Friday, June 17, 2011

GW Construction Begins: High-Minded Inside, Visible From the Outside

George Washington University (GW) is beginning work on its new Science and Engineering Complex in Foggy Bottom, with approval from the D.C. Zoning Commission secured this week. Though the site has been bustling with pre-construction activities for the last month, construction on the site can now officially move forward along with demolition of the parking garage at the corner of H and 22nd St., NW.

The parking garage was shut for good on May 20th, having waited until spring finals were completed on May 15th, when coeds cleared out for the summer. Demolition of the two garages, along with Building K, will take place throughout the summer – from July to September – followed by excavation, sheeting, shoring and foundation work to be staged in phases for the next year and a half. Two years of above-grade construction on the 400,000-square-foot, 8-story structure will busy the site throughout 2013 and 2014, before building occupancy can take place, if all goes well, in January of 2015.

By that time the $275m building, in keeping with GW's goal of densifying the campus, will feature 6 underground floors (2 for program space and 4 for parking, offering 370 spaces) and 50 percent more engineering and science space, as well as significant retail space, in keeping with GW's vision to make the area more retail friendly.

The green aspects, designing by Philly-based Ballinger Architects, have already been touted: the LEED silver project will become “the largest source of on-site solar power in the District of Columbia.” The interior lay-out proposes to encourage collaboration by intermingling schools of thought – mixing five Science and Engineering departments with four from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences— currently spread across more than a dozen buildings on campus, and also varying levels of academic achievement: freshmen, PhDs, post-docs and faculty will rub elbows.

Metro riders are less apt to get excited about the idea of rubbing elbows in transport, while getting in and out of the one-entrance Metro station on the same block. Worries have been expressed in the past regarding the net loss of 880 parking spots, compounded by the newly completed Square 54 project – a.k.a The Avenue – on Washington Circle. The Avenue includes over 1,000 parking spots, but adds 335 rental units, 440,000 s.f. of office space, and over 80,000 s.f. of retail space, including a supermarket, one block away.

A call for a second Foggy Bottom Metro access went out by a few area residents in October of last year, and the 2007 Foggy Bottom Campus Plan requires that GW leave the area on the corner of 22nd and I St vacant, potentially for a future entrance.

Don’t look for an entrance there soon; WMATA published a study – “Foggy Bottom-GWU Station Second Entrance Demand Analysis” – in 2007 which concluded that the current one-entrance configuration of the Metro at Foggy Bottom was sufficient to handle the projected 15-percent increase in ridership through 2030. Steven Taubenkibel, WMATA Public Information Officer, used this study as supporting evidence when he confirmed that there were no plans currently in the works to add a second entrance.

Additional parking options on campus currently include space at South Hall now, and in mid-2012 an underground parking facility on the 2000 block of G Street. In the meantime, GW has raised the idea of “temporary offsite parking for GW staff at a discounted rate at the Kennedy Center, with shuttle service offered to and from [campus].”

The $275 million project – the biggest ever on GW’s campus – has been in the works since 2006 and was unanimously approved by the GW Board of Trustees in October of 2010. A significant amount of funds for the project are expected to come back in the form of revenue from Square 54/The Avenue lease payments from Boston Properties; the bulk of tenants will occupy their space this summer.

The design will feature a high bay area dedicated to high-impact, large-scale experimentation that will be cloaked to outsiders only by glass; the wonders of science and engineering will be on display to 23rd Street passersby. The high bay area will have direct access to a loading dock and a crane will be on hand to heft up to 20 tons around the facility. In addition to the high bay space, four additional research facilities will be incorporated into the SEC.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


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