GU proposes adding 250 beds to plan

Photo by Bill Petros/The Current
The plan suggests building a loop road that will abut national parkland, upsetting some neighbors and environmentalists.
The plan suggests building a loop road that will abut national parkland, upsetting some neighbors and environmentalists.

By Carol Buckley

Current Staff Writer

 

Georgetown University has amended its controversial campus plan, adding new beds for undergraduates and lowering the ceiling for student enrollment at the school’s main campus.

The proposal filed with the city’s Zoning Commission, which will begin hearings on the plan April 14, frames the changes as designed to meet the demands of community members opposed to the plan.

The school “now proposes significant concessions with the goal of framing a compromise … ,” reads the document.

The proposal calls for 250 new beds to be added by the fall of 2014 either on or off campus -- but outside the nearby residential neighborhood.

And before the end of 2013, according to the compromise, the school will relocate 1,000 continuing-studies students to a satellite location.

That move will help the school meet a new main-campus head-count ceiling of 15,000, down from the 16,000 proposed earlier. The main campus now holds 14,033 students.

But initial reactions suggest that the changes do not go far enough to win support from community groups that have come out against the plan.

The Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission declined Monday to modify its resolution from last month that describes its strong opposition to the campus plan. The new proposals do not respond “nearly adequately” to the commission’s concerns, chair Ron Lewis said at the meeting.

“We are still reviewing the information,” wrote Burleith Citizens Association president Lenore Rubino in an email to The Current. But at least initially, “it does not appear to deal with the significant number of students group rentals in our neighborhoods,” she added.

Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans agreed that the change in undergraduate housing is not radical enough to win community support. “It’s a step in the right direction, … [but] they need to go further than that,” he said in an interview.

Housing has been the No. 1 issue since university officials and neighborhood residents began discussing the plan two years ago. Residents pushed for more beds on campus in order to lower the number of students renting homes in the neighborhood, and school officials replied that they house more undergraduates than nearby schools do.

The compromise proposals are contingent upon Zoning Commission approval of the entire 2010 campus plan, the school’s amendment notes, and cannot be legally imposed without the school’s consent.

The school’s filing did not identify potential satellite locations that could accommodate undergraduate housing or continuing-studies programs. Nor did it update the future of Georgetown University Hospital, now slated for piecemeal, years-long renovations. Hospital officials and many residents prefer to see a brand-new hospital built in one fell swoop.

Left intact in the campus plan is a proposal to build a campus loop road that will help the school keep its buses off neighborhood streets, as many residents have requested. But some worry that the planned road will disrupt views and the outdoor experience, as well as contribute to slope degradation, at adjacent Glover Archbold Park.

Though officials have said the planned road will not be built on a National Park Service scenic easement, the new filing notes that the school will need to “conduct tests and perform work” in the easement area and on Park Service land.

But Georgetown University will work with the Park Service to minimize slope changes and tree loss, as well as to ensure the park is screened from the new road, the filing states.

 

This article appears in the April 6 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.