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