Wednesday, March 23, 2011

American University Submits Expansion Plans

American University has officially submitted its decadal vision of growth to the Washington D.C. Zoning Commission for review. The AU Campus Plan has been the subject of two years of public comment which have, predictably, shrunk its size and density, but which increases enrollment from 10,200 to 13,600, expands the campus across Nebraska Avenue and builds out AU's campus at Tenley Circle into a new law school.

The university intends a number of upgrades to its current campus, including $400m in construction and renovation projects, a further greening of the campus and construction that aims for "carbon neutrality" by 2020, and a consolidation of student housing into new buildings, drawing more students in from the neighborhoods.
The largest, and most controversial, portion of the proposal is to turn the 8-acre surface parking lot at Massachusetts and Nebraska into a 6 building mini campus with housing for 770 students (down from 1000), administrative offices (placed strategically between student housing and the gated townhouse community next door), and small scale retail fronting New Mexico Avenue ("primarily to serve university needs"), 329,000 s.f. of development in all. The plan has had some AU Park and Spring Valley residents atwitter, particularly given the Department of Homeland Security's plans for a major expansion directly across Massachusetts Avenue. The new "east campus" will front New Mexico and Nebraska Avenues, leaving surface parking along Massachusetts for a later "signature" building, something like the gangly Katzen building on the north side of Ward Circle.
Earlier versions of the plan held open the possibility of more retail, an idea that created controversy at some meetings, but which numerous AU Park residents thought would be welcomed. "I drive from Tenleytown to Bethesda or to Cleveland Park if I want to get out and walk, those of us that choose to live close in deserve better, closer options" said a local resident who asked not to be identified. Earlier plans floated the idea of additional retail along Nebraska, but that was nixed in favor of a plan for 14,400 s.f. of retail along New Mexico Ave.

AU also plans to move the law school from its Spring Valley facility in the hinterlands of northwest to its current campus on Tenley Circle, providing metro access for the average peripatetic student, a change that will seem positively urbane for the students that have experienced the gulag of the Spring Valley campus.

At the same time, the university will decamp 497 of its undergrads from Tenleytown to the main campus to make room for the aspiring litigators. The general footprint of the Tenley campus would change little, though the bland mid-century architecture would be replaced by new (and possibly bland) designs. American University has shouldered most of the design process internally, with McKissack & McKissack contributing to some design and graphic elements, though designs for the buildings have not been fleshed out.

University Architect Jerry Gager says the initial renderings supplied for the report are "suggestive of the bulk and massing" of the buildings and "clearly placeholders, not meant to evoke any sort of design style." Eventual building design on the east campus will be handled by Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, the Tenley site will be handled by SmithGroup. The timeline is still dependent upon zoning approval, but the school hopes to start work on the east campus housing in mid 2012 and open in the fall of 2014, and start work on the Tenleytown campus in mid 2013 and open in the fall of 2015.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


IMGoph on Mar 23, 2011, 10:01:00 AM said...

it's a shame that someone who is in favor of the project has to seek anonymity, apparently out of fear that the NIMBYs in the neighborhood will turn knives out.

Anonymous said...

As an AU grad, I can't stand the tenleytown NIMBYs. They prefer a rundown strip of wisconsin and an empty parking lot rather than, you know, investment. It's the looniest place in the city and I can't imagine how anyone convinces themselves the housing prices are worth the area.

Anonymous said...

While I understand AU's need to cave to the NIMBYs, this campus plan seems short-sighted on so many levels.

Do your community proud and propose a campus plan that speaks to the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

Considering all of the loud traffic in the area, I hope WCL will be investing in some thick windows. Or will the backwards historic boards demand single-pane nonsense?

TXinDC said...

Anon #2 - Not 21st century? They aim to be Carbon Neutral in less than 10 years. What isn't 21st century about the plan?

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