-ground developments. This and more will be discussed at the next Zoning hearing, scheduled for next month.

Clarification: In light of the accusations in the comment thread below, DCMud once again reached out to GW's Real Estate Development team in hopes of clarifying in discrepancies, this time with success. Suzy Cora of the University's development department confirmed that the factual validity of the published article is sound, and that no corrections needed to be issued. She did point out that although the words "contested case" were uttered during the set-down hearing, Board members quickly realized they could not officially classify the application as a "contested case," because no formal party has come forward in opposition yet. She also explained that the underground square footage being used for academic programming will not house staff and or administrators that sit in an office or behind desk all day, but instead for storing cataloged law journals that will be accessed by various staff and students for research purposes, only for a few hours at a time.

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Critically Urban on Oct 20, 2010, 2:33:00 PM said...

Fail. Building green also means to build healthy. Natural light is one of the easiest things to provide, but going down AND providing SURFACE PARKING (!!!!) is a huge failure. I hope these plans are doomed.

Anonymous said...

The inaccuracies in this piece are appalling and borderline inflammatory. Terrible reporting - could have gotten more accurate facts from Perez Hilton.

Brooks Butler Hays on Oct 20, 2010, 10:35:00 PM said...

anon, first off: any and all facts in this piece are derived directly from the most recent Zoning application filed by GWU, and also from the proceedings of Monday's set-down hearing. efforts to reach out to GW's development team were not returned in time to be included before publication deadline. if you have discrepancies with specifics in the story, it would be appreciated if you would either contact me at brooks@dcrealestate.com, and i'd be happy to make corrections if valid and necessary, or you could at least make your difference more specific and provide the alternate information. as for now i'll trust my "terrible reporting" over lame topical-humor jabs

Anonymous said...

You missed a major point - this development is the first phase of a much larger development. It is the "foundation" of a future multi-story academic building. What is that building going to look like? How will it enhance the campus?

Brooks Butler Hays on Oct 22, 2010, 10:19:00 AM said...

anon, this excerpt was in reference to the multilevel academic building that is planned...

Phase II of this project calls for development in the skyward direction, but offering only that the project will consist of an in-fill, above ground building "which will be the subject of a future second-stage PUD application and Campus Plan application."

...unfortunately there isn't really any more information available, i spoke to GWU and witness the Zoning hearing, the ZB members want to know more about what's going happen to, but the University and their design team don't really have the details ready to share, they're still working on their plans, and they're not even sure when the money will be available to move forward with phase ii, so for now phase i is the only thing on the immediate horizon

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