The 10 Year Campus Plan: Saturday afternoon’s alright for fighting

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The University is formulating its 2010 Campus Plan, which, once it passes ANC and D.C. Zoning Commission muster, will dictate how the University can expand over the next decade. Previous Campus Plans excluded neighborhood input in their planning stages, much to the neighbors’ dismay. So this summer, University officials will hold a series of meetings to gather community input. For those of you who aren’t here, Vox will be attending all meetings and recapping them here on the blog. Keep in mind that the proposals under discussion are only tentative. At the same time, they do comprise, as University architect Alan Brangman told Vox, Georgetown University’s “wishlist.”

This Saturday, some Georgetown administrators, including Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson, Vice President for External Relations Linda Greenan, and University Architect Alan Brangman, were lucky enough to spend nearly five hours in the cafeteria of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts’ cafeteria presenting the skeleton of Georgetown’s 10 Year Campus Plan to a group of about twenty neighborhood residents and their Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. It was the second of such meetings, the first having taken place in November, that will occur before the University must present a plan for review near the end of the calendar year.

Aside from a handful of miscellaneous issues, the bulk of the meeting was spent on often heated discussions about student housing and the effect the University’s plan would have on traffic and human congestion (two posts, one about the University’s housing proposals and one about transportation, including GUTS buses, will follow this week).

For their part, the neighbors were present to insist that the Campus Plan address the perennial issues that they feel plague the neighborhood, such as trash and the number of students living off campus. And the ANC commissioners who were present, Bill Skelsey, Bill Starrels, and Ron Lewis were clearly advocates of all the neighbors’ proposals (Georgetown University’s student ANC commissioner, Aaron Golds, attended a wedding yesterday but wrote in an email that he plans to attend subsequent meetings).

Among these is the demand that the University cap its undergraduate enrollment at its present maximum number, 6,016. University administrators plan to do so, they said, largely because they anticipate the expansion of their graduate programs instead.

The incomplete state of the University’s 10 Year Plan—it is currently more a collection of suggestions than an actionable plan and lacks some of the studies that will be critical to it finalization—visibly upset the neighbors in attendance.  They were dismayed, for example, to hear that the University would like to build a “whole new hospital facility more internal to the campus” but could not specify the location or coordinate its affect with other aspects of the plan, like traffic, until negotiations with MedStar, the company that owns the existing hospital buildings, had concluded (The preferred location for the new hospital is on what is currently the hospital parking lot).

The neighbors were also loudly opposed to the University’s desire to build a convocation center on the parking lot next to McDonough Hall that could seat up to 8,000.  If built, administrators said it would guarantee that larger crowds would be able to watch freshman convocation and graduation ceremonies and could host some men’s home basketball games.  Administrators did not say whether McDonough would be torn down to make room for the new building.

Lauinger Library may also see major construction. The architecture firm that the University has contracted to work on the 10 Year Plan, Cooper, Robertson & Partners, determined that about 150,000 square feet are available to build an addition to Lau up to four stories (that space is currently the parking lot).

It’s worth noting that throughout the meeting, residents spoke with a seemingly poor understanding of how their suggestions, if realized, would affect students financially, educationally, or socially. One resident, bothered by the trash and commotion that move-in periods create around campus and by the disparity in the student population between semsters (there are typically far fewer students on campus during spring semesters), criticized the University’s policy of allowing students to study abroad for only one semester and suggested that the University make its study abroad programs last for the entire academic year.

And unfortunately, with the exception of the Olson’s response to this suggestion, (he was quick to explain that study abroad was “a very complicated issue” with significant financial and curricular implications), University administrators’ responses to neighbors’ comments never offered this perspective, even when the discussion turned to hot-button issues like student housing and routing nearly all GUTS buses through the Canal Road exit. The discussion surrounding these issues was so intense, however, that the University agreed to hold separate meetings to discuss transportation, “housing and student issues”, and the hospital further once the University can offer a more coherent plan for each.

The 10 Year Plan has implications for a host of smaller projects—a proposal is on the table to turn Tondorf Road into a pedestrian walkway, Yates may be in line for renovations, and New South may get a ‘student lounge’ with dining options—but community exasperation seems likely to sideline discussion of those in future meetings. Indeed, administrators provided few details about the convocation center or Yates renovation than are discussed above.

Perhaps Lewis, who represents the West Georgetown residents living just outside the front gates, said it best. “All those other issues that you’re talking about are non-starters unless you address the concerns of the community to their satisfaction.”

Tuesday, the Voice‘s Kate Mays will let us know what the University has in mind for student housing and discipline.  I’ll be back on Thursday with a post about transportation issues such as parking and GUTS bus routes.

21 Comments on “The 10 Year Campus Plan: Saturday afternoon’s alright for fighting

  1. Were students allowed to attend? (Because five hours in a basement with ANC commissioners sounds like a blast.)

  2. Doesn’t it? Yep, students could attend, but I don’t think I spotted any others there besides Kate and myself.

  3. Could someone elaborate (in the future, of course) on how on-campus plans really affect neighbors? I don’t really understand why/how the neighborhood can be opposed to something like a convocation center in the McDonough area when it seemingly(?) has no effect on them.

  4. Alex, hopefully we’ll elucidate this in our next two posts, but for something like the convocation center, they’re worried about what kind of traffic events at a place that can hold 8,000 people would create in the neighborhood.

    I get the sense that even for a lot of things that happen internally on campus they think along those lines, that the neighborhood has reached critical mass, and building or expanding anywhere will inevitably translate into more traffic, noise, and trash. Ron Lewis even said at one point, “You can always find legitimate adverse impacts for anything going on on campus.”

  5. Thanks Julia, Kate and Molly for doing this! Great job, especially now that most students aren’t around.

  6. How soon before one of these NIMBY’s objects to having ANY university aside their community? If they tell Georgetown to shrink to an all-male campus of 2,000 or else, does GU go along with it?

  7. Thanks for keeping us updated! would have attended, but had to work.

    I know, I know, it’ the way things work. But really the university has been here over two centuries. It’s not like it’s “surprise! we’re building a university and bringing in thousands of students.” The university is a given when coming into this neighborhood, and when the university doesn’t have to approve the neighbors repaving their driveway or building a deck, I don’t see why the neighbors get t improve of out internal improvements which are, on a per capita basis, comparativly smaller.

  8. thanks for keeping us updated –

    does anyone know if there were any owners of local businesses present at the meeting? Id bet they’d be interested in seeing thousands of more visitors to the Georgetown area (because of more hospital facilities and on-campus events)

    and Ive got a solution for all the neighbors who have problems with increased traffic – a Georgetown Metro stop. Though this will probably need to be tabled for our 50 year plan…

  9. Nice reporting Molly.

    GU is in a bit of a Catch-22 with the residents. They present skeletal plans so that the residents can have input, but then the residents get mad because there’s no real plan to discuss. Yet if they had more fully developed plans, they’d howl that they didn’t have a chance to help form the plans and that they’ve been adopted by fait accompli.

    I’ll disagree with one thing from above. If a resident wants to build a deck or pave a driveway, they have a ton of commissions and boards they have to go through to get approval. At just about any of these steps, the University (or even students) could come out and object to the proposed change. If you have a reasonable objection, you can probably get the project derailed or at least modified.

  10. Maybe if students stopped urinating on the sidewalks, stopped sounding like chickens being strangled (maybe makes you feel at home, I don’t know) all night keeping families with children awake, stopped slashing car tires, breaking car mirrors, kicking trash cans down the streets, throwing bottles of beer across backyards, stopped feeding rats with your trash, Georgetowners would be a little less upset to hear that the University plans to bring in more of the same non-residents into our community.

    GU is not entitled to anything, that is why they are operating under a zoning *exception* and they need to get more exceptions to grow and use more resources paid by the taxpayers. It’s part of the process and you simply have to deal with it like anyone else.

  11. Alex:
    I can understand your frustration with the behavior of some students. Outrageous noise and vandalism should not be tolerated under any circumstances.

    However, I do think the school and students do have a leg to stand on when they complain about other residents as well. First, of all the University and the students are just as a much a part of YOUR community as you are. If you are a home owner you bought into a neighborhood with an existing school and the students that come with it and your home was priced accordingly. If you rent your rent was priced accordingly. Yet get what you pay for and some level of student disturbance is part of that package.
    I take it from the tone of your post that you may be one the residents who moves into the neighborhood and believes that they now have a property right to the kind of conditions that approach something you would enjoy in a non-student neighborhood (if I inferred incorrectly I apologize). I disagree; you don’t move next to an airport and expect them to stop flying planes. The example may be too extreme for your tastes, but it illustrates my point.

    In addition, my own personal experience with resident neighbors while I was a student left a lot to be desired. My roommates and I made every effort to reach out to our neighbors, especially regarding noise. We told them when we were having parties and asked them to first call us directly if they were being disturbed. They instead chose to call the police directly and then gloated about it to us the next day. They reported us to the University for having a “loud” party a month later, which consisted of four recent grads smoking a cigarette outside at midnight for half an hour on a Friday night. That so-called party got us banned from extra-circulars for a semester.

    In short, while students do frequently go beyond accepted norms the full time residents usually do little to help the situation, frequently have unrealistic expectations, often make no attempt to consider the university’s perspective, and on occasion contribute the acrimonious nature of the relationship.

  12. Alex, maybe Georgetown students need to stop robbing each other at gunpoint and “cuddling”/sexually assaulting each other.

    OR, maybe, just maybe, some of the more extreme things you mentioned, like slashing tires and being the cuddler, could, upon occasion, be perpetrated by non-Georgetown students.

    What I find most ironic about the chronic town-gown problems is that many (most?) of Georgetown’s adult neighbors went to schools JUST like Georgetown.

  13. I agree with those who defend Gtown students. While, as a recent Gtown grad (and LXR resident), I certainly have many bad memories of being kept awake by my drunken comrades (remember, Prospect St./35th st. residents: LXR is on your street as well!), it’s unfair to assume that a particular crime was committed by a Gtown student without conclusive evidence.

    As a neighborhood, Georgetown suffers from fairly regular muggings – some even at gunpoint. Unless you’re going to make the ridiculous accusation that these crimes were committed by Gtown students, isn’t it reasonable to assume that, perhaps, just a couple of those muggers (many of whom target rich Gtown residents not only for their money, but out of resentment of their wealth and income inequality) might be using tire slashing as an outlet for their aggression?

    If you come forth with conclusive evidence indicting a Gtown student as the perpetrator of any given crime, that’s one thing, but let’s be American and utilize a little “innocent until proven guilty”, shall we?

    Just a thought.

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  17. Hi Alex- I grew up (and my family lives) next to a university as well. The same issues exist, but we have a reasonable sense of the world and understand the benefits/ disadvantages of living next to a world-class university. I suggest you re-evaluate your decision to live in Georgetown.

  18. On-campus basketball games in front of a crowd of 8,000? Wow!!!!
    Get it done- who cares what the neighbors think. That’s exactly the type of atmosphere we need, since the non-student sections of the Verizon Center resemble a library. Of course Georgetown will opt for the big money of the Verizon Center, but we would have an AMAZING home atmosphere if we could play a few Big East games at an 8,000 capacity on-campus gym. Think about how great the crow is for McDonough games…

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